Brown University Library Special Collections

Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

Items of general interest for the Brown University community.

A Women’s Studies Pioneer – Elaine Ryan Hedges

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on October 10, 2012

Elaine Hedges

The Elaine Hedges papers (Ms.2011.007) are now available for research

Elaine Hedges is best known for her ground-breaking scholarship on the significance of American women and sewing — particularly in reference to their quiltmaking in the nineteenth century.  Her detailed and innovative study of quilts as encoded texts brought to the fore important historical information about women and their social, political and artistic endeavors that had previously been overlooked by mainstream scholars.  Hedges was also a leader in the area of Women’s Studies through the foundation of the Women’s Studies program at Towson State University in Maryland in 1972.  Throughout her career, she was a fierce advocate for curriculum reform and of a more inclusive canon of American literature so as to incorporate works by women, ethnic minorities, and the gay and lesbian community.

The collection thoroughly documents all aspects of Hedges long and productive career as one of the most influential feminist scholars of the 20th century.  Her scholarship and teaching were wide-ranging and reflect the history of the women’s movement and the creation of women’s studies programs.

 

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Jonathan Russell and the War of 1812: The Inside Scoop on America’s First War

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on September 20, 2012

The papers of American diplomat Jonathan Russell provide an intimate look inside the grievances that caused the War of 1812 and its ultimate resolution in December 1814.

Major causes of the war stemmed from Great Britain’s fight with France which had been raging since 1803.  Eager to bolster its own resources and reduce supplies for France, Great Britain impressed American seamen into service with the British Navy and blockaded the American coast to prevent provisions from reaching France.  Those actions, among others, did not sit well with the Americans and President James Madison declared war on Great Britain in June 1812.

Jonathan Russell was a witness to all of the intrigue.  His diplomatic career began when President James Madison appointed him chargé d’affaires in Paris in 1810. The next year he was given the same position in London and from 1814 to 1818 he was United States minister to Sweden and Norway. Russell was also one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812.

The papers of Jonathan Russell include correspondence with all the prominent politicians, diplomats, and businessmen of the day.  They also include letters from seamen, who were impressed by the British, seeking his assistance to return home again.  Of particular note are the “Records of U.S. Commissioners to Negotiate with Great Britain at Ghent” which provide a detailed account of the negotiations with Great Britain to end the war.

To learn more about the Jonathan Russell papers, see the finding aid available on the Rhode Island Archives and Manuscripts Online website.

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FOCUS ON SPECIAL COLLECTIONS: Geoffrey Hill and His Books Gallery Talk September 25th at noon

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on September 18, 2012

At noon on Sept. 25, Prof. Ken Haynes will give a gallery talk on his exhibit Geoffrey Hill and His Books. The exhibit is in honor of poet and former colleague Geoffrey Hill on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The talk will take place in the North Gallery of the John Hay Library.
The exhibit includes materials from the Library’s General and Special Collections as well as books from the private collection of Haynes (including works that formerly belonged to Hill). The exhibit is organized around fifteen published books of poetry, from For the Unfallen (1959) to Odi Barbare (2012). A few works have been chosen to accompany each of these books, to illustrate the different kinds of publications that have influenced Hill’s writing (children’s books, fantasy tales, poetry, art books, historical scholarship) and the different ways they have influenced it (in visual layout, in dramatizing the physical act of reading, in allusion and quotation, and in other ways).

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New Exhibit on View: Geoffrey Hill and His Books

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on September 14, 2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – Geoffrey Hill and His Books, an exhibit curated by Kenneth Haynes, Professor of Comparative Literature and Classics at Brown University, in honor of poet and former colleague Geoffrey Hill on the occasion of Hill’s 80th birthday, is on view in the North Gallery, John Hay Library, now through October 1, 2012.

The exhibit includes materials from the Library’s General and Special Collections as well as books from the private collection of Haynes (including works that formerly belonged to Hill).  The exhibit is organized around fifteen published books of poetry, from For the Unfallen (1959) to Odi Barbare (2012). A few works have been chosen to accompany each of these books, to illustrate the different kinds of publications that have influenced Hill’s writing (children’s books, fantasy tales, poetry, art books, historical scholarship) and the different ways they have influenced it (in visual layout, in dramatizing the physical act of reading, in allusion and quotation, and in other ways). Drop in the Hay and take a look!

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John Hay Library Reading Room Closing at Noon on August 30th

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on August 22, 2012

On Thursday August 30, the Reading Room of the John Hay Library will have limited hours. Due to a scheduled event, the Reading Room will be open from 10am-12noon. The building will remain open until 5pm but collections will not be available for consultation. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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James Manning

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on May 8, 2012

This week, as we look forward to the 242nd Commencement, we provide you with a glimpse into the early days and struggles of this venerable institution to gain respect and scholars.  During the first 3 years, 1764-1767, James Manning was not only the first President but also the only faculty member.  The first commencement was held in 1769 at which time 7 young men graduated and 21 men of distinction were awarded Honorary Degrees.  On November 12, 1772, James Manning wrote to his friend John C. Ryland in England with the happy news that John C. Ryland, Junior had received his degree from Rhode Island College that same spring.  He also took the opportunity to comment on the political situation affecting the ability of the school to attract students.

James Manning to John C. Ryland, 12 Nov 1772, James Manning papers, MS-1C-1, Brown University Archives

“With this I send you a Catalogue of those who have received the honours of the College, from the first [to] our last Commencement, I believe, acquired us considerable Reputation amongst the Literate in N. England and had we not to combat with the inveterate Enmity of the N. England Clergy, it would have added to the Number of our Scholars, but they take unwearied pains to prevent any from coming, if possible, and don’t  [?] at the Methods of carrying their Points: but, thank God, they don’t govern the World.”

James Manning was clearly able to overcome the clergy that worked against him.  A total of 40,244 scholars applied to be admitted to Brown University for the 2011-2012 academic year. Of that number a total of 8,454 students began their studies in September 2011.  James Manning would no doubt be flabbergasted by those numbers and extremely pleased.

You can learn more about James Manning’s experience as the first President of Brown University by visiting the Guide to the James Manning Papers (MS-1C-1).  Digital copies of all his correspondence can be viewed by clicking on the link for each item in the inventory.

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120 Years of Women at Brown

Posted by Jennifer Betts on May 5, 2012


May 3 – June 29, 2012
John Hay Library

The exhibit chronicles the experiences of women during their years on campus and beyond. Drawing on materials from the University Archives, Christine Dunlap Farnham Archives, and Feminist Theory Archives, the exhibit illustrates the evolution of women’s education at Brown. On display are photographs, letters, papers, published materials, and artifacts that narrate personal reflections of women at Brown and the University policies that shaped their lives on campus over the past twelve decades.

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Time Capsule

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on April 18, 2012

A recent blog post titled Baptist Churches announced the arrival of the records for 4 Baptist Churches in Rhode Island.  This week brings a glimpse into the life of one of them – the Roger Williams Baptist Church of Providence, RI.

How often have you walked past the cornerstone of a building and wished you could look inside the time capsule housed within?  What do people put in them?  Do the contents survive the journey through time?

The members of the Roger Williams Baptist Church built a chapel in 1889 to accommodate their growing community.  On September 14, 1889 they celebrated the new building with a service to lay the new cornerstone.  Underneath the stone they enclosed a time capsule in a copper box.  When the membership swelled to over 400 members they built an addition to the church in 1906. The time capsule was moved and placed underneath the new cornerstone.  The photo below shows the stone suspended on a pulley.  The man standing in the middle is Manton Metcalf holding the copper box in his left hand.

Laying the cornerstone for the new addition on the Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI, June 2, 1906.

David Dobson opening the copper time capsule box, October 1, 2011.

Starting in the 1950s, the membership of the church steadily declined until weekly attendance dwindling to less than twenty in 2010.  The remaining members voted to close the church with the last service on November 20, 2011.  But before they closed their doors they opened the cornerstone and retrieved the time capsule.

What they found inside were mementos from 1889 documenting the church, Rhode Island, and the world including: a list of all the members of the church, constitution and by-laws of the church, publications relating to the Baptist Church in RI, 2 newspapers, money, and 35 small flags from most of the countries in the world at the time.

Contents of the 1889 time capsule of the Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI.

The most curious object is a small American flag with 36 stars.  There were 38 states in September, 1889 when the time capsule was created (4 more states were admitted in November 1889) and the inscription reads “God Bless the Commonwealth of Rhode Island, Loyalty to Ceasar.”  The flag probably dates to 1865-1867, the only years during which there were 36 states.  Rhode Island is generally not called a Commonwealth. Only 4 states use that term in their official names: Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  And why is someone, who doesn’t know how to spell Caesar, pledging their loyalty to him?  The reason it was included may simply be because it was the smallest flag available and the inscription was written years prior by someone else.  It is nonetheless a curious item.

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Baptist Churches

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on April 11, 2012

The records for 4 Baptist churches have been donated to the John Hay Library during the past year to augment the Baptist Collection.

1.  Shawomet Baptist Church, Warwick, RI, 1842-2011

2.  Meshanticut Baptist Church, Cranston, RI, 1899-2011

3.  Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI, 1867-2011

4.  Niantic Baptist Church, Westerly, RI, 1851-2012

The records of these churches provide documentation related to the debate over the vitality of religious organizations in the United States.  All four churches served as vital centers of worship for their communities for 100-160 years.  They all survived the tumult of the economic, social and political upheavals and changing neighborhood demographics of the past 160+ years.  The reason for their closure may be linked to a larger societal trend or may simply be the natural life cycle of an organization.  They are now available for use by researchers interested in that topic or many others involving the role of religion in the life of a community.

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The Itinerant Actor

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on April 5, 2012

Edwin Scribner, c.1908

The papers of playwright Edwin Scribner (Ms.2012.005) arrived recently to complement a large collection of his published plays in the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays.

Edwin Scribner was born in Logansport, IN in 1879.  On 27 July 1898, he quit his job in the Master Mechanics office of the Pan Handle Railroad in Logansport and, as he states in the first volume of his diary, “From that date the theater has been my interest and occupation in life.” He was an itinerant actor and a playwright, writing at least 50 plays.  He died in Waterville, ME in 1964.

His papers contain 18 typescripts for his unpublished plays which complement the 33 published plays already owned by Brown.  Of particular interest is the diary he kept  from 1898-1921 which provides an intimate view into the life of a traveling theater troupe actor.  It was not meant as a place to bear his soul but rather as a record of his work.  And work he did.  Every page documents the unrelenting travel schedule of an itinerant actor.

Diary of Edwin Scribner, Oct 4-Nov 3, 1900

In the fall of 1900, from September 19 to December 15 (88 days) he visited 77 cities and gave 79 performances.  The tour ended on December 15 this way: “Before meeting our leading man John Fry Palmer, drunk picked a fight with Griffith – which got him a good licking and landed him in jail.  Closed with John Griffith Co. – they beat me out of my last weeks salary.”  Two days later Edwin was working for another theater troupe in yet another city and so it went for the next 20 years.

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