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.

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.

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.

Speaking Abilities: Vice President Agnew, Spanish Speakers, and Foreign Born Americans in 1970

The Vice Presidential papers of Spiro T. Agnew contains a transcript of a press conference which took place in the White House on July 7, 1970. Agnew reportedly said,

“It is one of the disabilities of our culture as Americans that we don’t have more attention paid to the need of our citizens to speak the language of our contiguous neighbors. There are very few Americans, I think, that are fluent in Spanish, along with the 2,000-mile border that separates us from Mexico.”

Agnew – a lifelong member of the Republican Party – accepted that speaking Spanish (even as a primary language) was not a disqualification for citizenship in the United States and he addressed the situation of “Spanish-speaking citizens” as a set of linked social “problems.” Seeing himself as “a minority citizen” by virtue of his father’s Greek ancestry, Agnew spoke of the acceptable arousal of the “public conscience” by “members of minority groups” to “use demonstrative measures to trigger the public interest.” (1)

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During an official state visit to Greece in October 1971, Vice-President Agnew dedicated a plaque in Gargalionai, the hometown of his father, who immigrated to the United States in 1897. Official White House Photograph, Spiro T. Agnew Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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50 YEARS AGO:  Maryland Responds to Floods in Italy

Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland Libraries is home to political collections such as the Spiro T. Agnew papers, the Theodore R. McKeldin papers, the Daniel Brewster papers, and the Hervey Machen papers, which contain information and interesting perspectives on local, national, and international events. One such event documented in these four collections is the effort of Marylanders to assist in the relief of Italians flooded out of their homes fifty years ago this month. In early November 1966, much of north-central Italy was inundated by flood waters. As many as 300 people may have been killed, up to 50,000 farm animals were drowned, and countless shops and buildings destroyed (1). Refugees sought shelter in makeshift housing. The cities of Florence and Venice were especially hard hit. Devastatingly, the great concentration of art, architecture, and cultural heritage found in Florence was subjected to flood waters that reached 22 feet high in some places. The National Library of Florence was underwater. Astride the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio, which dates back 2300 years to Roman times, had been badly damaged.

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The Baltimore News American collection includes photographs of the Italian floods of 1966. Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

The response to the 1966 flood in Florence was decidedly international, as Americans Continue reading

Presidential Campaigns – Through the Candidates’ Eyes

Think the current presidential election campaign has been unusual?  The new exhibit in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library explores some of the strange techniques that presidential candidates have used to appeal to voters across much of American history. Candidates (or their spokespeople) have spread serious ideas and spurious notions; built interest from specific demographics of people; sought the support of parties and coalitions of parties; and deployed advertising to increase public visibility and name recognition.

The documents and artifacts in this exhibit date from the 1830s to the 1980s, and are drawn from a variety of collections available for research in the Maryland Room. These include the Spiro T. Agnew papers, the James Bruce papers, the Joseph Tydings papers, the archives of the National Organization for Women (Maryland Chapter), the Rare Books collection, and the Marylandia collection.

Items of particular interest, perhaps, are the autograph letter signed by Senator John F. Kennedy after his nomination by the Democratic Party in 1960, and two official White House photographs, which separately depict Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and President Ronald Reagan. But, then again, there’s the 1932 poster for Franklin D. Roosevelt which promoted “Beer Instead of Taxes.”

Visit these and more in the Maryland Room through the end of October.