The Unusual, the Unexpected, and the Downright Strange:  Objects from the Spiro T. Agnew Papers (A Blog Series: Part 1)

Over the past two months, members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit in Hornbake Library have been creating an inventory of memorabilia from the Spiro T. Agnew papers. This assortment of objects includes political mementos and various gifts that Agnew received during his political career. These items primarily date from Agnew’s time as Vice President of the United States. There are also earlier materials that were presented to Spiro Agnew while he was governor of Maryland. The Agnew papers contain large quantities of souvenir items, like American flag pins, tie clips with Agnew’s signature, and ballpoint pens, but this collection also encompasses some truly one-of-a-kind pieces.

The stately gifts that Agnew received from foreign dignitaries coexist with the unusual trinkets sent to him by ordinary Americans. When you open one of these boxes, you might find a greeting card from the King of Morocco or a plastic yellow Easter egg from a class of New Jersey eighth graders. Often, these items from constituents were accompanied by well wishes and letters of support for the Vice President. In other cases, the senders tried to highlight their own products by sending Agnew a free sample. There are several portraits of Agnew and other pieces of art in the collection. Some of the artists faithfully captured Agnew’s likeness while others took more creative liberties.

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Driftwood carved with portrait of Agnew, Bible verse, and message of support. Spiro Agnew papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

For instance, this collection of memorabilia includes a red, white, and blue statue of a bird that was named “Sparrow Agnew.” Another individual sent the Vice President a portrait that she carved out of a piece of driftwood from Lake Michigan.  It is not always clear who sent Agnew a particular item, why they thought that Agnew would want it, nor even why Agnew decided to keep it among his papers. But those enigmas just add to the fun.

Spiro Agnew was an avid golfer and many of the gifts that he received while in office were related to the sport. He received a plethora of golf balls, tees, and towels. Other golf-themed items include a barometer (or “Golfer’s Fore-Caster”), a mink golf club cover, and a hat labeled “Agnew Golf Helmet.” There are also objects from golf tournaments that Agnew entered, such as the Bob Hope Desert Classic.

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Golfer’s Fore-Caster barometer. Spiro Agnew Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

Other items appear to have been chosen for Spiro Agnew because of his Greek heritage. One New York man sent Vice President Agnew a pair of traditional Greek shoes with large, red tassels. The accompanying gift card mentions that the sender found the shoes during his vacation to Greece and hoped that they would bring Agnew good luck. The card also states that the shoes were previously worn, so hopefully Vice President Agnew was comfortable receiving secondhand goods.

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 Greek shoes, Spiro Agnew Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

This is just a small sample of the gifts and other oddities contained within the Spiro T. Agnew papers. This collection is available to researchers in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library, and a preliminary inventory of the Agnew memorabilia is available upon request. To learn more about the Spiro T. Agnew papers, please consult the finding aid for the collection.


Emily Flint is a first year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. She works in the State of Maryland and Historical Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.

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Exhibit on the Japanese Constitution

Gordon W. Prange Collection

Check out the Prange Collection exhibit of materials related to the Constitution of Japan!  “TheJapanese Constitution Turns 70!” commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Constitution’s enactment.

The exhibit is on display in the Maryland Room on the first floor of Hornbake Library North through October 2017.  Displayed items include:

  • Tentative Revision of the Meiji Constitution by Joji Matsumoto (January 4, 1946)
  • Draft Constitution of Japan (First Government Draft) (March 4, 1946)
  • Brines, Russell. (1947, May 22). Spirit of New Constitution Nullified. The Pacific Stars and Stripes.
  • Rikuzo Kamiyama. (1948). Shakai to seikatsu. Tokyo: Gakudo Ryogi Sosho Kankokai.

For more information about the Constitution, please see this series of blog posts.

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Are You Married or Going to be Married?: The Labor Movement & the Business Woman

We are celebrating American Business Women’s Day! In the spirit of this holiday, we will be highlighting an item from the Labor History Collections’ exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.”

Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, women entered the workforce en masse due to war time economic demands. Once the war was over and the men returned home, many women wanted to stay in the workforce because it gave them a newfound independence. With more women working, the labor movement had to make sure that their rights as workers were protected, as well as the already established rights centered on male workers.

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The photos above are examples of the various jobs that women were employed in during the time war efforts. Still Images, Photographic Prints.

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A Look at Labor Day 1964

Today is Labor Day, and political, religious, and community leaders will give speeches to commemorate the day.  For labor leaders, it’s an opportunity to appeal to the working class.  Every working person is affected in some way by state and federal labor laws, and bargaining agreements that set wages and benefits at their place of employment.  Striving to establish workers’ rights and to improve them has been a common cause of the labor movement since the late 19th century, marked by the formation of the American Federation of Labor in 1886 and by federal approval of Labor Day as a national holiday in 1894.  Continue reading

The Equal Rights Amendment: Labor’s Fight for True Gender Equality

Today we are celebrating National Women’s Equality Day! Gender equality in the workplace is a social justice issue that the labor movement has always been involved in.  In the spirit of this holiday, we will be highlighting some of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) items that will be featured in the Labor History Collections’ exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America”!

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Student Jobs in Special Collections & University Archives at UMD!

Want to pursue a career as a librarian or archivist? Do you love libraries and “old stuff”? Are you detail-oriented? Looking for a job on campus with great colleagues? Good news,  Special Collections and University Archives is hiring student assistants!

IMG_0790Student assistants in Special Collections and University Archives at UMD experience a wide variety of public and behind-the-scenes elements of the special collection library/archival field.  They work closely with curators and library staff to make accessible some of the University’s most valuable research collections. And working in Special Collections and University Archives is also a lot of fun!

Our collections cover a wide variety of subjects/formats, including literary manuscripts and rare books, UMD history, labor history, the state of Maryland and other historical collections, mass media and culture, and women’s history. Student assistants get hands on experience working with unique materials like photographs from the Baltimore News American and the Diamondback, audio-visual materials from NPR, paper records of the AFL-CIO, 17th and 18th century French pamphlets, and much more!

Student assistant responsibilities may include the following:

  • Staffing the Hornbake welcome desk.
  • Retrieving and shelving special collection materials and providing assistance to researchers in the Maryland Room, the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives.
  • Processing Special Collections materials, including book, archival, and/or digital collections.
  • Contributing to special projects, events, and exhibits.

We are looking for enthusiastic students who have an ability to learn quickly, good written and verbal communication skills, a passion for history and cultural heritage, a willingness to work collaboratively and with minimal supervision, and are comfortable with computers and technology. Experience in an archives/special collection library or doing historical research is helpful but not essential.

Knowledge, experience, or strong interest in one or more of the following is preferred: archives; book processing; providing reference assistance; social media and website creation.

We hire student assistants throughout the year.  Applicants must be able to maintain a schedule of 15-20 hours per week. These are hourly positions only; not a graduate assistantship. The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

To inquire about open student positions in Special Collections and University Archives, contact Amer Kohl at amberk@umd.edu.

Visit New Football Exhibit

Terrapin Tales

Calling all Terps fans! A new exhibit in Hornbake Library’s Maryland Room features a selection of photos, programs, pennants, uniforms, and more from the University Archives’ collections commemorating the football team’s 125th year. From the team’s humble beginning in 1892 to today, our Maryland Terrapins have created many memorable moments including 11 conference championships, 27 […]

via New exhibit celebrates 125 years of Maryland football — Special Collections and University Archives at UMD

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