Happy Thanksgiving from Special Collections

Celebrate Thanksgiving with turkeys from Special Collections! Visit the Maryland Room to explore our collections when we re-open on Monday, November 30 at 10am.


Reflections on the Meaning of Thanksgiving, Then and Now

Today, the AFL-CIO’s commentary on Thanksgiving revolves around the discussion over whether retailers should open on the holiday, which Thanksgiving treats are union-made, and how working Americans give back to others during the holiday season. You can read the AFL-CIO’s most-recent Thanksgiving posts online on their blog.

In the 1960s and 1970s, editorial cartoonist John Stampone delivered a different message in the Thanksgiving cartoons that he drew for the AFL-CIO News, the AFL-CIO’s main news publication. Stampone portrays Thanksgiving and its tasty bounties as both symbolic of and the result of American democracy. In a cartoon that Stampone drew to commemorate the holiday in 1966, a family says grace over a turkey that represents the “benefits of democracy.”

In a similar cartoon that Stampone drew in 1974, rays of light bearing the label “Freedom and Democracy” shine down on a family who are also gathered around their Thanksgiving table in prayer.

The cartoons’ overt patriotic message is open for interpretation and leave us with many questions. What did freedom and democracy mean to people in the 1960s and 1970s? What’s the relationship between the benefits of democracy and America’s labor movement? Why don’t Americans today color Thanksgiving with such strong shades of red, white, and blue?

Even though Stampone’s patriotic message seems so different from our modern discussions of the Thanksgiving holiday, the AFL-CIO News cartoons and the AFL-CIO’s more-recent discussions convey a similar and important message: Thanksgiving remains a beloved and cherished family holiday today.

UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives has the original cartoons drawn for the AFL-CIO News by LeBaron Coakley “Coak”, John Stampone “Stam”, Bernard Seaman, and Ben Yomen. Contact Us for more information about this collection and other items in the AFL-CIO archive.

Student Spotlight: Instruction & Outreach GA Edie Sandler

IMG_3915_1It is a leisurely summer weekend following my freshman year at UCLA, and I’ve got my fencing  gear packed in the back of my boyfriend’s 1986 Volvo, and four hours until practice. Just enough time to warrant spending 20-something dollars for a visitor’s ticket to the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. The grounds are breathtaking and perfectly manicured; the reputation of its art collection peerless and the architecture of the library and museum impressive. But nothing compared to the moment I walked into the library and spotted the vault.  The vault door looks like something out of a bank, cracked open just far enough for the curious to get a glimpse inside.  I was hooked.

Years later, I am now married to the boyfriend with the 1986 Volvo, though the Volvo is long gone and I now live and work in the DC area. Though I miss being able to visit the Huntington Library, I am thrilled to be working as Graduate Assistant for Instruction and Outreach in Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library, especially because it doesn’t cost me 20-something dollars to come to work every day. There might be a perception that the job of a librarian is boring and repetitive, but I can now confirm that that is not necessarily the case.

My main project has been the Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit. The exhibit team and I began with a rough plan of how we wanted to organize the exhibit, which evolved into outreach and social media plans and a year-long timeline. Over the course of that year, I helped flesh out the details, working with my fellow co-curator, the collectors, the designer, and a team of library staff and student interns.  I learned how to use Photoshop to manipulate digitized images and design captions, signs and all kinds of ephemera. I edited caption, panel, and other text countless times. I compiled facts and quotes and scheduled them on social media, wrote blog posts, designed lobby screens, wrote a press release, and more. I used the phrase “fall down the rabbit hole” so many times, I thought I may have fallen down some kind of rabbit hole myself.

Was I relieved when the exhibit finally opened in October? A little. I felt like I understood a little bit better what it’s like to see your baby all grown up and going to college. But there is still work to be done with Alice. I’m working on getting the online exhibit up now, and soon a catalog will follow.

I also get to flex my teaching muscles as part of my GA-ship. I’ve worked closely with our Instruction and Outreach Coordinator to develop lesson plans and pull material for undergraduate classes who come to Hornbake to learn about what we do and how they can use our resources for their research. One of my favorite classes was a Shakespeare course that was interested in comparing early editions of Shakespeare. Watching the class get excited about early 17th and 18th century Shakespearean literature got my heart all a-flutter.

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Every day of my job is different and I love it. I feel like a dragon sitting on a treasure trove of books, papers and other archival odds and ends. But in my story, I welcome the hero into my treasure-trove, where he finds all the other heroes of past journeys reading animatedly. That is what I believe is the responsibility of a Special Collections. Not only to allow people to come share in the treasure, but to reach out and show them that what we have and what we can do is priceless beyond measure.


Spotlight on Wonderland: The Hatter


Why is a raven like a writing desk? The Mad Hatter may not know, but asking nonsense questions is all part of the appeal of this quirky character. 150 years after he appeared in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, he is still loved for his maddening garden parties where it is always Tea Time.

How did Lewis Carroll come up with his Hatter? One inspiration could be that hat makers in the 19th century were known for going ‘mad’ from mercury poisoning, as mercury was commonly used in felt hat manufacturing.

Mad Hatter Running

Sir John Tenniel (the original illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) may have based his drawing of the Hatter after Theopilus Carter, an eccentric Oxford furniture dealer who always wore a top hat. Since Tenniel, countless illustrators and artists have created their own versions of the Hatter. Do you have a favorite?

Did you know?

  • The Mad Tea Party did not appear in the original Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. The never-ending tea party would not make its debut until a later edition of the tale.
  • Carroll never uses the name ‘Mad Hatter’. Instead, it is the Cheshire Cat who tells Alice that the Hatter and March Hare are “both mad.”
  • The Hatter reappears in Through the Looking Glass as ‘Hatta’.

Visit the Maryland Room gallery in Hornbake Library from October 2105-July 2016 to explore the Hatter and the rest of the Wonderland cast of characters in the exhibit Alice 150 Years and County…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: elections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.

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Frederick Douglass Celebrated


This week Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) continues the spotlight on Frederick Douglass, prominent Marylander and social reformer. Visit Hornbake Library to view new exhibits on display in conjunction with the dedication of the new Frederick Douglass plaza just outside Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland.

The new Frederick Douglass plaza is located just steps away from the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives, where students can discover primary sources on his life and times. And there is lots more to explore in Hornbake Library this week!

A new exhibit, Frederick Douglass in Special Collections, features items from our rare books collection, historic manuscripts, and Maryland collection, including Douglass’ autobiographies and more.

Visitors can also walk though the 1st floor lobby to explore a panel exhibit on the life, scholarship, and legacy of Frederick Douglass.

Visit the Maryland Room to view artifacts from Wye House in Maryland, from the Archaeology in Annapolis project, a partnership between the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland and Historic Annapolis Foundation.

Also on display is a new acquisition to our Maryland Manuscripts collection- a general store ledger from Wye Landing, Maryland dated 1809-1812. It is an intriguing primary source on commerce and the role of African-Americans in the area, detailing items purchased and their prices, including notations indicating items purchased by slaves/servants for their masters.

It all leads up to the Frederick Douglass Plaza dedication on Wednesday, November 18, 2015. Join us to celebrate the arrival of this inspirational Marylander and his ongoing legacy at the University of Maryland.


New Additions to Special Collections

New acquisitions to Special Collections and University Archives includes several private press books including The English Bible, printed at the Doves Press, as well as Don Quixote and Spenser’s Faerie Queene printed at the Ashendene Press.   Also included among these beautifully printed books are plates of John Martin’s mezzotint illustrations of Paradise and Lost and Morte D’Arthur,  printed at the Shakespeare Head Press.

Visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to view more items from our literature and rare book collections.

Hornbake Goes Mad this Halloween

Join us on Friday, October 30 to celebrate the madness of Halloween at Hornbake. Enjoy free pizza, play games, enter the costume contest, and listen to a live reading of Lewis Carroll’s frightful poem “The Jabberwocky”!

The frabjous festivities will take place between 12pm-2pm in the 1st floor lobby of Hornbake Library. Follow us on twitter for more goulish details to come.

Looking for costume inspiration? Visit our Alice 150 Years and Counting… exhibit in Hornbake Library and explore the imaginative world of Wonderland. We hope to see plenty of Terp Mad Hatters, Cheshire Cats, and Queens of Hearts, and Alices haunting Hornbake!
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