Light, Phoenix-like from the past

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Thanks to the generosity of Haverford’s Hurford Center, I have been pursuing independent research for my upcoming thesis project at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The archive is massive, but I have to the best of my abilities … Continue reading

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Circles and Cotton along a flowing river

You can think of the Mississippi Delta in circles. Circles of communities center around a landing on the River, a cotton gin, or a saw mill. Jewish communities center on cemeteries or synagogues. The question is, how do these circles of communities intersect, interact, and affect one another?

As I read many books (I still have many more to read and re-read), I was struck by Elliott Ashkenazi’s book “The Business of Jews in Louisiana.” While describing the buisness life of Jews in 19th century Louisiana, he emphacizes the way in which Jews fit well into the rigid class system, functioning as cotton factors and merchants. I thought about the way in which Jews, being so intimately involved in the cotton trade, really the foundation of the Southern economy, would have to become intimately involved in Southern life. Their fellow coreligionists in the North, on the other hand, would not experience this integration, in large part to the the North’s diversified economic structure.

I am not by any means saying that the cotton trade was the cause for assimilation. I don’t have enough evidence to make that claim. However, in the upcoming months, I hope to argue that the cotton trade played not only a significant, but an exceptional role in the integration of Jews not only into the economic fabric Southern society, but also into the cultural and social aspects that made Jewish Americans into loyal Jewish Southerners.

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Quakers, Haverford, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

One of my favorite parts about writing stories for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s website PhilaPlace.org is learning about the history of places I pass almost every time I am in Philly. In my last post I talked about the Wanamaker family that owned the Macy’s building, but recently I wrote about a site that hits a little closer to home.

This past week I wrote a story about the Arch Street Friends Meeting House (which you can read here: www.philaplace.org/story/1629/). On Monday I was able to do my research for this story at Haverford, where I spent most of the day in special collections reading. It was really cool to be able to explore the library more than I do when I am writing papers for my classes. I also knew very little about Haverford’s Quaker history before writing this story. Every thing I knew came from brief discussions with the Quakers on campus and the Quaker style meetings held throughout the year. If you had told me there were different groups within the Society of Friends I’m not sure I would have believed you.
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The Society of Friends was nicknamed the Quakers because of the way they supposedly quake during prayer meetings. Since I had already been to the Quaker Meeting House at Haverford I knew to expect a simple plain room with benches facing the center, but I had no clue that Quakers did not believe in hierarchies. Thus there are no tiers and the members all face the center. This way there is no group that is in a position of power. At the same time there are members of the Society, both men and women, who were recognized as gifted speakers and sat on their own bench. When the Arch Street Friends Meeting House was built the Black members were also designated their own bench. Once everyone arrived the participants would sit in silence until someone felt moved to speak.

Philadelphia’s connection with Quakers goes back to the beginning. William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania, was a Quaker. He made sure he bought the land from the natives even though the land was already given to him by the King of England. He also made sure that the natives could still use the same paths and meeting places that they had previously used, even if someone had a house on that property. The Quakers went on the create many organizations that aided all types of people. The Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery was started by Quakers, and in the 1830s, they created the Institute for Colored Youth.

The Quakers also founded many schools, including Haverford and Swarthmore. On June 18, 1830 there was a meeting to discuss the creation of a college for orthodox boys. This school turned into Haverford College, which was opened in 1833. The Hicksites, a fraction that separated in 1827 due to Protestant evangelical influence, responded by building Swarthmore College. The Quakers went on to create more schools for boys and girls in and around Philadelphia.

It is really cool to know a little bit more about the history of the Quakers and the school I go to. Overall, I have really enjoyed learning about Philadelphia’s past this summer at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Claire Michel ’18 

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why education is important: sentimentalism and other shenanigans

Do you know that feeling when you’re running around for a whole day, and when you finally sit down on your couch at home, you realize that you’ve actually been running around for about two months straight?

Yes, I’m happy to say that was me this summer at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I’m also happy to say that this pace didn’t cause my time at SAAM to skim by in a superficial way, but very much the opposite. My time was so chock full of different experiences that it will take me a while to unwind them all out. I’m going to work on just one knot right now–a way to articulate why education is important.

Education has always been a presence in my life. Besides the few years when I didn’t know what I was doing (specifically ages 0-3), I’ve never not been a student. But since working with the Education Department at SAAM on several projects, the main one being a professional development program for teachers called Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities Through Art, I have really tried to put words to how education has played a significant role in my own life and the impact it can have on others. So here it goes:

Education is important because it provides the tools people need to become their own educators. It creates citizens of the world who are curious and who care about the world and its people. It empowers people to know and believe that their voice is valid, but that silence is important sometimes too. It challenges people to challenge themselves–to stretch who they are, what they know, what they feel, and what they believe–in order to grow in the directions they want to go.

I’ll probably think of more reasons and more edits as soon as I post this, but for now I think that’s all I really want to say.

Courtney Carter ’17

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Mass Media and the Rhetoric of Technological Progress

Not that long ago Bill Gates said that “the internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”  Although the internet has significantly impacted human communication, it is hardly the first form of mass media.  More than 150 years earlier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. mimicked the tone of Gates’s remark when he called the stereograph “the card of introduction to make all mankind acquaintances” (744).  Working with the Raymond Holstein Stereograph Collection at the Library Company this summer has made me think about the multiple moments throughout modern history in which new technologies have made communication more accessible to the general public.  More significantly, this experience has made me ask the question: what rhetorical strategies do societies use to emphasize the beneficial aspects of media and technological revolutions?

Developed by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838, the stereograph was the great-grandfather of today’s 3D media.  A stereograph uses two nearly identical photographs which produce the illusion of depth when viewed through a stereoviewer.  In the subsequent decades, other inventors improved upon Wheatstone’s design resulting in the commercialization of stereo photography.

A hand-held stereograph viewer, after the design popularized by Oliver Wendell Holmes, with a stereograph card inserted. Creator: Davepape, 2006. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Holmes_stereoscope.jpg

A hand-held stereograph viewer, after the design popularized by Oliver Wendell Holmes, with a stereograph card inserted. Creator: Davepape, 2006. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereoscope#/media/File:Holmes_stereoscope.jpg

Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the stereograph quickly became a form of easily accessible media in the United States.  While the daguerreotype, an early one-of-a-kind photographic process, used expensive silver plates, many early creators of stereograph views took advantage of  paper processes like the albumen print, which allowed for multiple copies of an image.  As a result, stereograph views had relatively low prices that increased both their production quantity and the size of their audience. Additionally, the mass-produced photographs facilitated a shift in subject matter.  While many daguerreotypes were portraits of the wealthy and their families, many stereo photographers captured the images of landscapes and cityscapes to sell to the general public.  The stereograph was one of the first technologies that allowed Americans to affordably glimpse the world around them from their home.

Although changes in production helped the stereograph become a new mass media, it rested upon journalists, writers, and intellectuals to make it a symbol of positive societal advancement.  As Edward W. Earle argues, in 19th-century America the stereograph gained ideological prominence through its association with the already celebrated ideal of mass democracy.  Earle writes that “anything which allowed for the participation of more than one class came to be labeled democratic…A realistic social ramification of democratic tendencies was greater accessibility to information in the form of books, magazines, newspapers, and pictures” (9).  For writers like Holmes, the varied views of stereographs offered a new and affordable form of visual education.  With stereographs, more Americans could learn about the world through images and then make informed decisions that contributed to running the republic.

Although changes in production helped the stereograph become a new mass media, it rested upon journalists, writers, and intellectuals to make it a symbol of positive societal advancement.  As Edward W. Earle argues, in 19th-century America the stereograph gained ideological prominence through its association with the already celebrated ideal of mass democracy.  Earle writes that “anything which allowed for the participation of more than one class came to be labeled democratic…A realistic social ramification of democratic tendencies was greater accessibility to information in the form of books, magazines, newspapers, and pictures” (9).  For writers like Holmes, the varied views of stereographs offered a new and affordable form of visual education.  With stereographs, more Americans could learn about the world through images and then make informed decisions that contributed to running the republic.

A stereograph card showing an affluent middle-class woman using a stereograph viewer in her parlor. Title: “The Stereograph as an Educator.” Creator: Underwood & Underwood, circa 1901. loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.08781/

In addition to signifying  mass democracy, the stereograph also became a symbol of America’s rising middle-class and consumer culture.  In the mid to late 19th-century, increased industrial output made the purchase of luxury items possible for those who were not part of the wealthy elite. Americans associated the ability to purchase consumer products with a new type of middle-class fashion and culture, or a “vernacular gentry” (Bushman xiii).  As Laura Schiavo maintains in her examination of stereographs and American social history, “the stereoscope belonged to an age in which the consumption of goods signified one’s taste,” and “consuming culture was represented as the road to social harmony” (235). Promoters of the stereograph portrayed the technology as a benign result of industrialization and mass consumption; an affordable form of cultural sophistication for many Americans.  As more families purchased the new form of mass media, many believed that their ability to do so signaled a higher standard of living for the American middle class.

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One of the many stereographs produced of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 showing the grounds in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. Massive temporary buildings were constructed for the exhibition, including the Main Exhibition Building, Machinery Hall, Horticultural Hall, and the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot. The exhibition celebrated ideals of democratic equality, consumer culture, and technological progress. Title: Bird’s Eye View of Grounds from Reservoir. Creator: Centennial Photographic Co., circa 1876. www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/19298070735/in/dateposted/

The Library Company’s Holstein Collection is filled with stereographs from the  Centennial Exhibition of 1876.  A 100th birthday party for the United States, the exhibition served as both a celebration of patriotism and showcase of new consumer products. Like the stereograph, the Centennial Exhibition was portrayed by its chroniclers as a symbol of the increased democratic equality and consumer power that came with technological progress. Today, we should continue to recognize the ways in which we idealize technological advancements and new forms of mass media.  Technological development alone did not give rise to the claim that the internet places us at the dawn of a global society or that social media gives new power to public opinion.  These claims reflect our crafting of the story of technological development in terms of ideals we associate with benefit and prosperity.

As my internship at the Library Company wraps up, I would like to thank the staff of the Library for being friendly and welcoming, especially those I worked closely with: Erika Piola, Sarah Weatherwax, and Nicole Joniec in the Print Department and Connie King in the Reading Room.  I would also like to thank the Hurford Center for funding my internship and  Emily Cronin for her support.

Sources:

Bushman, Richard. The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992.

Earle, Edward W. “The Stereograph in American: Pictorial Antecedents and Cultural Perspectives.” In Points of View: The Stereograph in America—A Cultural History. Rochester, N. Y.: Visual Studies Workshop, 1979.

Gates, Bill and Collins Hemmingway, Business @ the Speed of Thought. New York: Grand Central         Publishing, 1999.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell.  “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph.” In The Atlantic Monthly (June 1859).

Schiavo, Laura. “‘A Collection of Endless Extent and Beauty’: Stereographs, Vision, Taste and the American Middle Class, 1850-1880.” Diss. George Washington University, 2003.

David Zabliski, Haverford College ‘17

LCP intern, Summer 2015

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Public Art in Philadelphia

With help from the Hurford Humanities Center’s Summer Research Fellowship fund, I have spent the past couple months fully immersed in the filmmaking process.

As a film and media studies major at Swarthmore, I was given the option to do an independent thesis and I immediately jumped on that opportunity. After having worked on multiple documentary projects during my time at Haverford (thanks to the wonderful Vicky Funari), I knew that I wanted to engage my documentary skills and experiences in a topic close to home. Philadelphia has always been an under-appreciated city in my eyes, and having it as a cultural, historical, academic, and experiential resource has been crucial to the development of my thesis.

My guiding question entering this project was something along the lines of, “How does public art delineate and/or subvert socioeconomic and cultural borders”. Since the beginning of the summer I’ve been able to narrow my focus to South Philadelphia, specifically the significant Nepalese, Burmese and Bhutanese refugee populations that have accumulated in recent years.

Southeast x Southeast is a community resource  and arts center for these refugees, which aims to use art as a vehicle for storytelling and community building. With support from the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, the Lutheran Children and Family Service, and the Mural Arts Program, the project has expanded beyond its initial community events and has become a long term project for artist Shira Walinsky. In addition to organizational duties and teaching ESL classes, Shira has been working on related public art projects, including the soon-to-be-completed Language Lab mural at the intersection of 7th and Moore. “Language Lab” deals with important questions of language and identity in the diverse landscape that is South Philadelphia. Although my final thesis film will focus primarily on the attendees of Southeast x Southeast, I thought I would take this opportunity to showcase some of the footage taken during the first few days of Language Lab‘s installation.

I have also been working as part of the Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellowship – along with Anna Bullard, Nick Gandolfo-Lucia, and David Roza – on a short documentary about worker cooperatives in Philadelphia. That project is due for completion this summer and will be screened in early September. A final cut of my thesis film will screen this winter.

- Sarah Moses ’16

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Summer at Asian Arts Initiative

IMG_4817This summer I’m interning at Asian Arts Initiative, which is an arts non-profit located in Philadelphia’s Chinatown North. One of the many things that that means is that my lunch breaks are awesome. Days when I forget to bring my already-packed, budget-friendly lunches from home are days I get to try a new restaurant. In the picture above you can see my banh mi and chrysanthemum tea in the moments before I devoured them, purchased from a fantastic little shop (though the client base in there that day did bring a certain word to mind…hint: the word is gentrification). I’ve also been scoping out all the boba tea shops in the area (somehow it seems like I’ve never sampled quite enough to settle on a favorite…). At the end of the day I stop into one of the numerous little markets to pick up some groceries.

The only downside for me is the lack of Korean food in the area, though you know, it being Chinatown I can’t really complain. After one day dragging my sad Korean feet from market to market in pursuit of sesame leaves (which I guess are just a Korean thing?), I realized I would have to return to Upper Darby and the land of H-Mart for a few of my grocery staples. (Though I did find a Chinatown market that sells kimchee, so not all is lost!)

If you have any suggestions of places to check out in Chinatown, let me know! I might just have to forget to pack a lunch a little more often.

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The Wanamakers and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

This summer I am working at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP). The Historical Society has been working on a website called PhilaPlace.org for a while now. The website provides an interactive map of Philadelphia with stories about the people, groups, and buildings that have impacted the community. This includes everything from the Free African Society to Reading Terminal Market. The long-term goal is to flush out the map with significant sites so that residents and tourists alike can read about the history of the city. Personally, my favorite part of knowing history is knowing how the past has shaped the present community around me. My work at HSP has helped me understand the history behind the Macy’s building, which I pass everyday on my way to work.

Oak Hall with Portraits of John Wanamaker and Nathan Brown from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Oak Hall with Portraits of John Wanamaker and Nathan Brown from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


The building originally housed the first Wanamaker’s department store. The store started as Oak Hall, a clothing store for men and boys, opened by John Wanamaker and his brother-in-law, Nathan Brown. The store was successful due to its revolutionizing business practices. This included getting rid of haggling over price and letting customers return goods. The store was known for its honesty, mostly because John Wanamaker was well respected in the religious community. Interestingly, there were still discounts for people like ministers, meaning he was not completely honest about there being only one price for all goods.
Wanamaker's Department Store from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Wanamaker’s Department Store from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


Once the store became more successful it was moved to the location where Macy’s now stands. The store was built to create the ideal shopping experience for women. There was a restaurant and seats so shoppers could take a break. However, what is most notable is what Wanamaker’s did for the employees. Hotel Rodman was set up as a place for female employees to live and he created a school to educate workers in the business as well as topics like reading and hygiene. At the same time, Wanamaker did not let workers unionize and often had them working long days.
The Wanamaker Organ from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The Wanamaker Organ from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


The building itself is also very noteworthy. It was built in three parts, ending in 1910. The dedication was attended by President Taft and boasts the only president to be at a department store opening. It is also home to the world’s largest organ with over 28,000 pipes. The organ was bought during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and was brought over in thirteen freight cars.
John Wanamaker in 1911 from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

John Wanamaker in 1911 from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania


Most surprising to me was the impact John Wanamaker had on the country. President Harrison appointed him Postmaster General. In office he ended Sunday deliveries and created the first commemorative stamp. He also pushed for rural deliveries. Within Philadelphia he ran a Sunday school and church that was responsible for many outreach programs.
It was great to research the Wanamaker family because of the influence they had on Philadelphia, but also because HSP is home to the John Wanamaker Collection. This means I have been able handle correspondence between John Wanamaker and his family as well as photographs of the store. It is really fascinating to learn about such an influential family. Now every time I pass the building, I think about how grand a twelve-story department store must have been over a hundred years ago. I am very excited to continue in depth research on other historically significant people and groups this summer.
Check out the full series of stories on the Wanamakers on PhilaPlace.org.
- Claire Michel ‘18

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The Female Physician: a Deviation from 19th-Century Gender Roles?

Illustration from Woman: Her Rights, Wrongs, Privileges, and Responsibilities (Hartford, 1870).

Illustration from Woman: Her Rights, Wrongs, Privileges, and Responsibilities (Hartford, 1870).

This 19th-century image of a lone female physician making a heroic midnight visit seems out of context for a time in which the majority of women worked inside the home cooking, cleaning, and raising children.  However, it illustrated a book by a male writer who supported traditional conceptions of gender.  In his 1870 publication, Woman: Her Rights, Wrongs, Privileges, and Responsibilities, Linus P. Brockett argues that despite dangers like “midnight rides in dark nights and over rough roads,” the more delicate and nurturing qualities of women, especially their “tact…skill…[and]…knowledge how to manage…a child, which seems almost intuitive [to them],” gave women the potential to be excellent physicians (160-165).

For one of my two projects at the Library Company of Philadelphia this summer, I’m looking for images of 19th-century American women that could be used as tools for teaching students American history. I’ve learned that even when women did venture outside of their homes, they could not escape the conceptions of domesticity and sentimentality that characterized them in their private lives.  These conceptions shape both Linus P. Brockett’s arguments for and reservations against female physicians.  Brockett explains that women’s domestic experience and sentimental capabilities would give them a leg up providing comfort to the sick and undertaking pediatric care. At the same time, he expresses the fear that female physicians might neglect their own motherly duties and that their sentimentality might make them ill-equipped to handle the harsh realities traveling physicians would face (Brockett 158-166).  From the debate over their role in temperance movements to the debate over their work with benevolent organizations like orphan asylums, the conversation by male writers about women’s role outside of the home often involved arguments formulated around women’s domestic qualities.

My work selecting images is the first step in creating the Making, Maintaining, and Mending: Women’s Work in Early American Homes project.  With the project, Connie King, the curator of Women’s History at the Library Company, hopes to give students a different starting point for thinking about the themes taught in American history courses. In addition to the Women’s History project, my primary project is to continue cataloging the Library Company’s Raymond J. Holstein stereograph collection.  This collection consists of approximately 2,000 stereographs, late 19th-century and early 20th-century photographs compatible with a 3D viewing system, mainly of buildings, events, and organizations from the Philadelphia area.  As I discover modern Philadelphia through my first experience working in the city this summer, I’m also discovering the history of the city through working with the Holstein Stereographs.  Stay tuned for a post on stereographs!

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Colonial Valley Zapotec Documents in the Ticha Project

Below is an example of 15th-century English writing from The University of Manchester Library Image Collections.

The University of Manchester Image Collections, English MS 94, 158r.

Twelve profytes of tribulacioun.  The University of Manchester Library.  Rylands Collection.  English MS 94 (Miscellanea), page 158r.  Image Courtesy of The University of Manchester Library Image Collections.

Pretty hard to read, right?  If you’ve never looked at medieval handwriting before, you might not be able to recognize all of the letters.  The Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse has a transcribed version of the same text, although it’s from a different book — it’s still hard to read, but you can probably understand some of the words.

Now imagine that you’ve never seen English written in a book before.  Imagine that you didn’t know until just now that there are English books from the 15th century.  Imagine that in order to see this book you had to go to an archive, walk past an armed guard who tried to keep you out, and then sort through four boxes of documents until you found the right one.  And you still probably wouldn’t be able to read it.

For the past few years I’ve been an RA on the Ticha Project with Professor Brook Lillehaugen.  Ticha is an online text database, like The University of Manchester Library Image Collections, but for documents written in Colonial Valley Zapotec.  The Zapotec languages are indigenous to southern Mexico.  Most Zapotec languages today are purely oral; Zapotec is not used in schools, and some people believe that it cannot be written because (they say) it isn’t a “real” language.  However, the Zapotec culture has one of the longest histories of writing in Mesoamerica (dating back to a couple hundred years B.C.), and Zapotec was also written in the Roman orthography after the Spanish conquest.  The documents in the Ticha Project (like the one shown below) were written in the 16th- through 18th-centuries in Colonial Valley Zapotec, which was spoken in the valleys to the east and south of Oaxaca City.  The documents are mostly wills, bills of sale, and other legal documents.  There is also a dictionary and grammar of Colonial Valley Zapotec written by a Dominican priest in 1578.

Complaint from Santo Domingo del Valle.  Archivo Histórico de Tlacolula de Matamoros Oaxaca.  Caja 5 Justicia 1720-1780, Justicia 1725 T5, page 25r.  Image Courtesy of the Ticha Project.

Complaint from Santo Domingo del Valle. Archivo Histórico de Tlacolula de Matamoros Oaxaca. Caja 5 Justicia 1720-1780, Justicia 1725 T5, page 25r. Image Courtesy of the Ticha Project.  Thank you to the town council of Tlacolula de Matamoros for authorizing the consultation of documents at the historical municipal archive.

Unfortunately, these historical documents are mostly inaccessible to the Zapotec people.  They are very difficult to read, even for native speakers of modern Zapotec (remember the 15th century English you tried to read above?), and are kept in archives which are difficult to access.  The Ticha Project makes Colonial Valley Zapotec documents available to the general public — including the Zapotec people — online, along with transcriptions and translations so that they can be easily read and understood.

Translation of Testament from San Pedro el Alto, 1764 on the Ticha Project website (July 2015).

Translation of Testament from San Pedro el Alto, 1764 on the Ticha Project website (July 2015).

–May Plumb ’16

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