The Gregory Corso Papers – the unpublished poetry of a Beat poet

Gregory Corso in a hotel room, circa 1983

Gregory Corso in a hotel room, circa 1983

The Gregory Corso papers, a collection of unpublished poetry, writings, photographs and original oil paintings, are now available for research at the John Hay Library.  They provide an intimate look into the complicated life and work of one of the most influential Beat poets of his generation.

Corso was born in 1930 in New York City.  His mother left the family when he was a year old and he spent his childhood enduring various orphanages, foster homes, reform schools, and on the streets.  At sixteen, he landed in jail for robbery and was sentenced to three years at the Clinton State Prison. During his stay there, he compensated for his lack of a traditional education by frequenting the prison library where he discovered the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Arthur Rimbaud, among others, and began writing his own poetry.

He met Allen Ginsberg at a bar in Greenwich Village in 1950, a chance encounter that precipitated what was to become a lasting personal and creative relationship. Ginsberg recognized Corso’s talent and the originality of his poetic voice. Through Ginsberg, Corso met and became friends with other writers in Ginsberg’s circle, including Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, many of whom become not only influential in Corso’s artistic development, but leading figures in the Beat movement of that era.

A page in Notebook No.8 in the Corso papers.  The text reads: "2 very profound beings. Thinker. Poet."

A drawing by Corso in Notebook No.8. The text reads: “2 very profound beings. Thinker. Poet.”

The manuscripts and working notebooks that make up the bulk of the Gregory Corso papers include drafts for an unpublished book of poetry he titled “The Golden Dot.” His notebooks are full of reminiscences, musings about life, drafts for poems, and drawings. The manuscripts are supplemented by correspondence, paintings, photographs, and a small but interesting assortment of other materials, including phonograph records, VHS cassettes, books and ephemeral materials. The bulk of the collection dates from 1980 to 1983 when he was living in New York City and became friends with a poet named Laura Boss.

A letter in the collection from Laura Boss to Allen Ginsberg in January 1984  summed up her experience of Corso: “Gregory is the most charming and least charming man I have ever known. He can come closer to the truth than anyone…and the most outrageous liar I have ever met…”  Researchers are encouraged to visit the John Hay Library to utilize these previously unknown resources that document the life of an influential poet and writer.

Life after Lovecraft

Sonia and Nathaniel Davis, circa 1936.

Sonia Haft Davis (1883-1972) would have lived her life in relative obscurity but for her 2-year marriage to a man named Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937).   Lovecraft was a science fiction and horror writer whose work has created a significant and active fan base.  To preserve her own literary output and the work of her third husband, Nathaniel A. Davis, Sonia donated materials documenting their lives to Brown University.  Those papers are now available for research in the Sonia H. and Nathaniel A. Davis papers (MS.2012.003) at the John Hay Library.

Those looking for information about H.P. Lovecraft in the papers of his ex-wife will be disappointed.  The bulk of the materials in this collection document the life of Sonia Davis from 1930 to 1972, during which time she lived in California and was married to Nathaniel A. Davis. Sonia and Nathaniel were both devoted to the idea of world peace and wrote numerous articles and poems promoting that goal.  Nathaniel founded Planetaryan, a humanitarian organization devoted to world peace, for which Sonia was the chief administrator.  The collection is a good source of documentation for anyone interested in U.S. social, political and religious history, especially around the period of World War II. It is also useful for researchers interested in American literature, especially religious poetry and didactic literature.

To learn more about the life of Sonia Haft Davis contact Christopher Geissler, Librarian for American and British Literary and Popular Culture Collections, or visit the John Hay Library.

Fernando Birri: Mi Patria Son Mis Zapatos

Fernando Birri by Wilhelm Reinke

Photo by Wilhelm Reinke

The John Hay Library takes great pleasure in announcing the opening of the Fernando Birri Archive of Multimedia Arts.  It is an extraordinary collection documenting the long and continuing career of Fernando Birri, a celebrated and influential film maker, poet, writer, educator, artist, and theoretician.

Fernando Birri was born in Santa Fe, Argentina in 1925 and is honored as the Father of the new Latin American film movement, described as a form of revolutionary or Third Cinema.  He has been a creative force in 43 films either as the director, actor, or subject. His most well-known films are Tire dié, ORG, and Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes. He was instrumental in the founding of 3 film schools: Instituto de Cinematografía de la Universidad del Litoral in Santa Fe, Argentina; Laboratorio Ambulante de Poéticas Cinematográficas in the Universidad de los Andes in Venezuela;  and Escuela de Cine y Televisión de Tres Mundos (EICTV) in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. He has authored numerous books on film theory and taught classes on film making around the world. In addition, he is a prolific artist working in a wide range of media from pencils to computer graphics.

The Fernando Birri Archive of Multimedia Arts contains his films, videos, film scripts, diaries, writings, art work, correspondence, poems, photographs, posters, and audio recordings.  It is a comprehensive archive of his life and work and the essential resource for understanding not only the work of Birri but also the history and evolution of Latin American film during the 20th and 21st centuries.

All of his work and creative energy has been accomplished despite, or perhaps because of, his continual movement from one country to another.  He left his native Argentina in 1950 to study film in Italy.  But he was forced to leave Argentina in 1963 for political reasons.  He kept on moving and has lived and worked in Brazil, Italy, Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Germany, and the United States.  He describes his life this way:

“… I have to become a citizen of the world. And there is a very heart-rending phrase from an Argentinean filmmaker, who was killed by the dictatorship in Paris, Jorge Cedrón, which since then has come to be my motto: “Mi patria son mis zapatos [My country is my shoes]”. Life obliged me to that, so I accept it, I accept it well, and with dreams for the future. Period and enough.” (Interview by Mariluce Moura, 2006)

Laundry – way more fascinating than you thought

Sawyer's Crystal Blue Little Bo Peep puzzle

Puzzle created by Sawyer’s Crystal Blue Company to advertise their bluing product, circa 1900. When added to wash water, the blue dye makes white clothes look whiter. The swastika symbol in this context means lucky or auspicious object.

Laundry.  At its most basic, washing clothes involves water and a scrubbing action, with soap as an added bonus.  Yet, our ancestors would not recognize the process of doing laundry in 21st century America.  We have incredibly sophisticated computerized machines and a dizzying array of laundry detergents and other products to get our clothes clean.  The evolution of washing technology from washboards to top-loaders, and the social implications of that process, is richly documented in the Joe and Lil Shapiro collection of laundry ephemera (MS.2014.002) now available for use at the John Hay Library.

The Joe and Lil Shapiro collection of laundry ephemera consists of ephemera that depict the history, artifacts and materials used to do laundry from 1800 to 2010.  Most of the items in this collection were produced by companies to advertise laundry products such as bluing, clotheslines and clothespins, dyes, soaps, starch, washboards and washing machines. The advertisements depict not only the variety and evolution of laundry tools and techniques but also attitudes towards women, women’s work, and people of African-American and Chinese descent.  The collection as a whole raises the topic of laundry from something to be avoided to something that tells a fascinating story about American history, technology, chemistry, social expectations, race relations, the status of women, and the power of advertising.  Who knew the laundry hamper could be so informative?

This collection was compiled by Joseph S. Shapiro, Brown class of 1957, and his wife, Lilian Shapiro. Joseph Shapiro was the owner of the Lundermac Company, Inc., which managed and supplied self-service laundries in apartments, condos and dormitories across New England. Lundermac was founded in 1940 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, by Lilian Shapiro’s father, Gerard Wolfe. Joseph Shapiro learned the business from Wolfe, beginning as a salesperson in 1961, and rose to become President of the company in 1988.  Joe and Lil collected anything and everything related to the process of doing laundry including washing machines, washboards, wash paddles, soap boxes, etc.  Only the paper-based ephemeral materials were donated to Brown University.

To learn more about this collection and how it can inform your research projects, contact Holly Snyder, Curator of American Historical Collections, or visit the John Hay Library.

José Rodrigues Miguéis Papers at the John Hay Library

migueis_snapshot

José Rodrigues Miguéis

The papers of José Rodrigues Miguéis, the influential Portuguese writer, educator, illustrator, and jurist, are now available for research at the John Hay Library.

Miguéis was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1901.  He left Portugal in 1935 when his political opinions brought him into conflict with the rising fascist party, Estado Novo.  He moved to the United States and became an American citizen returning to Portugal occasionally.  He was the author of at least 23 works of fiction and numerous essays, newspaper columns, and articles.  The Portuguese government recognized his outstanding service to literature by awarding him the Ordem Militar de Santiago da Espada in 1979.

The Miguéis papers comprise the author’s correspondence, literary manuscripts, interviews, diaries, calendars, notebooks, drawings, photographs, audio recordings and awards. It contains work by others that relate to Miguéis, such as literary reviews and criticism, drawings, and adaptations of his work.  This collection also includes approximately 2,000 books from the personal library of Miguéis which features Portuguese and world literature and related literary criticism.

To enter the world of this important 20th century writer contact Patricia Figueroa, Curator of Iberian and Latin American Collections or visit the John Hay Library.

John Birch Society Records at the John Hay Library

John Birch Society

Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society shown in his Belmont (Mass.) headquarters with a painting of U.S. Army Capt. John Morrison Birch for whom the society was named. Birch was a Baptist soldier-missionary who was killed by communists in China in 1945.

A collection of records created by the John Birch Society are now available for research at the John Hay Library.  The records, the bulk of which date from 1965-1989, provide an excellent view into the work of the JBS and its mission “To bring about less government, more responsibility, and — with God’s help — a better world by providing leadership, education, and organized volunteer action in accordance with moral and Constitutional principles.”

The John Birch Society was founded in Indianapolis, Indiana, on December 9, 1958. Robert Welch, Jr. (1899–1985), a retired candy manufacturer, led the organization from its founding until his retirement in 1983. The original twelve founding members included Fred Koch (1900-1967), founder of Koch Industries, and Robert Waring Stoddard (1906-1984), president of Wyman-Gordon, a manufacturer of complex metal components. The Society was named in honor of John Birch, an American Baptist missionary and United States Army intelligence officer who was killed by Chinese communists on August 25, 1945, making him, in the Society’s view, the first casualty of the Cold War.

The Society has local chapters in all fifty states. It uses grassroots lobbying, educational meetings, petition drives and letter-writing campaigns to gain members and influence public policy. The goals of the society include limiting government and blocking an international conspiracy designed to replace Western nations with a one-world socialist government.  Accordingly, the Society has opposed any trade or diplomatic relations with communist countries and American membership in the United Nations. In addition, the Society opposes the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve system, Social Security, the Medicare program, the creation of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the transfer of control of the Panama Canal from the United States to the Republic of Panama, the Civil Rights Movement, sex education in public schools, and efforts to add fluoride to water supplies. While it supports the American military, it has opposed American military intervention overseas. The Society has operated Summer Youth Camps across the United States and produces radio programs, newspapers columns, and films.

This collection of JBS records totals 45 linear feet and dates from 1928-1990 (bulk 1965-1989) and includes correspondence, business files, publications and audio-visual material.  Additional information about JBS can be found in a related collection called the John Birch Society pamphlets (Ms.2014.001) which contains copies of their publications and newspaper articles about their activities.

To learn more about the John Birch Society and related collections consult the LibGuide on American Conservatism.

Fleurs des Tranchées = Trench Flowers

It arrived on my desk one morning.  A handmade scrapbook labeled Correspondances Militaires, 1916-1917 covered in paper the color of the French military uniform – bleu horizon.  Each letter was carefully pasted along one edge to a thin strip of paper.  Each letter was written to Emile Toulouse from his brothers Eugène and Jean and a smattering of friends and cousins.  They all served France during World War I.  Emile served as a firefighter in Paris.  Eugène served in the infantry.  Jean served with the artillery.

The most important function of war time letters is simply to assure family and friends that one is still in this world.  Eugène writes at the beginning of almost every letter and card exactly the same sentence:  “Je suis toujours en bonne santé et désire que ma lettre te trouve de même. = I am still in good health and hope that my letter finds you the same.”  The fact that Eugène wrote that for over 2.5 years (March 1915 until November 1917) while serving in the trenches in France is remarkable.  In the optimistic early days of 1915, he gathered flowers from each of the trenches.

Flowers collected in the trenches by Eugene Toulouse, 1915

By December 29, 1916, Eugène’s spirits were flagging and for good reason.  Below is a translated excerpt from that letter.

“ . . . From time to time here at this Compagnie de Dépôt we are almost as brutally treated as you are, and twice I was almost thrown in jail without any reason. You better believe it’s harsh to be treated that way especially because it’s possible that in one week we will have our pants on fire and our feet freeze. I am beginning to believe that we will never beat them although you know my morale was pretty high.  I can’t wait for the escape.”

[Translation by Dominique Coulombe, Senior Scholarly Resources Librarian]

To read that letter and all the others in this diminutive but interesting scrapbook visit the John Hay Library and request the Toulouse Family Correspondence (Ms.2012.017).

Money, Money, Money!

A collection of Rhode Island currency and fiscal documents was recently donated by Cynthia Frost (Vice President and Chief Investment Officer at Brown) in memory of her father Michael Freezy Frost, who collected the materials during his lifetime.  The Frost Currency collection (Ms.2012.031) contains examples of 26 pieces of currency, of varying types, issued in Rhode Island between 1775 to 1929, one bank note issued in Delaware in 1759, and 5 documents related to the fiscal history of 18th century Rhode Island.

Front of Rhode Island 20 Dollar bill, 1780

Back of Rhode Island 20 Dollar bill, 1780

This 20 Dollar bill was issued in 1780 and is a promissory note from the State of Rhode Island.  which promised to pay the bearer the principal plus 5% interest every year in 6 years.  The note was then traded like money for goods and services. Whoever possessed the note at the end of the 6-year term collected the principal and all the interest.  Notice the offset text on the left side of the bill, the original signatures and the unique handwritten number, all of which were meant to frustrate counterfeiters.  The back adds offset text in red and a woodcut image which would be very difficult to reproduce exactly.

Rhode Island 6 Pence bill, 1786

The State of Rhode Island also issued money.  The Six Pence bill was issued in 1786 and is printed on only one side.  No interest accrues with this bill, it is solely meant as a medium of exchange.

 

Front of Roger Williams National Bank of Providence 10 Dollar bill, 1865

Back of Roger Williams National Bank of Providence 10 Dollar bill, 1865

Banks got into the business of printing money in the 1840s and they chose the images and style of the bills.  The image of Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity with his kite was clearly so well known by 1865 that it needed no caption on this 10 Dollar bill.  The back of the bill shows DeSoto discovering the Mississippi.  Perhaps the choice of that image was meant to create solidarity within the United States again since that area of the country had so recently been prevented from seceding.

To learn more about this collection visit the John Hay Library.

Many Pigs of Many Pens

Upon first glance it seems that people in 1908 have no idea how to draw, let alone produce a successful image of a pig.And then you look more closely at the poem at the beginning of the book and it becomes clear.  They are drawing these pigs blindfolded.

This volume, Guest Book : Many Pigs of Many Pens, was published in 1902 as a playful alternative to a traditional guest book.  In conventional guest books, visitors were expected to sign their name and contribute a poem, sketch, quote, or witticism.  The purpose of this guest book explains the statement on the cover – “A Pig in Time Saves a Rhyme.”This copy was given as a present to John Nicholas Brown II (1900-1979) in 1908.  The first image above shows the eight-year-old’s attempt at a pig.  It is one of many items in the Natalie Bayard Brown papers (Ms.2007.011) at the John Hay Library.

Mrs. Natalie Bayard Dresser Brown was the wife of John Nicholas Brown (1861-1900) and the mother of John Nicholas Brown II (1900-1979).  Her papers reflect her active involvement in the many Brown family businesses, the Democratic Party during the 1930s, and numerous charitable causes through correspondence with family and friends, writings and speeches, scrapbooks, and photographs.

The elder John Nicholas died of typhoid fever 2 months after the birth of his son followed soon after by the death of his brother Harold Brown. Those tragic events made John Nicholas Brown II the heir to the Brown family fortune and he was dubbed the “richest baby in America.”  The John Nicholas Brown II papers (Ms.2007.012) contain a wealth of material on the visual arts, art collections and collecting activities, and public service at the state, national and international levels, as well as the history of Brown University and the State of Rhode Island during the twentieth century.

Both of those collections, and many others related to the Brown family, can be viewed at the John Hay Library.

A Women’s Studies Pioneer – Elaine Ryan Hedges

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.