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I have spent a lot of time digging a little deeper into our Native American Literature Collections in preparation for the Rare Book School course I will be co-teaching this summer: A History of Native American Books & Indigenous Sovereignty. I was already aware of Angel de Cora(Winnebago) and her work as a book designer and illustrator, and I knew she went to school at Smith, but not much more than that.

Middle Five Cover

Francis LaFlesche. The Middle Five. Cover design by Angel de Cora.

My Rare Book School co-conspirator, Amherst Professor Kiara Vigil, told me to read this book, which includes a whole chapter on de Cora:

Hutchinson’s book fleshes out the broader context in which de Cora was working, and she identifies other examples of de Cora’s commercial illustration work. Learning that de Cora attended The Drexel Institute of Art in Philadelphia where she studied under famed American illustrator Howard Pyle helped to place de Cora within the mainstream of commercial illustration work in the 1890s. Two of her earliest known published works fit neatly within the pages of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, which was aimed at the rising American middle class consumer. Her first story, “The Sick Child,” appeared in the February 1899 issue:

The Sick Child

A second illustrated story appeared in the November 1899 issue of the same title: “Gray Wolf’s Daughter”:

Gray Wolfs Daughter

Chronologically, de Cora’s illustrations and designs for The Middle Five followed in 1900. In addition to the cover shown above, de Cora produced a color image for the frontispiece, with her signature clearly visible at the bottom:

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Before reading Hutchinson’s book, I was not aware that de Cora took a job at the Carlisle Indian School — a boarding school for Native American students in Pennsylvania — where she taught art for several years. While at Carlisle, she also helped launch a new magazine called The Indian Craftsman, a reference to Gustav Stickley’s arts and crafts movement magazine, The Craftsman. Although Amherst College does not hold any original issues of The Indian Craftsman, there are several available through the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center:

Indian Craftsman

As soon as I learned of this magazine, and others produced at Carlisle, I began searching for more information about printing projects at Carlisle and other Native boarding schools. As luck would have it, a book appeared last year on that very subject: Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press (Edited by Jacqueline Emery).

More than simply a working artist who incorporated her Native heritage into her work, de Cora was attempting to develop a pan-Indian aesthetic that blended her formal training and Native traditions.

Letter to Zephaniah S. Moore, first president of Amherst College.

This week, I’d like to draw your attention to a fascinating collection that was recently digitized and made available in Amherst College Digital Collections: the Amherst College Early History Manuscripts and Pamphlets Collection.

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A map of South College from the first year of the college’s existence, 1821/22, showing the students living in each room.

This is a small collection of documents that were donated to the archives by Edward and Ethel Mellon in 1921 (see the finding aid here). The majority of the items in this collection date from the first fifteen years of Amherst College’s existence and they reveal a lot about what the institution was like during this formative time. The college was very small: admissions, financial aid, discipline and the day to day business of the college where executed in a personal and paternal manner by the President and the Board of Trustees. There are many letters in the collection regarding students wishing to attend the college. Admission was often as simple as a letter of introduction sent to the President and a letter of acceptance in return. The college having been founded for the express purpose of educating indigent young men of piety, there are also many inquiries about financial aid.

Dana Clayes letter to President Heman Humphrey, June 21, 1824

“He wishes to ascertain the principal expenses, (viz.) the price of board, firewood, etc. and likewise what assistance can be afforded to pious indigent students who possess the requisite talents.” Dana Clayes letter to President Heman Humphrey, June 21, 1824

The college was also rigidly paternalistic in its early years – absolute obedience and unquestioning respect was required of all students and the faculty, president and trustees of the college dictated most aspects of student life. The eleven items relating to student discipline illuminate this dynamic very well. Ethraim Eveleth, class of 1825, was suspended for implying that the faculty had displayed favoritism in student appointments, the collection includes his signed retraction and a statement by the trustees reinstating him as a student in light of same. Another suspension was given to Joseph Goffe, Jr., class of 1826, who left campus without permission and then had the temerity to say that a student has the right to disobey the authority of the College when he thinks his request has been unreasonably denied.

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Charles Upham Shephard apparently made “an opprobrious inscription upon glass + circulating it in the Chemical Lecture room” received an Admonition from the president.

Some of the offenses that student received discipline for make more sense to a modern mind: Charles Upham Shephard, class of 1824 and later a respected professor of Natural History at the college for many decades, was admonished by the president and faculty for what we would now call bullying.

“The Faculty cannot close without expressing their decided disapprobation of every attempt to bring a fellow student into disconduct or make his college life uncomfortable by applying to him any opprobrious epithet whether directly or indirectly, in conversation or in writing. The Faculty wish to have it distinctly understood that no such violation of the laws of kindness and good breeding can be tolerated in this institution.”

Edward Dickinson, class of 1823, who would go on to be a respected lawyer, treasurer of the college and the father of Emily Dickinson, was involved in an incident in November of 1821 with an oyster supper, cherry rum, gin and a “great disturbance in and about the Institution”.

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The Charges: “-that after supper they had cherry rum and gin -that they drank to excess – that about 12 0’clock they all of them came to the Institution – that they there behaved in a very indecent and riotous manner, and made great disturbance in and about the Institution, to the extreme annoyance of those residing in it til one o’clock or later.”

Other items of interest and importance in this collection include:

  • Five letters between the Anti-Slavery Society and the Trustees from 1834 regarding the Trustees’ order that the Society disband and the Society’s protest of that decision. These letters and the history of the Society more broadly are explored in another post on this blog, the Amherst College Anti-Slavery Society.
  • In February 1822, students presented a petition to President Zephaniah Swift Moore expressing their dissatisfaction with tutor Lucius Fields and their request for a different tutor. In response the faculty passed a resolution that the petition was slanderous and should not be granted. Regarding punishment for the students who brought the petition, the faculty decided to treat the students with “paternal tenderness” but should there be any further disorder or disrespect to the officers of the Institution, the faulty would proceed with all the severity required.
  • A letter from Cyrus Grosvenor to President Moore in 1823 discusses his travels in the South Carolina and his attempts to raise money and recruit students for the college there.
  • In 1841 or 1842, 10 sophomores agreed to work on the college hill for 10¢ an hour to pay their debts. Presumably this meant manual labor to grade the hill or maintain paths or roads.
  • My personal favorite is a letter from the senior class to the president expressing their concern for his health and their willingness to forgo all the rest of their classes with him this term so that he can rest. A wry note by the president is written at the end of the petition indicating that they continued to have class for the rest of the term.

If you enjoy this material, keep your eyes peeled for the Early College History Collection, which is being digitized and will be going up on ACDC in the coming months!

Reworking the McCloy Papers

We’re pleased to announce the completion of a project to reorganize the John J. McCloy Papers, one of our most heavily used collections.

The project involved three steps – each intended to increase ease of access to the collection and ensure the protection of the material.

Addressing preservation issues: this collection was first processed in the late 1980s. When archival collections are first processed, they are housed in acid-free containers to protect the material. But over time acid-free boxes and folders become acidic and don’t protect as well. We swapped out all of the boxes in the McCloy Papers for new acid-free buffered boxes and replaced well-worn folders. Oversized material in the collection was given boxes specially designed to fit the material. You can read more about ideal storage methods here.

Condensing the collection: this was also a bit of a preservation issue. The McCloy Papers are housed in records cartons, which look like this:

box

A number of the boxes in the collection were not completely filled. Ideally, a box should be filled just enough so that it is easy to pull out a needed folder. A box should not be overstuffed, nor should it be under-filled – either situation puts unnecessary strain on the archival material.

box open

A well-filled records carton

You can read more about storage and handling here.

Providing unique identifiers: After physically condensing the collection, boxes and folders needed to be renumbered and the finding aid brought up to date. We gave the boxes and folders sequential numbers so that the finding aid would provide one single list.

mccloy fa

A snapshot of the new finding aid

This part was quite the endeavor – the collection comprises over 50 boxes and thousands of folders. But we persisted and the brand new finding aid is available online. It is accessible here.

If you’ve used the collection before and have old citations for items in the collection, don’t worry. We’ve put together a cheat sheet that will translate those citations for you.

For the uninitiated, here is an overview of the collection:

The John J. McCloy Papers were given to Amherst College by McCloy through a deed of gift executed in July of 1985. It was one of the largest acquisitions for the Archives at the time. Prior to their physical transfer to the Amherst College Archives, roughly half of the papers underwent a national security review by the Department of State. The bulk of these arrived at the College in May of 1986, with several batches sent later following clearance by the relevant government agency. Today, the Papers comprise 59.5 linear feet of material, including 52 records cartons, 28 flat boxes, 1 scroll box, and 2 map case drawers.

The McCloy Papers span the years 1897-1989, with the bulk of the material falling into the period 1940-1979. The roughly 60 linear feet of material cover the breadth of McCloy’s activities, from lawyer to banker to government official to negotiator to behind-the-scenes adviser. The papers include working papers, correspondence, memoranda, speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, legal documents, printed material, and memorabilia. Of particular interest is the material which focuses on McCloy’s time as High Commissioner of Germany after World War II, and the material concerning McCloy’s involvement in Japanese internment camps during the war.

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McCloy leaving Germany from Rhein-Main airbase after serving as High Commissioner of Germany after World War II

 

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Series 4: Speeches contains over 40 years of formal and informal speeches given by McCloy.

McCloy received many honorary degrees and awards over the course of his career.

Our next preservation project involving the McCloy Papers will be to send out the legacy media for digital reformatting.

 

Skating By…

A crowd sits on a grassy hill, and watches two figure skaters perform a dance on the ice rink. The pair wear matching sweaters, and are holding hands with their left arms extended.

Phyllis (Schroeder) Forney and her husband Martin Forney perform an ice dancing routine.

Grab your skates!

The Walter S. Orr Rink opened 63 years ago this month—dedicated on January 15, 1955. The dedication ceremony, led by Dean Eugene S. Wilson (Class of 1929), included speeches by Trustee Francis T. P. Plimpton (Class of 1921), President Charles W. Cole (Class of 1927), and Walter S. Orr (Class of 1912), the rink’s namesake and major donor. The formal ceremony was followed by two figure skating performances and an Amherst College vs. UMass Amherst hockey game (which Amherst lost, 5-4).

National champions performed the two inaugural figure skating routines. Dick Button won Olympic gold in both 1948 and 1952 with two historic “firsts” in competition. In 1948, he landed the first double Axel, and four years later, he landed the first triple jump (a loop).[1]  Ice dancing pair (and spouses) Phyllis and Martin Forney would compete in the 1955 World Figure Skating Championships.

A male ice skater, dressed in black, lifts his foot and extends his arms as he twists his body to the right. Spectators in winter coats stand behind the wooden fence at the rink edge, and on the hill rising behind the rink.

Dick Button, Olympic gold medalist, begins a turn during his performance on the ice.

Despite the cold (the Amherst Student noted that it was below freezing), a substantial crowd gathered for the dedication. The speeches tended to humor, with Dean Wilson introducing President Cole as “one who is long-experienced in skating on thin ice,” and Trustee Plimpton hoping that the co-educational weekends would benefit from the new recreational opportunity.[2]

Two ice hockey teams skate on the ice. A crowd watches, with people sitting in bleachers or standing around the rink on snow-covered ground.

Amherst College ice hockey game, sometime between 1955 and 1965.

Perhaps people were tired of braving the cold, because Orr Rink was enclosed just ten years later in 1965. It was completely renovated in 1997, and is now home to both men’s and women’s ice hockey teams. Recreational skating is available to the Amherst College community (see the Athletics site for hours) from November through February; lace up and have some fun!

Notes

1. “Richard BUTTON – Olympic Figure Skating.” International Olympic Committee, February 1, 2017. https://www.olympic.org/richard-button.
2. “Plimpton, Button Help Dedicate New Orr Rink.” Amherst Student, January 17, 1955. Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.

New Artists’ Books

Today I am highlighting some of our newest artists’ book additions to our collection.

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell

First up, we have two new acquisitions from book artist Ginger R. Burrell.

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell in handmade box

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell

Earth Clock, Burrell’s limited edition 2017 creation, is an investigation into the history of climate change.  “Earth Clock is meant as both an educational tool and a call to action. To create both a sense of urgency and the beginning of understanding. To present both facts and a sense of the long history of our avoidance and denial.” (Lux Mentis Booksellers catalog)

Nineteen magnetized flaps corresponding to years from 1800 to 2015 lift to display facts about national and international events relating to climate and the environment, such as the first Earth Day in 1970 and the creation of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or 1995 when the Antarctic ice shelves begin to break apart.

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell display

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell display

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Earth Clock features custom electronics designed to create a visceral response and to compel the viewer to act. LEDs animate based on what happened each year in Climate Change history. The number display registers the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in a given year.” (Lux Mentis Booksellers catalog)


Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Also from Ginger Burrell, Giftschrank is another 2017 piece created in a limited edition of 12, housed in an original wooden box and bound in a molded cover of razor blades suspended in thick enamel.

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell box

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

The title page defines Giftschrank:

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

 

GIFTSCHRANK

noun

Gift (Poison) + Shrank (Cabinet)

  1. Spaces reserved for undesirable, uncomfortable or forbidden objects, ideas or subjects.
  2. Something society avoids at all costs.

 

 

 

 

The colophon cites the inspiration for this work as the podcast 99% Invisible, episode 203 ”The Giftschrank”.


The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

The prospectus for artist Maureen Cummins’s new 2017 work The/rapist describes the historic and political inspiration for this work:

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins in box

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

“The/rapist is an investigation into the gendered history of psychosurgery, as illustrated by the career of Doctor Walter Freeman (1895-1972). A Professor of Neurology with no formal training in either surgery or psychology, Freeman popularized the pre-frontal lobotomy, an operation in which nerve connections to and from the frontal lobes—the seat of human emotion, creativity, willpower, and imagination—are severed.”

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

“It is a history that raises numerous and disturbing questions about patients’ rights, the abuse of institutional power, and the disproportionate targeting of women.”

The physical object of this work reflects the inspiration:

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

“Constructed entirely out of aluminum, The/rapist is inspired by the cold, hard surfaces of medical clipboards and equipment, as well as by Freeman’s actual tools, viewed by the artist in the Freeman/Watts collection at GWU, where she conducted her initial research. Pages of the book are laser-cut, burnished on one side, printed with multiple layers of text and imagery, “dimpled” to prevent scratching and wear, then mounted within rings to a sturdy baseboard. The text is printed in Frutiger, a classic mid-century sans-serif typeface. Images reproduced in the book are 19th century engravings, handwritten notes and text, as well as graphs and headshots from Freeman’s 1950 textbook Psychosurgery: In the Treatment of Mental Disorders and Intractable Pain. The book is housed in a burnished aluminum box with a screwed-down aluminum title plate.” (Aside of Books, retrieved 12/8/17)


The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

We have also acquired a 2016 work by book artist Gabrielle Cooksey: The Book of Penumbra: Deadly Myths Retold – A book of small stories of death gods from around the world.  This piece is hand bound in an accordion case binding and a hinged painted black box with gold foil tooling.

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

Cooksey describes this work: “Death has always fascinated me because it happens to all of us yet no one talks about it. I wanted to see what other cultures personified death as through myths and legends. The gods in this book are very hushed and for some, even if you speak the name, you’ll be cursed. I wanted this book to be shadows, to be played in the light. I chose a delicate paper so one could see through to the page behind it. The text is in all sorts of shapes because I wanted each story to represent the god being told about. For instance, Sedna is in the shape of drowning, Anubis is his eye, Mac is a pit with someone at the bottom. The borders are all plants, roots, and things found on the earth. Some represent death like the poppy, and the yew tree.” (Author’s website, retrieved 12/8/17)

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

“I design books in a peculiar and unexpected way that makes it enticing to hold/open. I think of my books as art that you can use.” –Gabrielle Cooksey (Author’s website, retrieved 12/8/17)
Thanks to Rebecca, our cataloging librarian, these books have all been cataloged and are available to researchers in our Reading Room.

A Boy’s Song

Is this, is this your joy,
O bird, then I, though a boy,
for a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!*

Arthur Yates Statham, around 1910.

We all know how the years go — how they glide by, gathering speed in autumn such that the end of December arrives and the year is gone, and more youth too. Before 2017 departs entirely, there’s a centenary to note: the loss in World War I of a British soldier, Arthur Yates Statham, who died in France during the Arras offensive  in May, 1917.

But stop there. –Is it better to remember how he lived or how he died? His death in battle could reasonably overwhelm the rest of his story, but if we could ask Arthur, how would he want to be remembered? Would he want to be defined by the circumstances of his death or by his life?

In this post, we consider his life, brief though it was, and remember him through a two-part diary from 1913.

The diary forms a small section of the Dicken-Statham Family Papers at Amherst College. This collection – a handful of boxes –surveys the lives of several generations in a British family that lived and worked and fought wars in India, England, France, and Iraq over the course of about 150 years. Arthur’s years were in the middle: he was born at the end of the 19th century but didn’t survive into the 20th as long as he had a reason to expect he might.

The Stathams: left to right standing, Arthur, Noel (who died in WWI three months to the day before Arthur), Heathcote, and Maud. Left to right seated, Gilbert, Florence, Irene, and Heathcote. About 1910.

Arthur Yates Statham was the son of Heathcote and Florence Statham. He was the youngest of six children – he had three brothers and two sisters. The family lived in and around London while his father was writer and the editor (for 20 years) at “The Builder” magazine.

In April, 1913, Arthur’s mother packed him up for a vacation in Hastings & St. Leonards, where he stayed with “Miss O.” – Miss Ogle – who was probably a relative on his mother’s side.  The diary from this vacation shows us something of Arthur, aged about 15.  Here is the boy, with all his vitality and humor, to suggest the man who might’ve been. In some ways he’s Everyboy, in other ways he’s just Arthur. It’s not that there’s “important content” in his diary, unless you consider a soul on the page as a thing to reckon with.

Here are a few excerpts about the things Arthur did on vacation. He loved cycling perhaps most of all, but he also loved games, visiting people and places, movies, and Sherlock Holmes.  He does everything with joy — every experience is not just new, it’s NEW!!!

 

 

Arthur frequently begins an entry with an excerpt from a poem or popular song:
“8th Tuesday

‘There is no place like home yet I’m

afraid to home in the dark

‘That is why I did not go overnight.  A slow cab, a fast train, a nice guard, a good dinner, a middling magazine (no names mentioned) made up together with a ticket my journey to Kings Cross.  Such trifles as myself and my luggage went also…  At Kings Cross my mother (all names, as I have already remarked, are to be suppressed unless I forget this rule), intent on losing baggage (I speak of the author of this libelous rag) came 69.357 seconds late!  (for any mistakes in figures please apply [to] the mathematician, who, for obvious reasons, is anonymous.)”

Warrior Square, St. Leonards

“This train, a half-animated serpent of metal crawled to St. Leonards Warrior Square Station. (Loud cheers)…  A cab, that, much to my astonishment, once managed to break into an ambling trot, took me to the house of a Miss O., who lives at 9 St. P. Road in St. Leonards.”  Image courtesy the East Sussex Libraries; see their Flickr page for an abundance of images of Hastings-St. Leonards.

Arthur brought his bicycle (perhaps one like this) to St. Leonards in parts and reassembled it at Miss O’s: “9th Wednesday. It never rains but it pours. St. Leonards is not hilly it is mountainous. After breaking my fast I went upstairs and for nearly one hour (how time flies) I tended my cycle, an extraordinary creature it is too! I bought oil and oiled it and parafined [sic] it and rubbed it and scrubbed it and corked it and polished it and screwed it and many other such things.”

It would be instructive (and no doubt impressive) to add up Arthur’s many miles on his bike — he almost always notes where he went and how many miles he covered. He includes an excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching’s poem “Going Downhill on a Bicycle/A Boy’s Song” and adds his own enthusiastic opinion on the sport: “This is true, there is nought like this. Going downhill on a cycle is glorious.”

However, he hit a patch of rainy days –day after day of it:
“10th Thursday. ‘Rain, Rain, go to Spain, go and don’t come back again.’ This is my song, my remark, my saddened cry, my pitiful song, my wail. Yesterday, it rained, a thing not unprecedented, you will be surprised to hear. The morning was passed in mourning (this is an accidental pun). With great energy I got out my cycle, turned round four times in the middle of the road and then started off[.]  7.145921 minutes later I returned. It was RAINING!!!!! Cousin G. told me I did a wise thing in returning, of course I like being complimented (especially as all compliments to me are well-deserved)…”

Arthur visited friends of the family a lot (probably following his mother’s instructions) and in general was very good-humored about engagements with the grownups in a situation where some of us would’ve felt really growly about all that visiting.

A cranking old invalid

“In the afternoon I went and saw a lady Mrs. Sayer Milward. Her husband is ill. I cycled to see her. The ride was 10 miles there and back… A Mrs. Grant was there. She asked me to come over to a cottage she had hired and spend an afternoon there. I mentally arranged that Friday afternoon was suitable. I returned home”;  “11th Friday. ‘The more, the merrier.’ So it is here. The more friends the merrier. 9 ladies are unhappy because they have made my acquaintance…”; “After tea I paid two calls, one to Mrs. [Samson?] who is very old, to use her own words, “A cranking old invalid.” [Excerpts from multiple entries.]

Like any good tourist, he visits all the local sights: “We strode off and climbed to Lovers Seat. There are sign-posts pointing to Lovers Seat everywhere, and I am perfectly sure that the poor lovers can get no peace, so I suppose they find some other haunt. We eat sugar candy there, a prosaic thing to do in so touching a spot.”

Image courtesy Pett Level Archive.

“17th Thursday.  ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’  That is why I and the Grants became friendly when going for a walk.  Immediately after breakfast I cycled with all speed to the Grants, where I arrived at 9:55 and found them preparing to go to Pett Level, a very good beach about 5 miles away. We started off but soon it started to rain. So we hied ourselves to the coastguard station where we could hide ourselves from the elements of nature. We looked at the lamps at the fog-horn or siren, and I interested myself about the acetylene gaslamp and the signaling code, which I know, for, when all is said and done, I know a lot!”

Glass slide of the Albert Memorial in the center of Hastings. Gift of “moonspender” on ebay.

Once or twice, we see shades of his father, editor and writer for “The Builder” magazine and, to judge from the archival record, a stickler for details and accuracy:

“…we caught a tram…and we were soon falling down the tremendous hill that leads from Bohemia to the memorial. I pause to remark that Miss O. was ignorant of what the memorial was about.  I had to find [it], stranger though I am, and tell her that it is an Albert Memorial.”

Image courtesy of St. Matthew’s Church.

His religious instruction was not neglected during this vacation:

20th Sunday: [An] exciting day for a Sunday. Miss O. and I went [to] church at St. Matthews where Mr. Askwith, the Vicar, preached. This sermon was about socialism and he pointed out what it really was. He said that he could and would tell us roughly what the chief points of Socialism are:

1. There is to be no King.
2. There is [not to be] Patriotism (if we are invaded, we are not to fight)
3. All property will belong to the state.
4. No one will do any work, you will be fed and clothed by the State.
5. The “shirkers,” as they call all who do not do manual labour, will be abolished, all will be equal.
6. There will be no religion of any sort, all churches will be pulled down and taken, as all other property will be, by the state.”

Image courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Games constituted the entertainment for most evenings: “We had supper and then Miss O. and I settled down to drafts.   In all we played five games and Miss O. nearly got a fit of joy because she won the first; then I leap almost out of my chair and said “Vengance!! Vengance” [sic] and ended the next game by my having 7 kings Miss O. 1!!!  The third game was mine, I always have 2 out of three games, you see I give Miss O one to make her happy.  In the last two games she won the first and I said “Vengeance” and had 6 kings to her 1.  So if I had said “Vengance! Vengance!” twice I would have had 7.  However I am best out of five and three.   The weather was fine and very hot.”

“In the evening I played four games of drafts with Miss O.  I act all the while, for I look at the clock and then Miss O. looks at the clock and then forgets her piece is in danger and I take it.  Also when she does a move good for me I make a noise of sorrow and terror, and she thinks she has “done” me and really she has done me a good turn.”

Image courtesy the Victory and Albert Museum.

“I played two games of Spilikins [with Miss Ogle] and beat her (of course)!!!!!!!

“…I beat Miss O. in six games of drafts running.  She thinks ozone has made my brain as sharp as my nose!!!! (Which is a great deal)–“

and

“After supper we played drafts, where in 3 games, I won two, Miss Ogle one.  In Spilikins my steady hand nearly lost but just won. The games were closely contested.  There is not much more to say.  I had a bath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Finally, there is Sherlock Holmes.  Arthur mentions him many times, including this section in which he gloats at his superior reasoning over that of Miss Ogle.  The section begins with an excerpt from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:

“13th Sunday.

‘Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.’

Gray’s Elegy

“Only too true, I might have been a Sherlock Holmes, I might have been a Dr. Statham.  My genius in detection has been wasted on the desert air.  On coming down [for] breakfast on the Sunday morning aforesaid, Miss O. remarked to me that a plan was in her head.  I remarked that I would try and guess it.  My first guess was right in every detail.  She suggested that we should go to Fairlight.  The reasoning was as follows: Miss O. had thought of something which we could both do.  Therefore cycling was not in it.  The plan was either a walk or a tram ride.  Had it been a walk surely Miss O. would not have been so excited.  Therefore it was a tram ride.  But where to?  Sunday is a day for paying calls. On whom then should we, taking a tram, call.  The Sayer Milwards at Fairlight!  The reasoning is elementary, superficial.”  Later: “I read some Sherlock Holmes to Miss O.  The reasoning did not seem as clear to her as to me.”

Arthur’s diary closes with these lines: “So our happy walk ended.  I recited poetry to Miss O. and then I read the Strand Magazine while Miss O. indulged in the newspaper.  So the evening ended.” 

Two years later he was at war.  It feels like a triumph to point out that the boy who knew all about the signalling code in the coastguard station became the “Signalling Lieutenant” in his battalion.

Arthur at 18.

The Dicken-Statham Papers also contain many of Arthur’s wartime letters to his sister Irene.  Like perhaps the majority of such letters, they contain descriptions of pastimes, duties, and boredom followed closely by battle.  One often senses the need to read between the lines to guess at what he must’ve felt behind the comforting words written to family members.

A colleague and I remarked on what may be an “archival thing” (although probably only because of the likelihood of the experience in an archives): the way you look for textual evidence of the death you know will come but the writer doesn’t.  You look for foreshadowing, and it haunts the experience of reading because you expect to see a sign around the corner of every sentence.

On this blank page that isn’t blank at all I felt Arthur’s living shadow in the impression of his pencil from the previous page.  It contrasted with the boldness of his youthful diary, as though here his life ebbed through the paper, a sign that it would soon be gone.

 Arthur was last seen during the Third Battle of the Scarpe, on May 3, 1917.  He is said to have been killed by a sniper as he turned to address his men.  The Germans took the area in which Statham died, so his body was never recovered.  His name is included at the Arras Memorial.

Arthur’s fellow soldiers remembered him in ways that echo the boy of the diary.  A superior officer said, “He was signalling officer of the battalion, work in which he showed the utmost keenness.  He was given a special job to do in the operations on the 9th April, and I found him at the objective one and a half hours after our attack, coolly working away…” and his Captain said, “We all regret his loss to us, as he was a tremendously cheery companion and a brave officer.”

–O bird, see; see, bird, he flies.

_____________________________

*Excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching, “Going Down Hill on a Bicycle: A Boy’s Song”

There is much more to discover in Arthur’s diary.  Complete PDFs of the manuscripts are available at no cost from the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

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On Saturday, October 28, Amherst College was honored to host Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy III who delivered an address on the steps of Frost Library as part of a day-long celebration of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy. You can watch his speech and read more about the event here: JFK 100: Of Poetry & Politics.

President Kennedy’s visit to Amherst College on October 26, 1963 is well known; he gave an important, and frequently quoted, speech about the role of the artist in society before participating in the ground-breaking ceremony for the Robert Frost Library. We recently made more images of that event available through Amherst College Digital Collections:

Amherst College Photographer Records: JFK at Amherst
Kennedy Convocation Collection: Color Slides

Audio of Kennedy’s address is freely available through the Kennedy Library & Museum in Boston, and this small web exhibition includes scans of many documents held in the Archives.

What is less well known is that the Frost Library ground-breaking was not Kennedy’s first visit to Amherst College, nor was it his first contact with members of the Amherst Community. As I dug into our holdings to prepare an exhibition for the “Of Poetry & Politics” celebration, I turned up some interesting items, such as these two letters from then-Senator Kennedy to Karl Loewenstein:

JFK to Loewenstein 1954

JFK to Loewenstein 1957

German-born emigré political scientist, professor, lawyer, and government advisor, Karl Loewenstein had a long academic career, which began in Munich and continued at Yale (1933-1936) and Amherst (1936-1961) after his emigration to the United States.  He worked as an advisor for the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense of the American Republics (1942-1944) and for the U.S. Office of Military Government for Germany (1945-1946). The Karl Loewenstein Papers are held by the Archives & Special Collections.

In addition to responding to Loewenstein’s letters, Senator Kennedy also reached out to Amherst College President Charles Cole:

JFK to Cole

Charles Woolsey Cole, Class of 1927, served as Professor of Economics at Amherst from 1935-1942 and as the twelfth College President from 1946-1960. In this letter, Senator Kennedy invites Cole to participate in a lunch with himself and “others in the academic, research and related fields” to give him advice on policy.

It is likely that Senator Kennedy met both Karl Loewenstein and President Cole when Kennedy spoke at Amherst College in May 1956. Senator Kennedy’s 1956 visit might have been forgotten were it not for this small piece that appeared in the Amherst Student:

JFK in Amherst Student 1956

I have not found any additional documents related to this visit anywhere in our holdings yet, but we will keep looking.

JFK Inaugural

John F. Kennedy was the first President to invite a poet to participate in his inaugural celebration; Frost supported Kennedy during his campaign and he agreed to recite “The Gift Outright” at Kennedy’s request. Kennedy was unaware that Frost also composed a new poem – “Dedication” – as a preface to his earlier piece. Unfortunately, because of the inclement weather and difficulty reading the typescript, Frost did not read “Dedication” and recited “The Gift Outright” from memory. When asked to comment after Frost’s death in January 1963, Kennedy said:

“I’ve never taken the view the world of politics and the world of poetry are so far apart. I think politicians and poets share at least one thing, and that is their greatness depends upon the courage with which they face the challenges of life.”

But Robert Frost was not the only poet involved in the 1960 inaugural celebration:

JFK to Bogan

Louise Bogan was a poet who frequently appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, Poetry, Scribner’s and The Atlantic Monthly. For thirty-eight years, she reviewed poetry for The New Yorker. Here, the President thanks her for her participation and asks her for any further suggestions she might have for “contributions the national government might make to the arts in America.” The Louise Bogan Papers are held by the Archives & Special Collections.

Kennedy’s connections to Amherst faculty continued into his Presidency, as seen in this letter to Amherst Professor Willard Thorp:

JFK to Thorp

Willard Thorp, Amherst Class of 1920, was a pioneer statistician, economist, domestic and foreign policy advisor, international development expert, and private business consultant. He served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs from 1946-1952, he played a critical role in the design and implementation of the Marshall Plan and later held a number of United Nations appointments. Thorp taught Economics at Amherst from 1927-1935 and from 1952 until his retirement in 1965. In this letter, Kennedy thanks him for his work on cultural exchange with Japan. The Willard L. and Clarice Brows Thorp Papers are held in the Archives.

The invitation to President Kennedy to speak at Amherst College for the ground-breaking of Robert Frost Library was sent by John J. McCloy. Here is the President’s letter formally accepting the invitation:

JFK to McCloy

John J. McCloy graduated from Amherst College in 1916 and served on the Board of Trustees from 1947-1989. He thought of himself as a public servant and in his speeches often emphasized the importance of public service. Among his many influential posts, he served as Assistant Secretary of War from 1941 – 1945. He was an advisor to President Kennedy, acted as Chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the US on Cuban Missile Crisis, and was a member of the Warren Commission charged with investigating President Kennedy’s assassination.

In his Convocation address, the President describes the invitation he received from McCloy thus:

“The powers of the Presidency are often described. Its limitations should occasionally be remembered, and, therefore, when the Chairman of our Disarmament Advisory Committee — who has labored so long and hard, Governor Stevenson’s assistant during the very difficult days at the United Nations, during the Cuban crisis, a public servant of so many years – asks or invites the President of the United States, there is only one response.” 

The John J. McCloy Papers are one of the most heavily used collections held in the Archives.