Last week, I was listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast’s recent episode on Edward Gorey, and I wondered if Virginia Tech University Libraries had any of his work. Fortune looked brightly on me – not only does the Libraries have numerous texts, but Special Collections actually has three rare books illustrated by Gorey! And since it’s Halloween, I decided to make this week’s post about a modern master of the macabre, author and illustrator Edward Gorey!
My first exposure to the work of Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was from the opening sequence of PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery!, which has been used since 1980, but he may be best known for his book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963), an alphabetical book about the deaths of 26 children. Gorey studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, before joining the U.S. Army during World War II and eventually graduating from Harvard in 1950, where he befriended the poet Frank O’Hara. They, along with other Harvard friends, founded the Poets’ Theatre in Cambridge. In 1953, Gorey began working at the Art Department of Doubleday, illustrating numerous classics, and that same year Brown and Company published his first book The Unstrung Harp. He published his first anthology Amphigorey in 1972, and the next designed a set and costumes for a Nantucket production of Dracula (see more below). In 1979, Gorey moved to Cape Cod and became involved in local productions, even writing his own plays and musicals, and he lived there until his death in 2000.
Let’s take a look at the earliest book we have, Son of the Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce, illustrated by Edward Gorey and published by Clovis Press, 1967. The book includes a handful of food recipes, ordered by how many martinis you’ve had and thus of increasing simplicity. (However, I recommend cooking before you drink, to be safe!) The authors include fictional biographies, but are likely advertising executive and author Jane Trahey (1923-2000), who’s book Life with Mother Superior was adapted into Ida Lupino’s film The Trouble with Angels, starring Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills, and author and interior designer Daren Pierce (1922-1984), who founded a store dedicated to needlepoint designs, according to the New York Times. Clovis Press was a bookstore in New York, which closed its doors in 2006.
The Rats of Rutland Grange by Edmund Wilson and drawings by Edward Gorey (Gotham Book Mart, 1974), cover
The Rats of Rutland Grange by Edmund Wilson and drawings by Edward Gorey (Gotham Book Mart, 1974), title page
The Rats of Rutland Grange by Edmund Wilson and drawings by Edward Gorey (Gotham Book Mart, 1974), section 1
The Rats of Rutland Grange by Edmund Wilson and drawings by Edward Gorey (Gotham Book Mart, 1974), section 2
Next is The Rats of Rutland Grange by Edmund Wilson with drawings by Edward Gorey and published by Gotham Book Mart, 1974 (original in Esquire Magazine, December 1961). A long poem of rhyming couplets by Wilson, the story is about rats who steal the family’s food and destroy their things. On Christmas eve to kill the rats, the children of Rutland Grange put out poisoned chocolate, which bodes poorly for dear, old Santa (spoiler: don’t worry, Santa survives to live another Christmas!) The book indicates only 1,000 copies were printed, including 100 signed by the authors and 26 specifically for Gorey and Gotham Book Mart. (Sadly, our copy is not signed.) Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was a literary critic and author. The Gotham Book Mart was a New York City bookstore, owned by Gorey’s friend Andreas Brown, who heavily advertised Gorey’s work and published several monograph, according to the New York Times.
Son of a Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce and drawings by Edward Gorey, cover
Son of a Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce and drawings by Edward Gorey, back cover
Son of a Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce and drawings by Edward Gorey, title page 1
Son of a Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce and drawings by Edward Gorey, title page 2
Son of a Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce and drawings by Edward Gorey, recipe page 1
Son of a Martini Cookbook by Jane Trahey and Daren Pierce and drawings by Edward Gorey, recipe page 2
Finally, we have Dracula: A Toy Theatre, sets and costumes designed by Edward Gorey (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979). This books contains drawings based on Gorey’s designs from the 1979 Broadway production of Dracula, a revival of the play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston and based on Bram Stoker’s novel. The intention is for the book owner to produce the play by cutting out the costumes and sets, using the book as the backdrop for the set. It also lays out a synopsis of the play and cast. According to the Internet Broadway Database, this production of Dracula ran from 1977 to 1980 and earned Gorey the 1978 Tony Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Scenic Design. Frank Langella portrayed Dracula, earning his own Tony nomination for the 1978 Best Actor in a Play award.
Dracula: A Toy Theatre by Edward Gorey (1979), cover
Dracula: A Toy Theatre by Edward Gorey (1979), back cover
Dracula: A Toy Theatre by Edward Gorey (1979), instructions and dolls
Dracula: A Toy Theatre by Edward Gorey (1979), part of set
I hope you enjoyed this look into the works of Edward Gorey, and remember that you never know what awesome, spooky works may be in Special Collections!
Nestled among our primary collecting areas focused on the American Civil War, the History of Food and Drink, and the History of Women in the Built Environment, there are a few collections on ornithology (the study of birds) and oölogy (the study or collecting of bird eggs). One of those collections has been blogged about here before in Hidden History at Special Collections II: The Harold B. Bailey Autograph Book with a focus on a unique autograph book hidden in a collection about birds. Unlike that previous post, this one is For the Birds!
Today, we’re flying in to take a look at the Bailey-Law Collection 1825-1971 (Ms1982-002). This collection has 32 containers of manuscript material in Special Collections and over 350 monographs (books) in both the main library collection and our rare books collection that can be found in the library catalog by searching “Bailey-Law Collection”. In addition to the holdings that remain here at Newman Library, the collection included numerous bird skins, bird eggs, and mammal skins. These were of particular interest when the collection was originally acquired by the Department of Biology in 1969. When the collection transferred to the library in 1990, they were placed in the Virginia Tech branch of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. They were later transferred to the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, VA. In 2014, some of the museum staff came here to look through the papers related to their specimens. You can check out their blog post about the visit here: A Visit to the Bailey-Law Special Collection.
Much of the collection includes personal correspondence and notes from research and field work. What really grabbed my attention when looking through the collection were the two books by Harold H. Bailey: The Birds of Virginia (1913) and The Birds of Florida(1925). Not only do we have copies of these works – we also have the author’s personal correspondence, papers, and research notes from his time writing the books. It’s all pretty swanky. The Birds of Florida is especially thrilling for a bird enthusiast because it is full of lithographs of gorgeous water-color paintings done for the book.
The first of these volumes is The Birds of Virginia. Published in 1913, it has 362 pages of information about birds that nest in Virginia. The photographs are primarily black-and-white and often depict bird nests filled with eggs. For your viewing pleasure today, we have a picture of the cover, some advertising for this book, an couple interior shots of the book, and scans of three of the plates used to print the photos in the book.
Left: Cover of The Birds of Virginia by Harold H. Bailey (1913) Upper Right: Pages 102-103 of The Birds of Virginia showing images of baby Marsh Hawks and a chapter on Family Buteonidae (Hawks, Eagles, Kites, Etc.) Lower Right: Pages 250-251 of The Birds of Virginia showing part of a chapter on the Summer Redbird and an image of Summer Tangers.
Note the insect damage on page 250-251. This is likely the result of a larval anobium punctatum or similar beetle – one of many insects colloquially referred to as a “book worm”.
Above are some ads from yesteryear. These ads are all extolling the virtues of The Birds of Virginia. Would you have been moved to purchase?
Upper Left: “The Virginia Rail” “At Home” (top) “After Leaving” (bottom). Photos by V. Burtch Lower Left: “A Red-Tailed Hawks’ Nest” Photo by C. F. Stone Right: “The Author in a Heron Rookery” Photo by W. D. Emerson
Finally, for The Birds of Virginia, three plates used in the printing process for the book. Two of nests and one of the author, H. H. Bailey.
Next up: The Birds of Florida(1925). This book was just a few years later but has a very different focus. Where the earlier book was focused on nesting behavior of the various bird species and included photos of nests and eggs; this book is more on par with The Birds of America by John James Audubon — A reprint of the double elephant folio of the Audubon book is on display in our Special Collections reading room. It has gained the nick-name “The Big Book of Birds” thanks to the library’s radio show Stacks on Stacks on WUVT — which depicted what the birds look like in beautiful watercolor. Here for your viewing pleasure are some shots of the different versions of this book we have, advertising, interior shots, and scans of some of the lithographs of the watercolors.
Here are the two copies of this book that are in our rare books collection. The one of the left is a proof and contains all of the original watercolor paintings pasted onto paperboard. The one on the right is an actual published copy.
Left: Ad for The Birds of Florida from Library Journal Middle: Ad for The Birds of Florida Right: Ad for The Birds of Florida
These are some ads for The Birds of Florida. At least one appeared in Library Journal and two are very directly targeted toward librarians. One mentions that the author knows the book came out too late and everyone had already spent their budgets. It asks that people still order the book now and pay for it later.
Left: Original watercolor from proof of The Birds of Florida Right: Lithograph from published copy of The Birds of Florida
Above are two images from The Birds of Florida depicting the Carolina Paroquet (parakeet), Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, and Southern Hairy Woodpecker. The one on the left is from the proof and is the original watercolor painting done for the book. The one on the right is the lithograph that appears in the published copy of the book. I chose this image because I happen to like parrots and the Carolina Parakeet, now extinct, was the only species of parrot native to North America.
There is so much more I could write about this collection but this is already a massively long post. So, I’ll just leave you with a selection of images from The Birds of Florida. If you should wish to see these wonderful books for yourself, there are copies in the Newman Library collection and in Special Collections. To see the additional materials we have from the author, visit the Special Collections reading room anytime Monday-Friday 8 to 5 and request collection Ms1982-002.
Upper Left: The Birds of Florida, Plate 36: Swallow-Tailed Kite, Everglade Kite (Adult & Immature), White-Tailed Kite, Mississippi Kite Upper Middle: The Birds of Florida, Plate 40: Bald Eagle (1st year, 2nd year, Adult), Osprey, Harlan’s Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk Upper Right: The Birds of Florida, Plate 19: White Ibis (Adult & Immature), Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, White-Faced Glossy Ibis, Scarlet Ibis, Wood Ibis Lower Left: The Birds of Florida, Plate 47: Chimney Swift, Whip-poor-will, Chuck-Wills-Widow, Nighthawk Lower Right: The Birds of Florida: Plate 68: Magnolia Warbler (Male & Female), Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-Throated Warbler, Black-Throated Blue Warbler (Male & Female), Myrtle Warbler
Women in American Architecture, Susana Torre (ed.)
Where Are the Women Architects?, Despina Stratigakos
Forty years ago the book Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective took shape under the editorial hand of Susana Torre. While the work arose out of an exhibition meant to expose the undervalued contributions of women to the built environment, it evolved into a discursive response to a series of dogged and complex questions concerning the roles of women in society, the exclusions of educational and professional culture, and the ideological underpinnings of “tradition.” (Torre’s papers are held by the International Archive of Women in Architecture here at Virginia Tech and the collection contains a wealth of research material related to her work on this exhibition and book project.)
Yet after two-fifths of a century have passed, a few questions linger: Have women made appreciable gains within the profession? Did Women in American Architecture’s 1977 publication herald a sea change in the attitudes of practitioners and architectural culture writ large? The answer may effectively be found in a book published just last year called Where Are the Women Architects? by Despina Stratigakos: while significant advances have been made, yes, equity (in pay, recognition, representation, etc.) has yet to be achieved. Indeed, in an interview with The Architectural League just four years ago, Torre commented that she had hoped sexism in the field would have become an artifact of the past: “I would have hoped that by now this topic would have become entirely passe…that it would be a quaint reminder of another time.”
In certain respects, women are still battling a culture that lionizes the “exceptional one:” a culture that valorizes individualism–the “lone genius”–while erasing female collaboration and one that lauds exceptional women to justify the marginalization of other women architects (paraphrase of Torre’s words). The “lone genius” archetype is partially a product of the narrative structure of many architectural histories (I’m looking at you, monograph). Stratigakos re-examines this emphasis on “stardom” and its underlying assumption “that the best architecture is created by mavericks.” Alongside assumptions that persist in mainstream treatment of architecture, Stratigakos looks at the bare fact that young women still confront woefully high professional attrition rates and a lack of visibility in educational curricula, the analog historical record, in online content, and among online content creators.
Digitization and Representation: Strategies For Winning Over Hearts and Minds?
Part and parcel of rectifying gender imbalance involves the activist approach of “consciousness-raising,” which partially entails the documentation and recovery of a cultural past that is often unrecognized or invalidated in historical works. The IAWA, founded in 1985, was itself borne out of Milka Bliznakov’s frustration that the historical record for architecture remained so lopsided: as many women grew old or died, evidence of their work was quietly being relegated to the ash heap of history. In some ways the digital era has presented new challenges regarding historical incompleteness.
In recent years, the internet has played a profound role in shaping cultural memory and, in some cases, reproducing bias–where ample content can be found and accessed so easily, many people erroneously believe that most information resources have been made available online and, following from this assumption, (mis-)perceive an absence of online content as a positive demonstration of triviality or non-existence. As Ricky Erway and Jennifer Schaffner noted in their digitization report “Shifting Gears,” “in a world where it is increasingly felt that if it’s not online it doesn’t exist, we need to make sure that our users are exposed to the wealth of information in special collections.” The current CLIR grant-funded project to digitize the IAWA’s holdings is underway and one of its express goals is to combat the notion that women architects didn’t exist or didn’t contribute much to the built environment. For those of us working on the project, it’s our belief that the work of changing hearts and minds can begin with something as (seemingly) simple as visibility. Check back in another forty years.
Who’s the boss? An advertisement featuring a woman architect on a job site. From the Susana Torre Architectural Collection, Ms1990-016, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Barbie’s 125th career: architect. Artifact available in the Despina Stratigakos Architectural Collection, Ms2001-062, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Cue Shatner’s voice over. Done. Ready to bring up the music. (Maybe we can hear it already.) “. . . where no man has gone before.” (Yes, he really did say that. It was 1966, after all.) On the 8th of September, a Thursday night, on NBC, and after Ron Ely had his premier appearance as Tarzan, William Shatner, an actor with 15 years experience in movies and television, including a turn in the Oscar-nominated Judgment at Nuremburg, said those first words, “Space, the final frontier” to a national audience. The voyages of the starship Enterprise began that evening with a broadcast of “The Man Trap,” even though it was the sixth show Gene Roddenberry and the folks at Desilu had produced. Reportedly, NBC made the decision to begin the show’s run with episode “number 6” because it had more action than did the other five available episodes. It also had a monster.
Among the new acquisitions at Special Collections is this final draft copy of “The Man Trap” signed by James Doohan, the actor who played “Scotty,” Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. “Officer Scott” is listed among the cast members for the episode, though Scotty doesn’t actually appear in this episode, except as a disembodied voice heard over Kirk’s communicator. Apparently, the audio clip of Mr. Doohan’s brief lines were lifted from one of the other episodes already shot and inserted into this one. IMDB lists Doohan’s contribution to “The Man Trap” as “Scott (voice) (uncredited)!
If you don’t remember this particular episode or just need a reminder, this is the one in which Kirk, McCoy, and Darnell, a soon-to-be-deceased crewman, visit a planet to resupply and check in on an archaeological survey team working on what was thought to be an otherwise uninhabited world. The team consists of Robert Crater and his wife, Nancy, an old love of McCoy’s. We know something is up when Nancy appears differently to each member of the landing party. This note to the director from Gene Roddenberry suggests just how the change in appearance might be indicated. Crater tells Kirk that they only want salt tablets and, otherwise, to be left alone.
It turns out that “Nancy” isn’t really Nancy at all, but the shape-shifting last inhabitant of the planet, the last of a species that needs salt to survive. The planet, itself, is running out, and the creature will get the salt it needs wherever it can, from human beings, if necessary, even though doing so will kill them. Well, you can imagine what happens. Mayhem, death, regret, and resolve ensue. McCoy ends up having to kill the being, even as it changes one last time into the shape of his old flame, Nancy.
From such humble beginnings. . . . Shatner has become a caricature of himself (though not just that), some of James Doohan’s ashes were rocketed into space (a couple of times), and Star Trek has become one of the most successful entertainment franchises ever!!
Why did Special Collection acquire this script? Science Fiction, as part of the broader classification of Speculative Fiction, is one of our collecting areas. And, really, how could we resist!! Come see any of the 4500 issues of science fiction and fantasy magazines on hand that date from the late 1920s through the mid-1990s. Some of them are currently on display, along with a remembrance of John Glenn (we collect “non-fictional” science-related materials, too!), and James Doohan’s copy of his script of “The Man Trap” at Special Collections for the next few weeks in an exhibit titled, “Space . . . The Final Frontier.”
This week, I really wanted to do a post highlighting materials related to the various wintertime holy days and celebrations that happen during December. That didn’t exactly work out. I did find some materials in our rare books collection that were Christmas related but I had trouble finding things for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Yule, and Eid (I would have included it even though it’s not really the same and was in September this year). So, I shelved that post for another year when we’ve made better progress increasing the representation in our collections.
As I searched for something else to post about, I saw them: Wood and Metal book covers. They were just my style and I had to share them. The wood-bound (and metal housed) books I’ve chosen today are from our History of Food and Drink Collection and focus on Southern cuisine, Astrology/Mixology, and general cookery.
First, a little bit about wood book covers in general. If you take a moment and do a quick Internet search (I’ll wait…), you will likely discover that there are hundreds upon hundreds of sites providing instructions on how to make your own wood book cover. Wood has been a popular material for electronics cases and other applications for a few years now (I’ve personally watched as the number of products in this space has increased exponentially). Not surprisingly, this is a phenomenon that falls squarely into the category “everything old is new again”. The covers from our rare books collection are not freshly made. They mostly hail from the late 1930’s (one is on a book from the 1970’s – another period where wood was exceedingly popular on everything from cars to walls). Going back a few centuries further, the Copts of North Africa lent their name to the technique of binding with wooden covers sewn together around pages. So, that hip new trend is actually ancient – – and still amazingly beautiful (if you can get past the problematic racial issues raised by the illustrations).
Our first two examples both focus on Southern style cuisine. They also rely on the Jim Crow mammie caricature. The introduction from the 1930’s volume reads “The very name ‘Southern Cookery’ seems to conjure up the vision of the old mammy, head tied with a red bandanna, a jovial, stoutish, wholesome personage . . .”
Clearly that Jim Crow era attitude was still around in the 1970’s when the mammy image cover was placed around this cookbook with the ’70s dinner party cover.
Our next two offerings both focus on astrology and mixology, or the fine art of combining cocktails with mysterious planetary influences on our destinies. I ask you: What could go wrong?
Well, to start, how about this cover from Zodiac Cocktails (1940). The artwork, while creatively using the tools of the bartender’s trade, manages to evoke racial and religious stereotypes about Caribbean Islanders and Voodoo priestesses. Surprisingly, once past the cover, the illustrations are more referential toward medieval British conceptions of the mystical.
The content of this volume is as it would be with any book of cocktail recipes: useful in making cocktails. Still, it’s hard to take the author seriously in his attempt to “. . . demonstrate that people born under one sign of the zodiac are capable of drinking one or more combinations of liquor without ill-effect, whereas other combinations bring less pleasing results.” He has formulated a cocktail for each sign that he believes is the ideal cocktail for anyone born under that sign. Since we are currently under Sagittarius, I share with you the ideal cocktail for that sign:
1 Lump Sugar
2 Dashes Cocktail Bitters
1 Glass Rye or Whiskey
Crush sugar and bitters together, add lump of ice, decorate with twist of lemon peel and slice of orange, using medium glass, and stir well.
This cocktail can be made with Brandy, Gin, Rum, etc., instead of Rye Whiskey.
The next item from 1939 will tell you your Bar-o-scope. This one is definitely not taking itself too seriously. It is described as:
Spiced with “Astro-illogical” guidance in rhyme + pictures for those REborn under the different signs of the Baroscope.
The cocktails are arranged in chapters by type and each chapter contains a little poem about a zodiacal sign:
Nov. 23 to Dec. 23
Are idealists at heart
And to parties and functions
Good spirits impart.
It’s a fun little book, but it’s actually not bound in wood. It’s really press board (sometimes called particle board). It’s tied with leather thongs and is very similar to the traditional coptic binding style but has a spine added where one would not normally be present in coptic style.
Finally, there is a glorious metal “bound” cookbook from Pillsbury (1933). Right in the heart of the Art Deco period, this book incorporates elements of that iconic style into a housewife’s reference book titled Balanced Recipes.
The book includes sections for bread, cakes, cookies, desserts, luncheon and supper dinners, macaroni and spaghetti, meat and fish, pies, salads, soups and sauces, vegetables, and menus. The recipes included were developed in Pillsbury’s “home-type experimental kitchen” in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Of all these books, this one is by far my favorite. It avoids the caricatures and racial issues of the others while being really cool to look at. It also has a connection to Minneapolis (my favorite big city). Plus, when I was flipping through, it gave me a holiday surprise and landed on a recipe for that perennial holiday favorite: fruit cake. Enjoy!
Did you hear? (Of course, you did.) Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature a few weeks ago. As the Nobel committee wrote, it awarded the prize to Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” That is a mighty step up for an already valued and valuable tradition that is even more varied than are Dylan’s songs themselves. Political, personal, complicated, narrowly topical, broad and metaphorical, silly, stupid, catchy, maddening, romantic, lyrical, sentimental, commercial: Whatever human emotion, quality, or experience you may think of, there are songs to go along. And when it comes to reflecting, initiating, or participating in social trends, songs are certainly there, too. So, although the occasion of Dylan’s winning the Prize didn’t, by itself, make me think about the sheet music collections we have here at Special Collections, specifically, collections of “popular” music, it did provide some of the impetus that leads me to write just a bit about some of them.
Sheet music has a long history. Printed sheet music goes back almost to Gutenberg, at least in the West, to about twenty years after his printing press. The variety of printed music is nearly endless–church music, orchestral music, opera, dance music, tunes, lieder–so much so that the best definition of sheet music has to do with its description as a physical object. The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University offers the following:
On this basis then, sheet music is best described as single sheets printed on one or both sides, folios (one sheet folded in half to form four pages), folios with a loose half-sheet inserted to yield six pages, double-folios (an inner folio inserted within the fold of an outer folio to make eight pages) and double-folios with a loose half-sheet inserted within the fold of an inner folio to produce ten pages.
Some of the earliest popular sheet music we have in our collection dates from around the American Civil War. On the left is a tune published in 1860 for Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign, Honest Old Abe’s Quick Step. On the right, from just a couple of years later is Take Your Gun and Go, John, a song of resignation and sorrow, sung by a wife as her husband leaves for war.
Don’t stop a moment to think John, your country calls then go; Don’t think of me or the children John, I’ll care for them you know. But take your gun and go John, take your gun and go, for Ruth can drive the oxen John and I can use the hoe. . . . And now goodbye to you John I cannot say farewell; we’ll hope and pray for the best John; god’s goodness none can tell. Be his great arm around you John to guard you night and day; Be our beloved country’s shield till the war has passed away. Then take your gun and go John take your gun and go, for Ruth can drive the oxen John and I can use the hoe. . . .
This song may be from the Civil War, but just about 150 years after its publication, it still is timely. In 2013, it was recorded and released by Loretta Lynn, and although it is on an album of Civil War-era songs, it does continue to speak. Give it a listen.
Moving into the 20th century, the music publishing business increased dramatically as the theater, music, and entertainment industries grew. With the availability of inexpensive color printing, sheet music for popular songs began to feature colorful covers, illustrations that, along with the music and lyrics, offer an additional window into the contemporary currents of the time. Societal norms with regard to gender and race may be represented, as well as less weighty subjects, such as the sudden fashionability of bicycle riding, or the more significant increase in automobile travel, along with all its attendant themes of freedom, mobility, and romance, among others. World events, also, made their way into the popular song of the day. Consider “America, Here’s My Boy.”
Before listening to the song, what do we see? I don’t know about you, but the sight of “Every American Mother” offering up her son to face what was, by May 1917, well-known carnage, is remarkable. Also, let’s just take a moment to reflect on how the image of American motherhood–even idealized American motherhood–has changed in a hundred years. But America needed men (and boys) to fight, so here was the message, as proclaimed in the chorus of the song:
America, I raised a boy for you. America, You’ll find him staunch and true, Place a gun upon his shoulder, He is ready to die or do. America, he is my only one; My hope, my pride and joy, But if I had another, he would march beside his brother; America, here’s my boy.
If you’re curious, here’s a recording of the song from 1918 by The Peerless Quartet. I should also mention something about this cover that I hadn’t seen and was pointed out to me by a most perceptive student. Apparently, the United States shares a northern border with another country, but has no such neighbor to the south! Mexico, though officially neutral throughout the First World War, shared a difficult, and often openly hostile relationship with the U.S. at the time. On 28 February 1917, a few months before this song was published, the contents of the Zimmerman Telegram was made public by President Woodrow Wilson. The contents of this communication, intercepted and deciphered by the British in January of that year, was sent from the Foreign Secretary of the German Empire, Arthur Zimmerman, to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, with instructions to propose a military alliance with Mexico, should the U.S. enter the war against Germany. (OK, it’s more complicated than that, but the deal was to involve return to Mexico of land lost to the U.S. in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.) Anti-Mexican sentiment in the U.S. was already high, and this incident only led to its increase. So, as far as the illustration on the sheet music was concerned, perhaps, geography was taking a back seat to politics.
Staying with 1917, the title, “Somewhere in France is Daddy,” is just sopping with sadness. As shown on the cover, a young mother, with a framed photo of her soldier-husband in the background, has to explain to her young son why Daddy isn’t home. Daddy, of course, is fighting for home and country, for liberty . . . “somewhere in France” and he “won’t come back/ ‘Til the stars and stripes they’ll tack/ On Kaiser William’s flagstaff in Berlin.”
It’s not quite at the level of . . . “Please Mr. Conductor, Don’t put me off of your train, For the best friend I have in this whole wide world Is waiting for me in vain; Expected to die any moment, And may not live through the day: I want to bid mother goodbye, sir, Before God takes her away” . . . which I know as a Blue Sky Boys song, and which, deservedly, has won every “Saddest Song contest” I’m aware of. But, as the young boy poses the question, he puts this song right up there:
A little boy was sitting on his mother’s knee one day
And as he nestled close to her these words she heard him say
Oh mother dear please tell me why our Daddy don’t come home
I miss him so and you do too, why are we left alone
He tried hard not to cry, as she answered with a sigh
Here are five more sheet music covers from songs associated with World War I. The links below will take you to a recording of the song, if available.
“We’re Going Over” (Joe Morris Music Co., New York, 1917) Again, if this Library of Congress link doesn’t work, try this.
“Loyalty is the Word Today” (Great Aim Society, New York, 1917) No recording available
“Over There” (William Jerome Publishing Corp., New York, 1917). If this link from Library of Congress doesn’t work, you can try this.
“Hoe Your ‘Little Bit’ in Your Own Back Yard: Where the Boy Scouts Go, ‘Tis Hoe, Hoe, Hoe” (Great Aim Society, New York, 1917) No recording available
Sheet music may not be what you think of when your looking for a view on culture and society, but it can definitely provide an interesting, if unexpected, part of the picture. What were folks listening to? How was the music presented? How was it received? How did people react to it? When and where was it played? Who wrote it? What’s their story? Special Collections has three collections comprised entirely of sheet music, as well as individually cataloged pieces and occasional pieces in other collections. These links will take you to the finding aid for each collection, which, among other information, will list all the titles in the collection:
To end on a more hopeful note, is a song from World War II, written in 1942, in fact. The United States had been at war less than a year, though it had been a long war in Europe already. I didn’t recognize this one from the title, “When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World),” but once I heard it, I knew I had heard it before. It hit #1 on the Pop charts by early ’43. It’s an interesting illustration on the cover. Of course, where is the source of the light located? And, there is the “Buy War Bonds” logo in the lower right. Here’s how the song starts:
When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won’t mean “goodbye” but “Hello” to love
No more hard rain.
Lastly, to the folks who, given the beginning of this post, thought it might be about some great Bob Dylan stuff we have in Special Collections, I offer my apologies.
Next Wednesday, October 5th, is #AskAnArchivist Day! During the day, several members of our staff will be on social media to take YOUR questions! Wonder about the oldest book in our collection? Curious about the number of collections we have? Interested in what archivists do all day? Want to know why we’re so passionate about what we do and why it matters? Just ask!
Archives around the country (and the world!) will be answering questions and engaging with people on Twitter. If you want to ask us about something, be sure to include us (@VT_SCUA) in your tweets. Or head to the Facebook page for the International Archive of Women in Architecture and ask there. You can also ask questions to the broader community–just use #AskAnArchivist and see who responds! Join the conversation on October 5th!