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.

Curator Pick: Favorite Item from the Alice 150 Exhibit

Okama’s Alice in Wonderland manga brings back fond memories of sitting cross-legged in the Borders stacks with a pile of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura books by my side. I would have been instantly captured by the cover, counting my money, and fretting over which book to put back so I could add Okama’s to my bookshelf.

Alice is falling down the well.

Looking through this manga version of Alice is like receiving a double shot of nostalgia. Two fond parts of my childhood make up every panel from wishing to see the wonders of Wonderland to wishing to be as fashionable and cute as the manga characters I adored.

Alice is sitting at the table with the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse. Tea cups are everywhere and the table nearly extends off the page.

Okama draws his characters with exaggerated features. Their clothing is highly detailed as are the scene settings with their patterns and striped elements. The most impressive garb, as is befitting their station, belong to the King and Queen of Hearts. Their stylized appearance is based on the traditional card deck royalty and their fashions.Alice is surrounded by the Queen of Hearts' subjects. The queen is pointing at Alice accusingly as four cards lay prostrate before her.Alice is staring up at the Chesire Cat who is smiling down at her from a tree.

My only wish is that I knew how to read Kanji so that I could further enjoy Okama’s work!

Visit the Alice 150 and Counting exhibit in Hornbake Library to view more international editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or explore our online exhibit.

Sabrina Reed is an intern for Hornbake Library-Special Collection’s ‘Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll’ exhibit. As a graduate student in the University of Maryland’s iSchool, her areas of focus are youth media, diversity, and digital literacy. Sabrina is also an alumna of the university’s undergraduate English program. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing.

Yuletide Books: On display now in the Maryland Room

Yuletide Books From Special C

Get into the holiday spirit than by visiting the Special Collections Literature and Rare Books Collection in Hornbake Library! On display now in the Maryland Room are books written by celebrated authors about the holiday season or retelling classic tales. Visit the UMD Libraries hours website for our holiday hours – you definitely don’t want to miss this display!

The Night Before Christmas, Clement C. Moore Yuletide books by Alcott, Mencken, and HemingwayCharles Dickens: A Christmas Carol miniature bookDisplay Case

Books featured in the display include:

  • The Night Before Christmas, Clement C. Moore. Porter & Caotes: Philadelphia, 1883
  • A Christmas Story, Katherine Anne Porter. Mademoiselle: New York, 1958
  • The Cultivation of Christmas Trees, T.S. Eliot. Farrar, Straus and Cudahy: New York
  • Two Christmas Tales, Ernest Hemingway. The Hart Press: Berkeley, 1959
  • A Christmas Dream, Louisa May Alcott. Little, Brown & Co.: Boston. 1901
  • The Wood-Pile, Robert Frost. Spiral Press: New York, 1961
  • Christmas Verse. Oxford University Press: New York, 1945
  • The Untold Adventures of Santa Claus, Ogden Nash. Little, Brown & Co.: Boston, 1962
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. G. Routledge: London, 1880
  • Old Christmas, Washington Irving. Judd and Dettweiler: Washington, 1934
  • Come Christmas: A selection of Christmas poetry, song, drama, and prose, Lesley Frost. Coward-McCann Inc.: New York, 1935

William Morris: A Rebel of His Time

Sitting at the welcome desk in Hornbake Library puts me right in front of our exquisitely designed William Morris exhibit, which opened at the beginning of September. Aesthetic quality aside, I did not have the slightest clue as to who William Morris actually was. So I decided that the only reasonable decision would be to find out exactly who this guy was and how he contributed to society. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that William Morris was a rebel of his generation and in simpler terms, a pretty cool dude.

Morris was born in England in 1834 and raised in a wealthy family. He was a child who was incredibly spoiled by his parents who lavished him with extravagant gifts. Around the age of nine, he became the lucky recipient of a pony and a suit of armor. Morris, in addition to his fiscal wealth, was also very intelligent. He was reading novels at the age of four and attended Oxford at the age of nineteen. When he was seventeen, Morris began to receive a generous allowance of 900 £ a year from his family fortune, which equates to $114,000.00 in today’s money. To me and probably a lot of other people, it sounds like Morris was living the dream.

However, Morris was a remarkably independently principled individual who rejected the values of the Victorian class system. Growing up in the Victorian Era, Morris was a part of the upper class that was born into money. One could not acquire wealth through individual strengths such as intelligence, hardwork, and perseverance. A family legacy of wealth and success dating years and years back was the only route to a life of the utmost privilege. In an impressive demonstration of autonomy, Morris became an advocate for socialism, a far cry from the principles he had been exposed to throughout his youth. Morris wrote various books about socialism and was the founder of the Socialist League, which dealt with equality, workers’ rights, and anti-war movements. He also fraternized with other famous socialists who joined the Socialist League, such as Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx’s daughter. Without much success, Morris often tried to persuade his rich friends to join the socialist movement. Morris also participated in protests for the freedom to publish pro-socialism texts and was actually arrested on more than one occasion.

Morris often felt that he belonged in another time period, much like many young people of today wish they were born in the 1960s. He was fascinated with the medieval way of life. The art, labor, and writings of the Middle Ages influenced much of his fantasy literature. Morris is considered the father of the fantasy literary genre, and has been cited as a major influence upon fellow authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. So next time you crack open a Game of Thrones novel or decide to sit down for a Harry Potter marathon, thank William Morris.

If you need someone interesting to focus on for a class project (Morris was active in politics, literature, and architecture), come visit the William Morris exhibit! Hornbake Library also has poetry and books written by Morris. Or, if you have an awkward gap between classes and want something better to do than wander through cyberspace, come visit our exhibit. You won’t be disappointed.

For more information on William Morris, visit:

For more information on Hornbake Library’s William Morris exhibit, visit:

Tracey G.

Why William Morris?

William Morris

William Morris

The Special Collections curators spent the last year hard at work preparing the current exhibit How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris. We  felt Morris was deserving of this exhibit because of the breadth of resources concerning Morris in Special Collections and because he was such a remarkable person. The curators realized that we had a rich collection of Morris’ writings, translations, and Kelmscott Press publications (and ephemera from Kelmscott Press). The University of Maryland Libraries had also recently purchased a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer and felt an exhibit the perfect opportunity to show off this gorgeous book.

In addition to showing off the excellent William Morris collection here in Special Collections, the curators were inspired by William Morris’ take on life. He was a man who always strove to improve the world around him. He wrote stories because he wanted to entertain and inspire people. Morris began a home decorating business, Morris & Co., because he wanted people to have beautiful and affordable decorations in their homes. He was a founding member of the historic preservation movement in Britain as well as the socialist movement. He cared about providing workers with meaningful work and making sure that the efforts of workers from previous eras was maintained. What do you find admirable about William Morris?

Testudo visits the Special Collections!

We were thrilled to have Testudo (the University of Maryland mascot) recently visit us in Special Collections! We had a lot of fun teaching him about researching primary sources, online finding tools at UMD, and the many collections available for research. He decided to create a Flickr photo-guide for using the Special Collections. Visit it at and let us know if it helps you too!

Picture of Testudo in the Special Collections