James Earl Ray

Todays post is a bit of a companion piece to last weeks post on the Martin Luther King assassination. I came across a few of Gordon Hall’s research files on James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King. Ray was convicted of a variety of crimes throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He escaped prison in 1967 and worked on the George Wallace presidential campaign being a strong supporter of segregation.  Ray also underwent facial reconstructive surgery during this time.

On April 4, 1968 King was assassinated and Ray fled to Toronto. Ray was captured at Heathrow Airport in London, was extradited to Tennessee and confessed to the assassination. Shortly after Ray recanted his confession. Until his death in 1998, Ray spent much of his life fighting the conviction (even briefly escaping prison in 1977). He claimed throughout his life that he was not responsible for the assassination and many conspiracy theories have been developed around this fact. For many it remains one of the many mysteries of the 20th century.

It seems that Gordon Hall was following this fairly closely. I have included some images of a few files that Hall kept on Ray and a sample of what is in the files. It is a clipping from the New York Times in 1968 reporting on the status of Ray’s conviction while he was still in London.

James Earl Ray File 1

James Earl Ray File 1

James Earl Ray File 2

James Earl Ray File 2












James Earl Ray NY Times 1968

James Earl Ray NY Times 1968

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MLK Assassination

On April 4, 1967 Martin Luther King was assassinated. Along with the assassination of President Kennedy, the King assassination is a prominent topic in the Hall Hoag collection (there is also a lot of material about King in general).  Figures that transcend politics like King or Kennedy became shorthand for a set of ideals that Americans either agreed with or disagreed with and this was no different for extremist groups. King’s importance in American history cannot be understated making him a prominent figure for both right and left wing groups. His assassination also opened the door for a different type of extremism, the conspiracy.

The item shared today comes from The New Federalist which was a publication operated by Lyndon LaRouche[1]. LaRouche and his publications are basically impossible to pin down and classify. He is one of the true anomalies in American extremism.  He has been on both the left and right side of politics, has operated some large organizations, and ran for president in each election from 1976 until 2004, but most people have never heard of him. The article here is a conspiracy theory surrounding the King assassination (from 1996), but conspiracy is only one of many topics covered by The New Federalist. For more information on LaRouche I suggest reading the link above. It will be worth your time.

The New Federalist (April 6, 1998)

The New Federalist (April 6, 1996)

The New Federalist 2 (April 6, 1998)

The New Federalist 2 (April 6, 1996)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_LaRouche

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Branch Davidians

The “Waco Siege” occurred 21 years ago this month. This involved federal and state law enforcement staging a 51 day stand off with a group of Branch Davidians outside of Waco, Texas that ended with a raid which caused a fire and the death of 76 men, women, and children.[1]

The impetus of the raid was an arrest warrant for David Koresh on weapons charges. David Koresh was the leader of the Branch Davidians in a place known as Mount Carmel Center. The Branch Davidians were a sect of  Seventh Day Adventists who believed we were living in a time near the apocalypse and the second coming of Jesus Christ. They studied the bible intensively and in particular the book of revelation. David Koresh was known inside the group for his ability to interpret the book of revelation[2] and believed himself to be a prophet.[3]

Regardless of the intensions of law enforcement the raid became symbol of gross incompetence and government interference of individual rights.

The publication shared today comes from The Patriot Report, which was published by The Present Truth out of Indiana. The publication can be seen as part of the larger Patriot Movement with a focus on conspiracy theories and individual rights being dimensioned by an overpowering government.

There is much more to be read about the Waco Siege than I covered here. A good place to start would be Malcolm Gladwell’s recent article on the events at Waco for the New Yorker. You can find the article here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/03/31/140331fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=1

The Present Truth - Waco Update (1993)

The Present Truth – Waco Update (1993)

The Present Truth - Waco Update 2 (1993)

The Present Truth – Waco Update 2 (1993)


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege


[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Koresh


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Progress Report: Year 2

We have recently completed a report for the second year of the project. I thought I would share some of the accomplishment from last April to date.


We processed 1100 boxes of material last year with the help of 8 student workers. The processing mostly involved the rearrangement of material. In its current state there was no order for the materials throughout the collection. The processing work for this year involved removing the contents of existing boxes of Hall Hoag material and organizing it in new boxes. Due to the size of the collection a lot of logistical work needed to be done in conjunction with the processing. Boxes had to be removed from cold storage and after the contents were rearranged placed back into cold storage. Because of this a procedure had to be worked out with the staff at the Brown University Collections Annex. Special thanks to them!

2013-06-17 12.32.00

Processing Last Summer

In addition to the processing of the physical materials, the inventory that existed for all 1655 boxes had to be updated after the folders were relocated. The inventory contained approximately 170,000 folders and throughout the year ~112,000 folder records were updated with new locations.

The folder inventory list also had to be matched with the organizations list that was created. There are +35,000 organizations and +170,000 folders and for the work that will be done in connecting the EAC-CPF records to the EAD finding aid it will be important to know which folders belong to which organizations. This work is somewhat complicated because the inventory contains very granular differences in organization names. For example, The Communist Party USA may come up in a variety of ways on the inventory, including: CPUSA Communist Party USA, Communist Party United States of American, or Communist Party USA, The. We worked to group these organizations together intellectually across the collection. This work has not been totally completed but 162,000 folders from the inventory list have been matched to an organization.

We have also begun the work of organizing a detailed EAD Finding Aid that combines inventories from Part I and Part II of the Hall Hoag collection. The first step in this process is comparing the organizations list from Part II to Part I and finding where the two parts overlap. A first pass in comparing these two lists has been completed. There are 5872 organizations listed in Part I of the collection. 4739 of those organizations are also represented in Hall Hoag Part II. That means approximately 80% of the organizations from Part I are also in Part II. This overlap will help make it easier to combine data from both parts and establishing this overlap will help make us create a finding aid that allows researchers to easily find material in both parts and link them to EAC-CPF records.

Data Gathering

Using Open Refine we were able to run a search and retrieval script for all 35,000 organizations against the VIAF database. This script took a column in Open Refine (organization names) and searched each entry against VIAF and then returned positive and negative hits in XML. XML results were returned for each organization and for the organizations that returned a positive hit a VIAF ID was isolated as well as a VIAF URL. ~12,000 organizations returned a positive hit. The next step will be determining which of IDs apply to the correct authority record in VIAF. Many of the results are for similar organizations but not an exact VIAF match. Additionally many of the organization are so small that they will not have a VIAF record.

5000 organizations have been assigned categories based on Library of Congress subject headings. This work was done by searching the organization names in a FileMaker Pro database for key words such as “Christian, Communist, Socialist, Militia, etc.” and assigning appropriate subject headings as categories. With the Hall Hoag collection we were a bit lucky in that many of the organizations have very straightforward and direct names. This is not the case for all organizations but it made the process of assigning these 5000 categories somewhat straightforward. Many of the vaguely named organizations will be much more difficult.

We began the process of researching the organizations in the Hall-Hoag collection. We have started with virtually no information on each organization and without gathering some information the EAC-CPF records would be very bare. To gather some basic information on some organizations we had students do online research throughout the year. There is currently no sure way to gather this information with an automated process and we felt it was important to gather information manually on at least a portion of the collection. We prioritized the organizations by how much material existed in the Hall Hoag collection. The organizations with the most material were the first researched. The students searched for the following information: VIAF authority file, VIAF ID, location city, location state, start date, end date, URL to biography page, member names, member VIAF authority files, member VIAF ID, member position, member start date, member end date, related collection URL, related collection title, related collection location and notes. A total of 2061 organizations were researched with varying degrees of results. We have locations for 1715 organizations, dates for 1423 organizations, bio links to 1392 organizations, 1032 related collections, and 1483 members.

Left Wing Groups (Red = Highest Concentration)

Left Wing Groups (Red = Highest Concentration)

The data collected was imported into a custom made FileMaker Pro database and an EAC-CPF record was exported for each of these 2061 organizations. This was done as a test to see if valid EAC-CPF could be exported with real data.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to the final year of the grant in which a web interface to explore the collection will be created I tested visualization software (Google Fusion Tables, leaflet.js, Voyant, Viewshare, Open Refine) for possible use for EAC-CPF records. Using some of these tools sample visualizations were created from the data collected on 2061 organizations that were researched. The most useful visualizations were created with Google Fusion Tables. Of particular note is a map that includes catalog records (with links to outside biographies and collections) that can be filtered by category, dates and locations. This allowed users to changed the map on their particular interested and then clicked the dots on the map that contained catalog records. We have included a report as an attachment that reviews some of the findings using visualizations. You can also use this link to view the visualization live online.


We are exploring more options for automating some of the data gathering. In particular we are going to try to leverage the data being stored in DBPedia. DBPedia is a downloadable version of Wikipedia. We have found scripts that can be run using Google Refine to search DBPedia against our list of organization names. This would give me a DBPedia link for organizations that are in Wikipedia. We have not been able to work the kinks out of this script to date, but we have found examples of others leveraging this script so there is a good chance it should work for us as well (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdpzmGxA33U). These examples were found through doing online research. Additionally the digital technologies department knows of a way to pull individual fields of data out of DBPedia records using a SPAQRL script. If we can get this to work we should be able to automate a plethora of data for EAC-CPF records.

Blog Update

Since that last grant report we have written more than 50 blog posts for the Hall-Hoag blog.  We also started to gather analytics on visits to the site. From October 2013 though February 2014, the site has had 1027 visits and 2178 page views. On average it seems that the blog gets a little more than 200 unique visits per month. Additionally I have been contacted numerous times by people who only came across the Hall Hoag collection through the blog. Thanks for visiting and contacting me!

In general the project has been fun and sometimes challenging. There are many moving parts and it can become hard to prioritize the work because there is huge amount of processing that needs to be done and at the same time a huge amount of research and data entry needs to be done.


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Exxon Pipeline Company/Norma Gabler

The 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill promoted me to take a look through the Hall-Hoag collection to find an item relating to the spill. However, I came across something of a surprise that I wanted to share. The Exxon Pipeline Company printed a newsletter called The Liner and I was able to find a copy of it in the collection. Corporations like Exxon often have publications and Gordon Hall collected many of them. I believe that his reasoning was two-fold. 1) Many corporations were the target of other extremist groups and would publish responses. 2) Many corporations were involved in politics and had agendas to promote, but the item shared today does not quite fall into either category.

When I located the item I was expecting it to be about the Exxon Company and most likely pertaining to some aspect of the oil business. It is really just a showcase for an employee of the Exxon Pipeline Company,  Norma Gabler who edited and wrote textbooks in Texas on the side job. Gabler’s work made her a prominent figure in education and she became somewhat controversial for her conservative views of education believing that “modern education was designed to undermine traditional, moral absolutist education.”

My guess is that Gordon Hall collected this item because he was interested in learning more about Gabler. It was a surprise because it seems unusual that he was able to locate this profile in a fairly obscure publication. This item also showcases how difficult it can be to classify the items in the collection without looking at them. The item is listed on an inventory as The Exxon Pipeline Company because they published the pamphlet, but the item really has nothing to do with oil or Exxon. What we really have here is something that would interest someone researching education in the 20th century in the U.S., but would be very difficult to find. Considering that there are 170,000 folders in the Hall Hoag Collection, it is not possible to spend this amount of time on each of them proving the somber proof that although we are working to make this collection visible, there were always be some aspects of it that remain hidden.


The Liner Cover (March 1973)

The Liner Cover (March 1973)

The Liner Inside (March 1973)

The Liner Inside (March 1973)


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