Special Collections Spotlight: The Bock Ark Papers

Bock Ark (白聖德) (1896-1974) immigrated from Toisan (Taishan), Guangdong Province, in 1911 and went on to become a restaurateur and active member of the Baltimore Chinese community. He advocated for the Chinese-American business community on the East Coast, lobbied for legal protections for Chinese refugees of the Sino-Japanese War and WWII, and worked to promote a democratic future for China through his work as a member of the American branch of the Republic of China’s Kuomintang government. The Bock Ark papers contain records of his activities in these areas, as well as his involvement in numerous organizations such as president of the Consolidated Chinese Association of Baltimore, a leader of the Chinese Benevolent Society, and secretary of the Chinese Merchant’s Association. The papers also hold records of his wife Sue Bock’s activities as president of the Chinese Women’s Association of Baltimore and her involvement in other Chinese organizations.

Long horizontal sheet of paper with Chinese characters hand written in vertical lines right to left.

A handwritten record of the major milestones of the Republic of China in its first 18 years.

Continue reading

Lynn Sams and “The Last Taxable Instrument”

As many Americans scrambled to file their taxes on time, we at Special Collections in Performing Arts (SCPA) would like to highlight the efforts of music industry luminary Lynn L. Sams in advocating for tax repeal on the purchase of musical instruments! 

Born on April 4, 1896, Sams’ career in music began as a traveling salesman for the Conn Corporation, one of the largest and most historically significant instrument manufacturers in the United States. Sams’ early days in instrument sales may have inspired the character of Harold Hill in Meredith Willson’s beloved musical The Music Man. Throughout his career, which included some time as vice president of the Buescher Instrument Company, Sams collected and conducted research on school bands as well as the American Bandmasters Association, an organization of band directors, composers, and members of allied professions of which he was a founding member. Sams’s personal papers are part of the American Bandmasters Association Research Center at SCPA, and the presence there of a most unusual item, “The Last Taxable Musical Instrument Award,” pictured below, inspired further research into his advocacy efforts just in time for this year’s Tax Day.

The Last Txable Musical Instrument Award - a plaque with a cornet attached.
Continue reading

New exhibit – Student Activism on Campus: A Movement for Change

Social activism has historically been an important catalyst for change. In the US this was never more true than during the golden age of student activism lasting through the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was a time of historical movements taking place at highschools and on University campuses across the country. Specifically in the context of the civil rights movement, Universities became microcosms of progressive, rebellious societies stimulated with political discourse. Politicians, and influential guest speakers flocked to these Universities to preach their message, and students listened in droves.

Three items from Special Collections and University Archives about desegregation in higher education.
Continue reading

Humanity in Archives

By: Ben Henry; Student Assistant- Maryland and Historical Collections

When people think of archives, they usually think of “important documents from important people.” Indeed, many archives have tended to function in this way, historically serving as repositories for official government documents. The Special Collections and University Archives is, to a degree, not an exception. One example of such a collection in our holdings is the Spiro T. Agnew Papers

There is more to the story, however. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve handled thousands of postcards, come across newspaper clippings and microfilm, giant maps, old lacrosse sticks, and even the original Testudo (yes, there is an actual taxidermy turtle locked away in Hornbake Library). 

Oversize document on a white background. Pages are aged and text is machine-printed.

I experienced the variety of the materials that come into our collection during my first week at the Maryland and Historical Collections (MDHC). We had some new acquisitions, and I along with another newcomer to MDHC were tasked with creating an inventory.

At first the items seemed pretty random, a mish-mosh of old documents and books. Diving deeper, however, revealed a few treasures—one that I found particularly interesting was a bill from 1793 that failed to pass the Maryland state legislature regarding drafting citizens for the local militia (fig.1). 

Some of the other items included an overview of Methodism in the District of Columbia from 1892, a travel guide for North America and the West Indies from 1833, Baltimore directories from 1824 and 1829, and volumes 1-4 of the works of Scottish poet Robert Burns published between 1814 and 1815.

Two light blue rectangular boxes arranged vertically side by side. The box on the left contains larger items like booklets and photographs, the one on the right contains loose letters and other papers.

Published documents like these are not all we carry, however; we also collect items of a more personal nature. An example was the items we received belonging to Grace and Henry Post. Their items were stuffed haphazardly in a shoebox, which have temporarily been rehoused into two separate archival boxes (fig.2). I was thereby able to start piecing together their story.

I learned that Henry attended Columbia University from a copy of the 1904-1905 Columbia University Blue Book, complete with shopping lists scrawled on its blank pages. In a booklet from their church I learned that Grace and Henry were married on January 25, 1907, and from newspaper clippings inside the booklet I learned that they left for Valparaiso, Chile the next day, where Henry had “business interests.” I also discovered that Henry was an accomplished athlete in his student years and, “In student affairs he was greatly interested, being President of his class, and accredited as one of the most popular men in the university.” (fig.3)

Wedding booklet opened to the page showing the handwritten names of Grace and Henry and the date and location of their marriage. The booklet is surrounded by brown newspaper clippings.

Other materials included family photos; official documents regarding Henry’s time as an aviator in the US Army (the Air Force did not exist yet); dozens of letters and postcards to Grace and Henry from Valparaiso; and multiple documents, including newspaper clippings, official documents, and letters of condolence to Grace about Henry, “who plunged to his death in San Diego Bay” on February 9, 1914 as a result of an aviation accident. 

There is more I could say about the Posts, but my main takeaway was that archival materials are not just about official records. They have the power to tell us about the lived experiences of actual people, to close the distance between past and present, the living and the dead. Often, it’s the everyday items, the things that no one would expect would end up in an archive that tell the best stories.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: S is for…

Sacco and Vanzetti!

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants “accused of a most brutal holdup of a payroll truck, with murder, in
South Braintree, Massachusetts, in the early afternoon of April 15, 1920″ and ultimately sentenced to death by electrocution in a controversial and highly criticized trial, arguable one of the most infamous in modern US history. The case attracted attention world-wide as many supported the pair’s innocence due to egregious mishandling of evidence and strong anti-immigrant, anti-Italian, anti-anarchist, and anti-Communist sentiments held by the judge and jury.

Katherine Anne Porter supported Sacco and Vanzetti throughout their trial and appeals, sending money to their defense fund when she was able, picketing and subsequent arrest at the courthouse, and standing vigil outside the prison during the execution. Porter is photographed below with a protest sign reading “Governor Fuller! Why did you call all our witnesses liars?” According to Porter:

“Each morning I left the hotel, walked into the blazing August sun, and dropped into the picket line before the State House; the police would allow us to march around once or twice, then close in and make the arrests we invited; indeed, what else were we there for? My elbow was always taken quietly by the same mild little blond officer, day after day; he was very Irish, very patient, very damned bored with the whole incomprehensible show. We always greeted each other politely. It was generally understood that the Pink Tea Squad, white cotton gloves and all, had been assigned to this job, well instructed that in no circumstance were they to forget themselves and whack a lady with their truncheons, no matter how far she forgot herself in rudeness and contrariety.”

Never Ending Wrong

50 years after the trial, Porter recounted the case and surrounding social climate in the last piece of writing she published, Never Ending Wrong. It was first published in Atlantic in 1977, and subsequently published as monograph that same year. It was an opportunity for Porter to reflect on her experiences and the tremendous changes the world witnessed in the 20th century. According to Porter,

There are many notes, saved almost at random these long past years, many by mere chance; they were scrambled together in a battered yellow envelope marked Sacco-Vanzetti, and had worked their way to the bottom of many a basket of papers in many a change of houses, cities, and even a change of country. They are my personal experiences of the whirlwinds of change that brought Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler crowded into one half a century or less; and my understanding of this event in Boston as one of the most portentous in the long death of the civilization made by Europeans in the Western world, in the millennial upheaval which brings always every possible change but one—the two nearly matched forces of human nature, the will to give life and the will to destroy it.

Never Ending Wrong

Throughout Never Ending Wrong, Porter discusses the struggle between the different groups surrounding Sacco and Vanzetti, including Communists and anarchists who wanted them to die as martyrs, liberal idealists who still hoped for the execution order to be overturned, and the police who could handling protestors with both care and violence. The article is an interesting mix of her experiences, observations, and impressions as she sifts through memory and reflection. She writes:

It is fifty years, very long ones, since Sacco and Vanzetti were put to death in Boston, accused and convicted of a bitter crime, of which, it is still claimed, they may or may not have been guilty. I did not know then and I still do not know whether they were guilty (in spite of reading at this late day the learned, stupendous, dearly human work of attorney Herbert B. Ehrmann), but still I had my reasons for being there to protest the terrible penalty they were condemned to suffer; these reasons were of the heart, which I believe appears in these pages with emphasis. The core of this account of that fearful episode was written nearly a half-century ago, during the time in Boston and later; for years I refused to read, to talk or listen, because I couldn’t endure the memory—I wanted to escape from it. Some of the account was written at the scene of the tragedy itself and, except for a word or two here and there in those early notes, where I have added a fine in the hope of a clearer statement, it is unchanged in feeling and point of view. The evils prophesied by that crisis have all come true and are enormous in weight and variety

Never Ending Wrong

In Never Ending Wrong, Porter created a piece that still feels familiar for current society. As with much of her writing, she describes with a literary precision, that feels both personal and almost dream-like, the haunting impact of the trial. Here is her description of being in the crowd at the conclusion of the Sacco and Vanzetti affair:

For an endless dreary time we had stood there, massed in a measureless darkness, waiting, watching the fight in the tower of the prison. At midnight, this fight winked off winked on and off again, and my blood chills remembering it even now—I do not remember how often, but we were told that the extinction of this light corresponded to the number of charges of electricity sent through the bodies of Sacco and Vanzetti. This was not true, as the newspapers informed us in the morning. It was only one of many senseless rumors and inventions added to the smothering air. It was reported later that Sacco was harder to kill than Vanzetti—two or three shocks for that tough body. Almost at once, in small groups, the orderly, subdued people began to scatter, in a sound of voices that was deep, mournful, vast, and wavering. They walked slowly toward the center of Boston. Life felt very grubby and mean, as if we were all of us soiled and disgraced and would never in this world live it down. I said something like this to the man walking near me, whose name or face I never knew, but I remember his words—“What are you talking about?” he asked bitterly, and answered himself: “There’s no such thing as disgrace anymore.”

Never Ending Wrong

You can read the full text from The Atlantic here.

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in Hornbake Library to learn more! You can also explore digitized photographs of Katherine Anne Porter in our Digital Collections repository.

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

Special Collections Spotlight: Maurice Annenberg papers

Maurice Annenberg (1907-1979) was a Baltimore printer, businessman, entrepreneur, and author of works on the history of printing, advertising, and the graphic arts. He wrote three books: Advertising, 3000 B.C.-1900 A.D., Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogues, and A Typographical Journey through the Inland Printer, 1883-1900.

The Maurice Annenberg papers are a fascinating collection within Literature and Rare Books collections in Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library. The collection consists of correspondence; typography and other printing samples; trade catalogs; publications; photographs; programs; and speeches about the history of printing and advertising. The Rare Books collection also holds a portion of his personal library, which supported his interest in typography and the history of the printed book. The collection contains his reference books pertaining to typography, publishing, and the history of the book; a collection of periodicals pertaining to printing, publishing and bibliography; and a large collection of type foundry catalogs. Also included in this collection are printing and paper samples.

Explore the Maurice Annenberg papers finding aid.

To view any items in the collection visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library or contact us for more information! 

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a description of the contents of a collection, similar to a table of contents you would find in a book. A collection’s contents are often grouped logically and describe the group of items within each folder. You rarely find descriptions of the individual items within collections. Finding aids also contain information about the size and scope of collections. Additional contextual information may also be included.

Special Collections Spotlight: German Expressionism

German Expressionism is a cultural movement that is challenging to define as it is not distinguished by a singular style or method of creation, but rather is better described by both the mindset of the artist creating the work and the generation they lived in. The German Expressionists were artists, writers, and thinkers who were of age in Germany prior to World War II, and lived during Wilhelm II’s reign. German Expressionism developed as a result of the younger generation’s reaction against the bourgeois culture of Germany during this time period. The German Expressionist movement was more than just a style of creating works of art or of telling a story, rather it was more of a mindset that had social, cultural, and political aspects. German Expressionism can be understood as a means of approaching life and, in particular, change.

The significance of German Expression is in its ephemeral nature. Many of the publications that resulted from the movement were serials printed on cheaply made paper that has become brittle over time. The movement as a whole was transitional, and it reflected German culture in that moment of change. The movement did not last an especially long time, and started to fade out as its artists and writers aged. As the National Socialists gained power in Germany, Expressionism was rejected and condemned, and many of the works produced in the style of the movement were burned and destroyed.

Explore the German Expressionism collection Subject Guide.

To view any German Expressionism titles visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library or if you have any questions, please contact us!

What is a Subject Guide?

A Subject Guide, also called a LibGuide, is a web page developed by library staff that focuses on a specific subject area. In any subject guide you may find databases relevant to the subject area, links to websites, journals and magazines, recommended books, library contacts for a specific subject, and much more.

New Resource: LibGuide on Gothic Literature in Special Collections

With the start of October we are officially entering spooky season! If you’re in the mood for omnious reading, check out the new subject guide, Gothic Literature in Special Collections! This guide highlights many of the titles influential to the Gothic genre that are available in Literature & Rare Books in Special Collections & University Archives  in Hornbake Library.

Gothic literature is an extensive literary genre. These works often include themes of romance, horror, and a prevailing atmosphere of mystery and terror. The term Gothic is a reference to the architecture of medieval buildings and ruins, which served as inspiration and backdrop in gothic novels with omnious castles/manors surrounded by eerie landscapes outside and subterranean passages, hidden panels, and trapdoors on the inside. The golden age of Gothic literature is roughly defined as beginning in the late 18th century up to the end of the 19th century, although its imprint can clearly be seen long past this timeframe leading into the modern horror genre in film, literature, comics, and more.

Authors highlighted in the new subject guide include grandfather of Gothic literature, Horace Walpole whose 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto is widely considered to be the first Gothic novel. Additional highlighted authors are the prolific Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and John William Polidori, whose 1819 novel, The Vampyre,  is considered the one of the first modern novels of the vampire genre in fiction. The Literature and Rare Books collection holds two first editions of The Vampyre. Illustrated editions of Frankenstein and works by Edgar Allan Poe are also prominent in the collections. Also included are notable Southern Gothic writers William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and works that branch out beyond traditional Gothic genre.

Contact us for more information about these titles or other materials located from Literature & Rare Books in Special Collections & University Archives!

Victoria Vera is a graduate student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program at UMD and a student assistant in the Literature and Rare Books Collections, Special Collections and University Archives.

Special Collections Spotlight: First Appearances collection

The First Appearances Collection consists of over 1,300 periodicals containing the “first appearance,” or first public dissemination, of literary works and other excerpts of novels, poems, and essays written by notable 20th century authors. The publications range from literary magazines, such as Little Review, Texas Quarterly, and Partisan Review to popular titles such as Playboy, Cosmopolitan, and the Saturday Evening Post.

Spanning 1915 to 1977, the First Appearances Collection contains pieces such as “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, “Ulysses” by James Joyce, and “Ship of Fools” by Katherine Anne Porter. The collection is also notable for its early editions of publications such as Time Magazine, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as more specialized publications such as the Yale Quarterly Review.

Authors represented in this collection include Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, William Faulkner, Robert Frost, Thom Gunn, William Carlos Williams, Jack Kerouac, Langston Hughes, Flannery O’Connor, Gertrude Stein, Amiri Baraka, Ezra Pound, and more.

Explore the First Appearances collection finding aid.

To view any items in the collection visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library or if you have any questions, please contact us

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a description of the contents of a collection, similar to a table of contents you would find in a book. A collection’s contents are often grouped logically and describe the group of items within each folder. You rarely find descriptions of the individual items within collections. Finding aids also contain information about the size and scope of collections. Additional contextual information may also be included.

Featured Collection: Frontlash records

Frontlash was an activist group, led by young adults, instrumental in increasing voting and political engagement among American youth and minorities. Frontlash also served as a training ground for future personnel in the labor movement. It was created as a nonpartisan organization to challenge political and electoral apathy among youth in the 1960s.

Frontlash staffer handing out registration material

Frontlash stepped up their voter education efforts for young people when the 26th Amendment was passed in 1971. The organization sent members door-to-door, created poster displays, and set up public stands on sidewalks and college campuses to encourage wider political education and to register young voters. Later, they expanded their activities beyond voting rights to include international democracy and fair labor practices, such as child labor, apartheid, minimum wage, and workers rights.

This collection has extensive material related to instruction in labor organizing and union support, as well as significant material relating to Frontlash’s political activity. Types of records include organizational records, financial records, minutes, mission statements, reports, and photographs.

Continue reading