The Unusual, the Unexpected, and the Downright Strange: Object from the Spiro T. Agnew Papers (A Blog Series: Part 2)

As stated in an earlier blog post, members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit at the University of Maryland libraries have been creating an inventory of memorabilia within the Spiro T. Agnew papers.  In this blog post, we will be looking at some of the fascinating items in the collection related to space travel.

When Agnew entered office on January 20, 1969 the space race between the United States and the USSR was in full swing.  Just a month prior, the Apollo 8 mission had successfully become the first spacecraft with a human crew to leave the Earth’s orbit.  Six months into office, Agnew would be able to celebrate the first man to walk on the moon with the success of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.  The Nixon/Agnew administration would forever be associated with this success and the prevalence of space memorabilia in the collection shows that Vice President Agnew had quite an interest in the subject.

As Vice President of the United States, Agnew had access to a number of unique space memorabilia.  He had signed photographs from crew of the Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 12 missions.  The signed photograph from the Apollo 8 mission is a print copy of the famous photograph called “Earthrise” which astronaut Bill Anders took from lunar orbit.  The Agnew papers includes the commemorative certificate which indicates that Agnew watched the takeoff of Apollo 11 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he sat next to President Lyndon B. Johnson.  Agnew even received a model of a US space rocket ship.

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“Earthrise” photograph by Bill Anders, signed by the three members of the Apollo 8 crew.

Agnew’s enjoyment of these accomplishments of space flight must have been well known by his supporters because they sent Agnew a number of items related to space exploration.  One of these items is a commemorative coin and stamp celebrating the Apollo 11 mission, which was sent by the company that manufactured them.  Another gift was a poster that featured the front page of a newspaper from every state on the day that the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon.  Agnew also received drawings and paintings depicting astronauts on the moon from various citizens.

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Political Cartoon by Gib Crockett of the Washington Star, 1969.  Gib Crockett’s drawings are protected by copyright.

Agnew’s interest in space was not just a hobby, but became part of his Vice Presidential duties.  In February 1969, Nixon created a Space Task Group to create an outline of a post-Apollo spaceflight strategy, with Agnew chairing the group.  This group drew up some rather ambitious plans, such as the establishment of a near-Earth space station, further explorations of the lunar surface, and a manned landing on Mars by 1986.  Not all of these plans came to fruition, mainly due to monetary concerns.  However, the group was partly responsible for the creation of the shuttle program which began on January 5, 1972 (1).  Some files relate to Agnew’s time on this group, including a press release on the report of the Space Task Group from September 17, 1969, and a transcript of a speech he gave to invited contributors to the Space Task Group from July 17, 1969.  Agnew was also head of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, for which the Agnew papers also provides an access point.

The reactions to Agnew’s rather wild Mars plans can be seen by two political cartoons that were sent to the Vice President.  In one, Agnew can be seen wearing a space suit and holding a briefcase which reads “Mars or Bust.”  The cartoon was drawn by Gib Crockett from the Washington Star, a newspaper in Washington D.C..  The other cartoon shows a Mars populated with aliens whose faces look like Agnew and at the bottom the cartoon reads “Our Earth Contact, Spiro, is pushing for a landing here by 1986.”  This cartoon was drawn by Pat Oliphant while he was at the Denver Post.

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Political Cartoon captioned “Our Earth Contact, Spiro, is Pushing for a Landing Here by 1986” by Pat Oliphant of the Denver Post, 1969.  Pat Oliphant’s drawings are protected by copyright.

The items discussed here represent just a small portion of the hundreds of linear feet of materials in the Spiro T. Agnew papers.  Interested researchers may visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to view the memorabilia collection in person, and a preliminary inventory of the Agnew memorabilia is available upon request.  Please be sure to contact the Maryland Room at least 3 days in advance of your visit so that we can accommodate memorabilia requests in a timely manner.  If you want to learn more about the Spiro T. Agnew papers, please consult the finding aid for the collection.

  1. Kluger, Jeffrey. “NASA’s Final Shuttle: The End of an Error?” Time, 5 July 2011.

Harrison Gage is a second 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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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.

New Acquisitions in the National Trust for Historic Preservation Library: Adding to the Papers of Orin M. Bullock, Jr.

The University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library received a recent transfer from the Architecture Library of materials related to Orin M. Bullock, Jr.  Bullock, born in 1905 in California, graduated from the Harvard University School of Architecture in 1927.  From there, Bullock went on to have a career in architectural restoration that spanned sixty years.  He was one of the original team members on the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, participated in the restoration of the William Paca house and garden in Annapolis, and taught classes in the School of Architecture at the University of Maryland for many years.  An expert in his field of restoration technology, Bullock literally wrote the book on architectural restoration, The Restoration Manual, first published in 1966.

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Image of Orin M. Bullock, Jr., c. 1981, Orin Bullock, Jr., papers, Special Collections and University Archives, UMD

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Two Exhibitions on Women’s Suffrage in the Maryland Room

In celebration of Women’s History Month, two new exhibitions are available for viewing in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library related to the history of women’s suffrage in the local area.

The Washington Home of the Philippine Suffrage Movement exhibit is presented in collaboration with Philippines on the Potomac (POPDC) and with the Rita M. Cacas Filipino Community Archives at the UMD Libraries.  The exhibit tells the stories of several extraordinary Philippine women who would go on to change Philippine history and rewrite the nation’s suffrage law. The exhibit features extensive research in local, national, and international libraries and research institutions.  In addition, original materials are on display relating to the Filipina suffragist, writer, teacher, and feminist Sofia de Veyra who lived in the United States between 1917 and 1925.

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Titchie Carandang-Tiongson and Ewrin Tiongson, the creators of the exhibit, also recently presented their research process and methodology to English Professor Jess Enoch’s undergraduate class ENGL379Z/WMST 498V Special Topics in Literature; Women and Memory in Material and Digital Worlds.  The students in the class viewed the exhibit, asked great questions after the presentation, and were able to see how this research process related to their own work at recovering women’s suffrage history in the class.

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Materials related to Filipino American history and culture in the UMD Libraies can be found in the Rita M. Cacas Community Archives is available for research consultation in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library.  Numerous images in this community archives collection are also available for viewing in the UMD Libraries Digital Collections.  For those interested in pursuing additional research there is also a research guide on Philippine and Filipino American History and Culture available.

A second mini-exhibit on Women’s Suffrage in Maryland is also on display in the Maryland Room. This exhibit showcases materials from Special Collections related to the woman’s suffrage movement and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) during the twentieth century.  Items of interest include a letter signed by Edith Houghton Hooker, noted suffrage leader and editor of the Maryland Suffrage News; a letter from a member of the Maryland Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage; and a sash worn for a 1978 march in support of the ERA.  The materials featured come from a variety of special collections including the League of Women Voters of Maryland archives, the National Organization for Women Maryland Chapter archives, and the Marylandia collection.

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The Washington Home of the Philippine Suffrage Movement will be on display through April 29th, 2017.  (Exception: the exhibit will be traveling between April 7th and April 16th and unavailable for viewing at that time.)

The Women’s Suffrage in Maryland exhibit will be on display through the end of March.

Be sure to check the Maryland Room hours before planning your visit!

Questions? Contact Liz Novara, Curator, Historical Manuscripts, enovara@umd.edu

Is History on Repeat? More Cartoons from John Stampone

The idea that history repeats itself is a popular concept. Whether expressed as “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” or “there’s nothing new under the sun,” this concept has found countless different expressions for itself. While it may be a cliche, it is a very real part of working in an archive. The collection could be from 10, 50, or 100 years ago, and I still find myself surprised by how resonant the materials can be with the present. The cartoons of John Stampone is one such case.

Stampone, a Maryland native having lived in Baltimore, Silver Spring, and Olney, drew cartoons that explored foundational concepts of America and the American labor movement (as has been previously discussed with regards to his Thanksgiving cartoons) as well as exploring the critical issues of his day. While looking through his work, I was struck by how some of the images and critiques he makes seem more relevant than ever in 2017.

One such image is a cartoon for the AFL-CIO News celebrating Labor Day in 1978. The cartoon depicts, in the foreground, a hand engraved with the words “U.S. Labor Day.” The hand is holding a radiant gemstone with the words “Human rights” emanating from it. This hand is juxtaposed against an image of the Kremlin the background out of which a hand rises clutching a ball and chain inscribed with “oppression” on it. The stark binary between the darkened Kremlin and the brilliant gem of human rights really speaks to the growing tensions from the 2016 Presidential Election.

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The second cartoon that stood out for me is from 1975, also from the AFL-CIO News. It depicts a man, labeled “deepening recession,” hiding around a corner with a club labeled “social, racial tensions” as a pain of men one labeled “human rights” and the other “human relations” begin to turn the corner. The cartoon argues that human rights and relations are threatened by a recession that creates conflicts between classes and races. Coming out of our most recent recession and the political events that have followed, perhaps reaching its climax with the 2016 election, this cartoon remains relevant speaking to our current economic, social, and racial conflicts, almost 50 years later.

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The AFL-CIO News is fully digitized online – check it out!

Benjamin Bradley is a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. He works in the Labor Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives. You can also find him over in McKeldin Library where he is the GA for Electronic Resources.

Did Led Zeppelin Play Here?: Public Record vs. Public Memory

Led Zeppelin Played Here, the most recent film by local filmmaker and UMD alumni Jeff Krulik, explores whether or not the iconic band added a last-minute gig at the Wheaton Youth Center to its tour schedule in January 1969—many in the alleged audience swear the concert took place, but no hard proof has ever confirmed it. Uncovering more questions than answers, Krulik’s film raises important issues regarding the reliability of public memory versus public record, mythmaking in popular music and the challenges of researching a local cultural event.

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On Monday, February 13, 2017, UMD Libraries will present a screening of the film, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A from 5:30-7:30 in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Panelists include Prof. Patrick Warfield (UMD School of Music), Prof. Joanna Love (University of Richmond), Dr. Jesse Johnston (College of Information Studies), Clare Lise Kelly (Montgomery County Planning Dept), and moderator John Kelly (Washington Post). A lobby reception will be held immediately afterwards.

Event is presented with support from the Performing Arts Library (PAL), Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA), the College of Information Studies (iSchool) and the Student Archivists of Maryland (SAM).

Special Collections Opens Their Doors

This semester we hosted an Open House for University staff and displayed some of the interesting material found within our collection.

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Three of these items came from our literary collection and included an early edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an inscribed copy of Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old, and a 1794 edition of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. These early editions provided insights into the times in which they were produced through their format, inscriptions or by the significance of their ownership. Much can be learned by looking at original copies of common works.

students_400If you would like to talk to us about using our collections for your own research or to support your instruction, please let us know. We often work with faculty and look forward to the opportunity to get to know you and your students.

Research queries to askhornbake@umd.edu
Instruction support queries to lcleary@umd.edu

A Vindication of the Rights of Women

A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Mark Twain's Sketches, New and Old

Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old

Versions of a book from manuscript through various publications

Versions of a book from manuscript through various publications

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