Slicing up Books

Title: Original Leaves from Famous Books, Eight Centuries 1240 A.D. - 1923 A.D.

We have found another weird treasure with an unusual history.

Book donated in January of 1953. It is number 77 of 110.
The leaves set came to the library in January of 1953.

In the early 20th century, a man named Otto Ege had the idea that if he disassembled rare books, created unique sets of the leaves (pages), and sold them far and wide that ordinary people would be able to enjoy them and see these precious artifacts. While his mission might have been noble, he ultimately sliced up rare books. A patron requested to view the library’s Ege set last week. Because of the book’s poor housing, we discovered what it actually contained, not simply facsimiles but the real thing.

We have another example of this phenomenon in our collection. Our medieval manuscripts leaves have all been removed from their original books and sold as individual pages.

Ege created a few sets including one focused on Bibles and our set. Below is the index and a few notable selections. Each page has an explanatory note about the work.

Index of the leaves
Image of leaf with explanatory note
St. Jerome – The Vulgate Bible, circa 1240
Image of leaf with explanatory note
Artistotle – Ethics, 1365
Image of leaf with explanatory note
Vesalius – Anatomy, 1555
Image of leaf with explanatory note
Gerard – History of Plants, 1597
Image of leaf with explanatory note
King James Authorized Version, 1611
Image of leaf with explanatory note
Homer – Iliad and Odyssey, 1923

Elizabeth Kalb’s “Jailed for Freedom”

In 1920, Elizabeth Kalb ’16 donated Doris Stevens’ book Jailed for Freedom to the library with an interesting inscription.

Inscription reads: To the Girls of Rice, Past and Present, This Book is Affectionately Inscribed. Elizabeth, '16. National Woman's Party Washington D.C. October 1920

Below is a Thresher article from November 25, 1920 with a bit more context on the book and Elizabeth Kalb.

Thresher article about book and Kalb.

Doris Stevens’ features Kalb more than once in Jailed for Freedom. She was one of a group arrested during a suffragette protest in front of the White House. Stevens explains the ordeal and even features an image of Kalb.

Three images. Top one features Kalb covered by a sheet on a stretcher.

The book provides images of various suffragettes along with short biographies. Below is Kalb’s. For those interested in reading further, you can read the complete book online.

bio of Kalb

In case you want to see Elizabeth Kalb not covered in a bed sheet, here she is at work, photographed on December 1, 1920.

Elizabeth Kalb in the literature and library department of the National Woman's Party in its Washington, D.C. headquarters. She is holding a book standing next to book shelving.
Image via the Library of Congress

NASA Emblems and Snoopy Stickers

Norman Belasco in November 1977

One of our new Houston Jewish History Archive collections contains items related to the life and work of Norman Belasco. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 26, 1923. A veteran of World War II, he served his country in the Pacific theater for four years. Upon conclusion of his military service, he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University. Belasco joined NASA in 1961. During his 20 year career, he helped to develop a flush toilet for zero gravity environments, shares a patent for inventing a medical subject monitoring system, and was Deputy Chief of Medical Operations. He passed in 2004.

Four silkscreened emblems
Silkscreened emblems
Close-up of Apollo 11 silkscreened emblem

Because of his work, he saved NASA-related items. At first, I thought these emblems were just unfinished patches, but they are potentially so much more. The emblems have actually been silkscreened onto glass fiber cloth, the same as the astronauts’ suits. Some of the silkscreened Apollo 11 emblems were brought on that historic voyage. It’s unclear if this one was, but it’s neat to imagine that they’ve been to the moon and back.

Silkscreened emblem reading "Borman Lovell Anders"

Belasco saved another neat treasure from his time at NASA, Snoopy-themed stickers.

5 Apollo 11 Snoopy Stickers

Democratic Fun-Fest

Paper flier from the Democratic Fun Fest, explaining activities, from July 4, 1977

Come one, come all to the Democratic Fun-Fest. The letter below sent to Billie Carr outlines logistics like how to name your booth, for example the Amy Carter Lemonade Stand. It would have been interesting to know what “fun” name Carr came up with for her fortune teller and fish pond booths.

Letter to Billie Carr from Clintine Cashion explaining to Carr how the event will work.

Lately, the Billie Carr political papers have been getting some attention. In honor of the start of Women’s History Month, let’s shine a light on the woman and her work.

Billie McClain Carr (later known as “The Godmother” for her work on behalf of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party) was born in Houston, Texas, June 1, 1928. She grew up near downtown Houston, graduated from Sam Houston High School in 1946, and married three months later; she had three sons, and over the years took courses at South Texas College and the University of Houston. 

Carr’s activities as a political organizer began in 1952, when political issues in Texas stirred her to run for Democratic chairman of her precinct and she unexpectedly won. Soon afterward she became a protégé of Frankie Randolph, a leader and benefactress of liberal causes who helped found the Harris County Democrats (a liberal precinct organization) in 1953. She taught Carr the art of grass roots political organizing, and over time Carr assumed a leadership role in Harris County Democrats and began to establish a statewide reputation as an organizer, convention strategist, and spokesperson for the statewide liberal coalition. 

In 1954 Carr was elected a member from her precinct to the Harris County Democratic Executive Committee, serving in that capacity until 1972; she was also Harris County’s member on the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee from 1964 to 1966. She was a leader in efforts to achieve proportional liberal participation in presidential conventions and became nationally known in the Democratic Party for taking a rump delegation to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, an action which helped initiate a party-wide set of reforms abolishing the use of the unit rule by which conservative Democrats had been able to minimize the election of liberals as delegates to presidential conventions. 

As a liberal activist and strategist, Carr also fought for civil rights. She protested the Vietnam War and fought for women’s rights in the 1970s, and for gay rights in the 1980s. She helped organize the 1966 campaign leading to the election of Barbara Jordan, the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate, and was later described by U. S. Rep. Mickey Leland as “the grand old lady of liberal politics” for her efforts in helping a number of minority candidates (including himself) win political office. She later established a business, Billie Carr & Associates, specializing in campaign and other political services. 

In 1972 Carr was elected to serve as a member of the Democratic National Committee (a position she held until 2000); there she was elected “whip” for the progressive-reform caucus and in June 1981 was elected chair of the newly-formed Progressive-Liberal Caucus. At various periods she also served on the Credentials Committee, the Platform Advisory Committee on Older Citizens, and the Executive Committee. She passed away in 2003.

If you’d like to hear more from Carr, check out her oral history conducted by Rice’s own Dr. Chandler Davidson from 1974.

“The Red Book of Houston”

Images of Rev. Logan. Caption reads: "Rev. Wade H. Logan, D. D. District Superintendent Houston District M. E. Church"

Published in 1915, The Red Book of Houston: A Compendium of Social, Professional, Religious, Educational and Industrial Interests of Houston’s Colored Population is quite rare. According to WorldCat, there are two versions of this book held in libraries across the United States. One is at Rice and the other is Prairie View A&M University. This isn’t the full story, though.

While Rice does have a version, ours is quite inferior. It’s simply a photocopy. According to their catalog, it looks like Prairie View’s is, too. If you’d like to see it in it’s actual glory, then please visit the Internet Archive’s version. They have digitized a version owned by the Library of Congress, whose version is not listed on WorldCat.

Back to the actual book, the book is written by and for Black people. It acts both as a piece of information about Black Houston for outsiders, like a promotional book, and as a way to praise the strides made by those featured.

What follows are noteworthy images and sections from the book. If you have never seen this book in all of its glory, you should check it out. Also, for those thinking about connections to The Negro Motorist Green Book, it was first published much later in 1936 by a man named Green. I did a search to see if there might be other “Red Books” and couldn’t find anything. If anyone has any more information, please share in the comments.

Sections of the book include schools with listings and addresses of each employee, as well as a focus on churches and their pastors. There is even a listing of clubs and lodges and all of the Black-owned businesses.

listing of Black-owned businesses

The man who took all or most of the images in the book was C.G. Harris.

Image of C.G. Harris posing with bike. "C.G. Harris, 'The Camera Man' The obliging and efficient official photographer of the Houston Red Book will answer calls by wheel and make photos anywhere in Harris or Galveston Counties. Satisfaction guaranteed. 811 San Felipe Street, Houston, Texas. Phone Preston 5960."
Caption reads: “C.G. Harris, ‘The Camera Man’ The obliging and efficient official photographer of the Houston Red Book will answer calls by wheel and make photos anywhere in Harris or Galveston Counties. Satisfaction guaranteed. 811 San Felipe Street, Houston, Texas. Phone Preston 5960.”

There are many images spread out of prominent African-Americans and images of their homes.

Caption reads: "Residence of Mrs. Annie Hagen, 609 Hobston Street"
Caption reads: “Residence of Mrs. Annie Hagen, 609 Hobston Street”

In a section called “Social Calendar,” there’s a listing of the mostly married women, their address, phone numbers, and short and long bios. Mrs. Annie Hagan above posing with her house is featured.

Text describing the lift of Mrs. Annie Hagen

Throughout the book, there are profiles of notable African-American men.

Images of Ned Eastman Barnes, drawing of railway track brace, biography of Barnes.

While many of the homes profiled in the book are gone. Here is one that still exists and has an historical marker.

Residence of Rev. N. P. Pullum, images of Rev. Pullum and wife, and child
1319 Andrews Street
Current home via Google Maps
Images via Google Maps

Finally, one of the most harrowing images is of former slaves, living in Houston. Some of the ages are off, but it makes sense why some would not have known their years of birth.

Caption reads: "A Few Harris County Survivors of Ante-Bellum Days. Left to right, Name and ages--Standing: Toney Robinson, 88; John Butler, 72; Andy Robinson; Aaron Thompson, 102; Ben Moses, 65; Rev. Cummings, 71; James Steward, 70; Henry Williams. Seated Wash. Williams, 75; Martha Antone; Rebecca Lawrence, 89; Sam Toran, 124; Ben Holmes, 116; Mandy Harris, 93; Clara Roberts, 94; Malvin Williams, 59; Viola Wallace, 80."
Caption reads: “A Few Harris County Survivors of Ante-Bellum Days. Left to right, Name and ages–Standing: Toney Robinson, 88; John Butler, 72; Andy Robinson; Aaron Thompson, 102; Ben Moses, 65; Rev. Cummings, 71; James Steward, 70; Henry Williams. Seated Wash. Williams, 75; Martha Antone; Rebecca Lawrence, 89; Sam Toran, 124; Ben Holmes, 116; Mandy Harris, 93; Clara Roberts, 94; Malvin Williams, 59; Viola Wallace, 80.”

The Saga of Black Manhattan, Part 2

We have some updates on our Black Manhattan blog post from a few weeks ago. For those that need to be caught up, we were trying to figure out why we have Arturo Alfonso Schomburg’s personal copy of James Weldon Johnson’s Black Manhattan.

Our amazing Rice historian Melissa Kean worked quite hard trying to track down when the book came in. When the library was still the Rice Institute library run by Alice Dean, she kept incredibly detailed records tracking who ordered a book, where it came from, its price, and its final location. Black Manhattan, sadly, came in after Ms. Dean’s tenure. As a volunteer, she still kept track of items in a log book, but not with the same meticulous detail. What we found out is that the book arrived at Fondren Library between March 12th and March 20th of 1953.

Melissa also tracked down the book’s library catalog card. It’s pretty standard and does not give any more clues.

If we find out more from the Schomburg Library, we’ll update the blog.

For those interested, below are screenshots of Schomburg’s review of Black Manhattan. We thank both ProQuest and the Chicago Historical Society for granting us permission to use it on the blog.

Screenshot of Schomburg's review of Black Manhattan, part 1
Screenshot of Schomburg's review of Black Manhattan, part 2

Source: The Claude A. Barnett Papers: The Associated Negro Press, 1918-1967, Part 1: Associated Negro Press News Releases, 1928-1964, Series A: 1928-1944. Chicago Historical Society, Copyright, 2011. Reproduced by permission.

100: The Great War Seen through the Eyes of two Soldiers

WWI exhibit poster

A new exhibit is now on display in the main hallway of Fondren Library celebrating the 100th anniversary of World War I. “100: The Great War Seen through the Eyes of two Soldiers” was first shown in France as part of the commemoration of the centennial of the Great War. It is curated by the French non-profit “Cercle de Valmont” in collaboration with the Woodson Research Center to honor the memory of the American soldiers who went to combat with the allies on French soil.

The exhibit shares two soldiers’ stories taken from two unpublished sources. One is a scrapbook album from the Woodson which retraces the World War I experience of Galveston native and Rice graduate James S. Waters, Jr. The other is a private archive of 450 photographs taken in the trenches by a young French soldier, Paul Gueneau.

The photographs Gueneau took in the trenches are a powerful testimony to the realities of the frontline displayed alongside narrative panels documenting Waters’ movements from Rice Institute graduate,  training as a “90-day wonder” officer, and experience overseas in France.

Gueneau and Waters were the same age, born in 1895 and 1894 respectively. When Waters became an Engineering freshman at Rice Institute, in 1913, Gueneau had abandoned his dream of becoming an engineer, dropping out of school and working as a bank clerk at 14 to provide for his family after the premature death of his father. In December 1914, Gueneau, 19, was enlisted in the French 56th Infantry Regiment and spent the next 4 years at the frontline, until he was put out of combat by mustard gas injuries on September 4th, 1918. Just days later, Waters was at the frontline for the first time, fighting in the St-Mihiel offensive. Gueneau and Waters never crossed paths, but today their combined testimonies give us an invaluable glimpse into the past.

The exhibit will be on display until end of March 2019.

Custom Book Boxes

Over the past three years, we have been sending out some of our heavily used and most precious rare books to a company called
Octávaye owned by Wendy Ossoinig.

Ossoinig takes our book and creates custom made boxes for them. When a class comes to see Diderot‘s Encyclopedie book plates, we no longer haul out the rapidly deteriorating volumes hoping that the binding won’t split, the cover won’t detach, and that our foam wedges will provide enough support. We bring out this.

opening of box containing Encyclopedie
putting together box supports for Encyclopedie
Finished version of box with built in supports holding Encyclopedie

Here’s a more detailed example for our Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.

outside of custom made box
interior of box
putting together box supports for Copernicus
putting together box supports for Copernicus
Finished version of box with built in supports holding Copernicus

Not only are the boxes lovely to look at, but they also protect the books. The boxes ensure that we can continue to show off our rare books to people of all ages.

The Saga of Black Manhattan

Hard bound cover of the book Black Manhattan

Today, Brenna Ram, a first year English graduate student, brought in the general stacks copy of Black Manhattan by James Weldon Johnson. She said there was a letter pasted in the back, signed by Johnson to Arturo Alfonso Schomburg.

Original cover pasted into the back of the book.
Original cover pasted into the back of the book

Brenna Ram checked out the book because her professor Dr. Nicole Waligora-Davis placed it on a customized reading list. Dr. Waligora-Davis discovered the letter in the back of the book and quickly realized its significance.

Letter reads: "I have your letter, and I thank you for sending me the copy of your splendid review of Black Manhattan. I am coming down to the city next week. I shall be there - probably - Wednesday and Thursday. The best way for you to get in touch with me will be through Miss [?] Randolph"
Letter reads: “I have your letter, and I thank you for sending me the copy of your splendid review of Black Manhattan. I am coming down to the city next week. I shall be there – probably – Wednesday and Thursday. The best way for you to get in touch with me will be through Miss [?] Randolph”
Letter reads: "at the office of the Association -- my house telephone has been temporarily discontinued. Of course, I shall be glad to see you, and you may count on any assistance in my power. With kindest regards in which Mrs. Johnson joins me. I am, Sincerely yours, Johnson"
Letter reads: “at the office of the Association — my house telephone has been temporarily discontinued. Of course, I shall be glad to see you, and you may count on any assistance in my power. With kindest regards in which Mrs. Johnson joins me. I am, Sincerely yours, Johnson”

In the letter above, James Weldon Johnson writes Schomburg to thank him for his recent “splendid” review of Black Manhattan. Why is it clearly from James Weldon Johnson? He lived at Five Acres in Great Barrington, Massachusetts during the summers and used it as a writing cabin. The James Weldon Johnson Foundation is currently restoring the cabin. One more thing, in the second half of the letter he mentions the “Association,” he most likely is referring to the NAACP. He was the executive secretary, effectively the president of the organization from 1920-1930.

I went in search of the Black Manhattan review. A copy of it is in the Arturo Alfonso Schomburg papers at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is a division of the New York Public Library. I should receive a scan of it in the following days along with any other pertinent information like where it might have been published.

In case you’re wondering how Schomburg has a center named after him, here’s a bit more information on that. In 1926, Schomburg donated his book and art collection to the center which went by the name the Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints. In 1932, Schomburg became the first curator of the collection until his death in 1938.

Stamps of the dates the book was checked out

How did the Rice Institute acquire Schomberg’s personal copy? Why did it not stay at the Schomburg Center? Based on the markings in our copy, it came into the library some time after 1930 (most likely after 1938), but before 1953, which is the earliest stamp on the out card. Melissa Kean is going to look into this further to see if she can find information in the Fondren Library records. I’m also waiting to hear back from the book curator at the Schomburg Center, who is working on a project creating a master list of Schomburg’s books. Perhaps, they have a record of it leaving their institution. As soon as there is an update, there will be another post.

One last thing, if you can’t tell from the top image, the front cover is about to come off, so we are sending it to preservation. It will also be moved from the general stacks to its new home in the Woodson. Thank you so much to Brenna Ram and Dr. Waligora-Davis for bringing this rare find to our attention.

Woodson in News from Fondren

Cover of News from Fondren issue

In case you haven’t seen it, there are quite a few articles about the Woodson’s various projects and collection in the most recent issue of News from Fondren. They include information on the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) archive, the Reginald Moore Convict Leasing research collection, the Shepherd School digitization project, the Houston Folk Music Archive’s Homecoming concert, and the Wilson Collection of Historical Cartography and Geography.