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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Sue Fryer Ward: An Advocate for Maryland’s Senior Citizens

The Sue Fryer Ward papers were recently donated to the University of Maryland’s Special Collections by Ward’s daughter, Lucille Ward Walker. They chronicle Ward’s activities as a licensed social worker and her political career at the county and state level. A first in a series of donations, this particular group of materials includes Sue Fryer Ward’s correspondence, news clippings, speeches, certificates and other awards, reports, and photographs.

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Photograph of Sue Fryer Ward with then-County Executive Parris Glendening, 1994. Note reads: “To Sue: With warmest congratulations. You have been a key to the progressive spirit of this county. Parris.” Sue Fryer Ward papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

Ward was passionate about advocating for the rights of elders. As a child, she spent ten years living on a Navajo reservation while her father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She witnessed the respect that the Navajo tribe paid to their elders; this experience helped to inspire the work she did on behalf of senior citizens. Ward was the director of the Department of Aging for Prince George’s County from 1982 to1991. During this time, she worked closely with then-County Executive Parris Glendening to improve health care, transportation, and housing options for elders. Ward was also the director of the County’s Department of Family Services from 1992 to 1995. By consolidating the Department of Aging with the Commission for Women, the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Commission for Children and Youth, and the Commission for Families, Ward and other officials were able to better serve those in need by combining their knowledge and resources. As governor of Maryland, Parris Glendening later named Ward the director of Maryland’s Office on Aging, a position that she held between 1995 and1998. This agency became a Cabinet-level department in 1998 and Ward was appointed the Secretary of Aging for the State of Maryland. She was the first person to hold this position.

After Ward left government service in 2003, she became the grassroots director for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. In this role, she fought against cuts to Social Security and Medicare and led efforts to educate citizens across the nation about the importance of these programs. Ward retired from this position in 2011.

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Photograph of Sue Fryer Ward with a colleague at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, ca. 2003. Sue Fryer Ward papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

Sue Fryer Ward was also a candidate for the House of Representatives in 1978. She challenged Republican incumbent Marjorie Holt for the seat of Maryland’s Fourth District. During her campaign, she focused on employment, inflation, energy, and the improvement of services like day care, education, and housing. The Sue Fryer Ward papers include news clippings, campaign buttons, stickers, an election guide, and correspondence which relate to this ultimately unsuccessful congressional campaign.

Throughout her life, Ward remained politically active. She helped to staff polls on Election Day and participated in various political demonstrations. Ward received the 1994 Gladys Noon Spellman Award for Excellence in Public Service for her service to the Prince George’s County government. She also received a 2001 Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Award of Excellence to Outstanding Women in Government Service. The Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers selected Ward as the Social Worker of the Year in 2003. She was also posthumously inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015. Many of the certificates and plaques that Ward earned throughout her career are included in this group of materials.

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Campaign buttons. Sue Fryer Ward papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

Among its several collection strengths, the Maryland and Historical Collections unit strives to document the activities of Maryland women in politics through active collecting. Researchers can learn more about similar resources by consulting the Women’s Political Papers section of the Women in Maryland LibGuide. The Sue Fryer Ward papers join the papers of Lucille Maurer, Carol S. Petzold, and Pauline Menes,  now available to researchers in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library. This collection would be helpful for researchers particularly interested in Maryland women in politics and in advocacy for senior citizens.


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.

LGBTQ Resources in Special Collections and University Archives

Looking to explore LGBTQ history, literature, and activism? We have lot of resources in Special Collections and University Archives that will pique your interest.

University Archives Collections

Gay Student Alliance – The Gay Student Alliance (GSA) was established at the University of Maryland in the 1970s as the successor of the Student Homophile Association (SHA). This collection contains newspaper clippings and editorials from the Diamondback chronicling the campus response to the gay community during the 1970s.

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Nancy Wohlforth: Uniting the Labor and LGBT Movements

“Since 1979, when the Gay and Lesbian Labor Alliance was formed, Nancy Wohlforth has been working to bring gay issues into the labor movement. Now the organization is called Pride At Work and is a full-fledged constituency group in the AFL-CIO. National cochair Wohlforth and the newly hired executive director, Kipukai Kuali’i, will fight for domestic-partner pension benefits, greater employment protection, and transgender inclusion. They also want gays and lesbians to understand the power and benefit of unions. ‘Frankly, a lot of people still see the union as a bunch of old white boys who want nothing to do with their interests,’ Wohlforth says, ‘clearly that’s not the case.’

-The Advocate on Nancy Wohlforth in the Best and Brightest Activists collection, August 17, 1999. Continue reading

Pride in the Labor Movement

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Pride at Work national convention poster by Ricardo Lewis Morales, Northland Poster Collective, San Diego, 2006. Pride at Work Records.

In honor of Pride Month, we are featuring items from the Labor Collections at Special Collections and University Archives that highlight the role of the LGBTQ+ community in the labor movement. This particular item will be on display in the upcoming exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” opening October 2017.  LGBTQ+ people of all types are involved in every aspect of labor, although labor unions ignored or excluded them until recent decades. The Pride at Work poster calls attention to the role the diverse LGBTQ+ community played in American history and American labor history and demonstrates a reversal of labor union policy towards LGBTQ+ people.

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UMD Special Collections featured on Netflix series “The Keepers”

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One of the fun things about working at an archive is the great variety of people who send in reference requests. However, often times the reason for their requests remains a mystery. So, when the State of Maryland and Historical Collections Division got a reference request last December for pictures and newspaper articles from the Baltimore News American newspaper about a murdered nun, I didn’t think much of it. Another student worker pulled materials from our photograph collection, and using the dates found on the photos, I went through the microfilm to find related articles. We sent the photos and articles to the patron and I didn’t think much more about the request.

However, a few months later in early May, my supervisor told us that that patron had made a documentary about the murder and the show would be on Netflix! The show is titled “The Keepers” and it investigates the murder of a nun, Sister Catherine Cesnik, in Baltimore in 1969. It is comprised of seven, one-hour long episodes. I was quite excited to hear this news and binged-watched the series as soon as I could. I’ll admit that I kept my eyes glued to screen, trying to spot if any of the articles that I had found would flash across the screen. Also, I watched the credits and paused them to take a photo when the Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries appeared on the screen. Continue reading

Newsletter of the Katherine Anne Porter Society – May 2017

Newsletter of the Katherine Anne Porter Society – May 2017

Special Collections and University Archives is home to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and other related collections. The Newsletter of the Katherine Anne Porter Society features updates on Porter activities at the University of Maryland Libraries, articles, meeting summaries, announcements of conferences and literary prizes, and other updates relevant to Porter’s life and work.

Learn more about the Katherine Anne Porter Society online.