An Archive of International Gifts:  Objects from the Spiro T. Agnew Papers (A Blog Series: Part 3)

As stated in an earlier blog post, members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit at the University of Maryland libraries have been inventorying physical objects within the Spiro T. Agnew papers.  One of the interesting aspects about processing a presidential or vice presidential collection is its inclusion of gifts from foreign leaders. The Spiro T. Agnew papers, for example, includes numerous  gifts to the Vice President of the United States from Mohammad Rezā Pahlavi, who was the last Shah (or king) of Iran between 1941 and 1979.  It is difficult to say whether this relationship extended beyond what was typical of two government officials during the Cold War, but it is clear that Agnew received gifts and commemorative literature from Pahlavi on several occasions. Increased American involvement in Iran dated to at least the early 1940s, Continue reading

The Armed Services Editions: Books for Soldiers in World War II

Between 1943 and 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime shipped nearly 123 million books to American soldiers. Not just any books, the specially designed Armed Services Editions were lightweight paperbacks designed to easily fit in a soldier’s pocket. The 1,227 unique titles in the series were selected to appeal to a wide variety of interests, including literary classics, contemporary bestsellers, and various works of nonfiction.

At a time when books were banned or burned in Nazi Germany, sending books to soldiers overseas was seen as patriotic act. The slogan of the Council on Books in Wartime, “Books are weapons in the war of ideas,” reflected their belief that books were important for spreading the ideals of freedom and democracy. The books selected need not have lofty themes to be a part of the program, however, they simply had to be something that soldiers wanted to read. Books, the military discovered, were excellent morale boosters. A book could entertain a soldier anxiously waiting during long periods of inactivity, or it might be a soothing distraction for a soldier who had recently endured the agonies of battle.

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“Books are weapons in the war of ideas,”
Records of the Office of Government Reports, 1932 – 1947, World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945, National Archives at College Park. Reference URL: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/513575#.WgTBlBNfLiw.link

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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.

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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