Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Online Exhibit: 1759: Britain's Year of Victories


Curated by Brian Leigh Dunnigan

The Clements Library is pleased to share a new online exhibit, 1759: Britain's Year of Victories, based on an exhibit that was on display in the Avenir Great Room of the William L. Clements Library from June 8 to October 9, 2009.

Benjamin West’s iconic history painting, “The Death of General Wolfe,” has looked down on the Avenir Foundation Room of the Clements Library since it was acquired by William L. Clements in the late 1920s. It is surely the best-known image of the Seven Years’ War (or the French and Indian War as the American part of that global conflict is called in the United States). The painting commemorates the defeat of a French army at Québec on September 13, 1759, and apotheosizes the victorious British commander, Major General James Wolfe, who died on the field of battle. Idealized in almost every respect, West’s composition was intended to represent the triumph of British arms and the acquisition of a much-expanded empire rather than to realistically depict the event itself. A British officer, approaching from the left with a captured white regimental color, heralds the decline of French fortunes that, with the signing of a treaty of peace in 1763, would cost France most of her American empire.

Québec was only one of a series of British victories in 1759—the annus mirabilis—that would decisively shift the momentum of the war against the French and in Britain’s favor. A celebratory medal struck that year recognized victories and victors in seven major engagements fought in America, in Europe, and on the high seas. An inverted fleur-de-lis symbolized the reversal of French ambitions and the prowess of the forces directed by Prime Minister William Pitt under the auspices of King George II, whose profile graces the obverse of the medal.

In 2009 the Clements Library marked the 250th anniversary of the British victories of 1759 by presenting a few of the treasures from its collections that illustrate the events and participants in that momentous year. This online version has been enhanced by the addition of a number of items that could not be displayed in 2009 due to the limited space available in the exhibit cases.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Today in History: Father's Day

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Manuscripts Curatorial Assistant

In 1880 William Brunton, a Unitarian minister from Boston, began composing a special diary that recorded the everyday activities of his young son, Herbert, whom he affectionately called Bertie. "It is a work of pure love," the enamored father wrote, explaining that he was "not going to make anything very elaborate or literary—it is simply for your own use and amusement—Some of the fairy flowers that grew in your childhood's garden." William wrote of Bertie's moods and interests, the sweet and funny things he said, the toys he played with, the pictures he drew, and, through it all, we see William's deep and abiding paternal affection.
One of Bertie's drawings from 1881, from the William Brunton Journal, Duane Norman Diedrich Collection. His father had noted elsewhere, "You begin to take a fancy for drawing & you have drawn with chalk everywhere, & you have filled paper after paper with your pictures. You like steam engines especially but attempt almost everything."

William Brunton wrote about the tender moments between father and child. "I used to lift you to the window to see the stars. You liked to see them very much," he remembered. "One day you wanted me to get you the crescent moon out of the sky." Reading this diary, you get the impression that if he could have found a way, William would have done just that for his son.

Like any father, however, William also experienced some of the frustrations that accompany parenthood. In late May, 1880, he wrote, "Last night a pretty little event happened. It was a fine moonlight night & you were sleeping in your cradle. When you woke up about two oclock and lay awake some time & Mamma of course urged you to go to sleep again. You tried & failed-- & then in a pretty soft voice you said—Please Mamma may I lie a little on the edge of your bed? And Mamma took you in & let you be in the middle which drove me out as you kick so." Bumped out of his own bed by his young toddler, William took it all in stride and remained "perfectly devoted" to Herbert, even writing him a poem, "Our Bertie's King of the Household."

In a remarkably similar vein, John J. Hagan wrote a song dedicated to his infant son, "Monarch of All He Surveys."
John H. Hagan, "Monarch of All He Surveys." (Philadelphia: Bazaar of the Muses, ca. 1898).
The chorus speaks to the power children can yield over their parents. "Monarch of all he surveys, His subjects laud paeans of praise, Our hearts, his domain and there he will reign Forever and grace of three days; With his voice the welkin will ring, His mandate will bring anything, No potentiate, however great, Can rule with our Household King."

The Clements's Graphics Division holds further evidence of fathers' love. The tenderness and joy in these cabinet cards from the David V. Tinder Collection require no explanation.

David V. Tinder Cabinet Card Collection, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. The majority portion donated by David B. Walters in honor of Harold L. Walters, UM class of 1947 and Marilyn S. Walters, UM class of 1950.

"I cannot tell you how much I love you & think of you as I leave you behind me," William Brunton wrote to his son. "You are rooted pretty deep in my heart." Each father's love for his child is unique, but as the collections at the William L. Clements Library show, it is also tied to a long tradition of warmth, care, and dedication that spans the years.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Today in History: Mother's Day

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Manuscripts Curatorial Assistant

On May 24, 1873, Kate Edgerly finally found the time to return her sister's letter. "You want to know how I get along with four children," she wrote, with more than a little exasperation, "I don't get along at all I am half crazy." Mothering four young children took a lot of time, energy, and dedication, as it still does. Some nine months later, following the birth of another daughter, Kate again confided to her sister, "I don't feel very strong yet but expect I shall have to wash this week the baby is real cross she generally cries from three Oclock until morning so I can hardly keep her still." Parenting comes with its fair share of trials, but as we know, it comes with equal measures of magic. In January 1876, Kate commented on her family's Christmas and went on to describe her young daughter Annie. "It would tickle you to hear her try and sing she wants the girls to sing to her and then she will learn the song and she can't say all of the words plain nor sing the tune but will say some times a whole verse and go around saying it over." In the spirit of Mother's Day, these glimpses from the Martha Barker Papers remind us of the demands and delights mothers have experienced throughout the years.

The collections at the William L. Clements Library also include children's perspectives on their mothers. Take, for example, this marginalia found in our 1816 edition of My Mother. A Poem.

From My Mother. A Poem. By A Lady (Philadelphia: William Charles, 1816).
Above a sentimental stanza, a child was compelled to write, "MY MOTHER," perhaps reiterating the connection they felt to this particular passage. The illustration's coloring also belies a child's touch, making this small volume an especially poignant one.

Some of our collections speak directly to Mother's Day, including the Thomas Downs Papers. On May 7, 1938, Jane Augusta Reifel wrote a letter to her mother, Florence Downs, commemorating the day. "And so mother dear- you are like a great big guiding light- whose warm rays and penetrating beams will ever spread into the lives of those two girls you have given so much for… my heart is filled with a great, deep love- and thankfulness- So mother's day is really every day- and I hope that if some day someone would say 'Jane's like her mother--', I would be very happy."
An undated, hand-made Mother's Day card from Jane Augusta Reifel in the Thomas Downs Papers.
These children's love for their mothers hasn't faded despite the years, and the collections here at the Clements Library document the powerful and compelling relationships between mothers and their offspring. May that help all the mothers out there persevere, even as they are driven "half crazy" in the present by the children in their care.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Exhibit at Boston Public Library: We Are One: Mapping America's Road from Revolution to Independence

The William L. Clements Library is pleased to announce its participation in a new exhibition, We Are One: Mapping America's Road from Revolution to Independence, opening May 2, 2015, at the Boston Public Library's Norman B. Leventhal Map Center. Featuring cartographic and geographic representations of how America transformed from British colonies to an independent nation, We Are One presents a unique opportunity to explore the Revolutionary era in all its drama. The Clements Library is among 20 institutions and private collectors that together have contributed some 60 maps and 40 prints, paintings, and objects to be on view at the Boston Public Library from May through November 2015, before the exhibit travels to Colonial Williamsburg in 2016 and the New-York Historical Society in 2017. 

Cartographic materials can tell compelling narratives, and the three manuscript maps that the Clements has loaned to the exhibit certainly speak volumes. The first item, a colored map entitled "Cantonment of the forces in N. America, 1766," shows the distribution of British forces in the North American colonies.

Cantonment of the forces in N. America, 1766." From the William Petty, 1st Marquis of Lansdowne, 2nd Earl of Shelburne Papers, William L. Clements Library.
Sent by Thomas Gage, British Commander-in-Chief in North America, to William Petty-Fitzmaurice, the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, the map and its accompanying documentation tell a tale of shifting military concerns. Three years after the conclusion of the French and Indian War, this manuscript map shows that the bulk of the British forces still centered around regions formerly controlled by France and Spain, shadowing the threats of recent contests. Gage warned, however, of the increasingly "disturbed state" of the colonies, "and the Decision of the Parliament respecting the Stamp Act impatiently waited for; not without denouncing Vengeance in Case the Decision should not be agreeable to their Expectations." This map vividly illustrates the arrangement of British forces in North America following the French and Indian War and as political unrest occasioned by the Stamp Act continued to swell.

The two other maps on loan from the Clements Library were created by Alexandre d'Ethy, a French commander that fought in the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782, an Anglo-French naval engagement that took place in the passage between Dominica and Guadeloupe. The definitive British victory ensured their continued control of their West Indian colonies and bolstered their reputation of naval dominance. The Clements holds a series of eight manuscript maps documenting the shifting course of the Battle of the Saintes, believed to have been used in the 1784 trial of Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse to determine blame for the resounding French defeat.


Plan du Combat du 12 Avril 1782 présenté par le chr. Dethy capne. du vass. de roy le Citoyen: Neuvième et dernière position des deux armées…" From the Charles-Eugène-Gabriel Castries Papers, William L. Clements Library. The other d'Ethy map in the exhibit features the two fleets' third position.
The maps' incredible detail, then, highlights the nuances of Revolutionary naval battles as well as their lasting significance.

We Are One: Mapping America's Road from Revolution to Independence promises to be an extraordinary exhibit, bringing together invaluable maps, prints, and artifacts from world-renowned collectors and institutions to provide new insights into the American Revolution. If you are unable to make the trip to the East Coast while the exhibit is on display, a number of the items will be available online through the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center's American Revolution Portal [http://maps.bpl.org/highlights/ar/american-revolutionary-war-era], including the Clements Library's contributions. And, of course, while these three maps are on loan the rest of the William L. Clements Library's extensive map collection remains open to researchers, with a wonderful array of Revolutionary-era maps available to be studied and cherished year-round.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recent Acquisition: Rare 151st plate from Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America

Rare 151st plate from Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Detail of Plate CXXIX.

Post by Aprille Phule, Curator of Cryptozoological Collections and Bibliochicanery

The University of Michigan Library marks its formal beginning with the purchase in 1839 of John James Audubon's The Birds of America (1827–1838). After a brief interval of a hundred and seventy five years, it has been joined by Audubon's final work. In August, we acquired the full set of John James Audubon's Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, featuring 151 hand-colored lithographic plates of American wildlife.

We have what has come to be called the “Imperial Folio” edition:

John James Audubon, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (New York: J.J. Audubon). This comprises 3 Imperial folio volumes of plates, accompanied by companion text in 3 quarto volumes, published 1846-1854. The illustrations are hand-colored stone lithographs drawn by J.J. Audubon and J.W. Audubon, with many backgrounds by V.G. Audubon. They were transferred to stone by W.E. Hitchcock and R. Trembly, then lithographed and printed by J.T. Bowen. Originally, however, the work comprised just the colored plates, each measuring 22 x 28 inches, sold by subscription. Each of the 30 parts had 5 plates, and sold for $10.

Recently, while browsing through the volumes, the curator was pleased to discover an additional illustration tipped into the back of volume three. This plate is numbered CXXIX, and depicts the Lepus antilooapra of North America. It is lacking in all other known copies of Audubon’s Quadrupeds.

While this is a wonder, it is not entirely a surprise. Audubon scholars have long known of the elusive 151st illustration, but until now no one has ever seen it. Rumours, however, have circulated nearly since the original release of the Imperial Folio edition. Over the years, reams of paper have been written over, and gallons of ink spilled, in argument about the mysterious (and mysteriously redacted) plate CXXIX, and speculation about where and whether any copies are yet extant has never quite died down.

The image shows a buck Jackalope, who from his fine spreading rack of antlers is of at least three summers. Audubon has posed the Jackalope almost but not quite en passant. This nod to heraldic convention may be intended to disintermediate Audubon's previous publishing successes in England, represented by the Royal Lion en passant, and establish his positionality within notional systems of trans-Atlantic visual culture.This Jackalope is one of the 151 stunning hand-colored lithographs from the Viviparous Quadrupeds, of North America, acquired last summer in cooperation with the Special Collections Library of the University of Michigan.

This Jackalope is one of the 151 stunning hand-colored lithographs from the Viviparous Quadrupeds, of North Americaacquired last summer in cooperation with the Special Collections Library.

The artist’s and lithographers’ attention to detail can be appreciated in the extremely realistic texturing of the fur and horns. William L. Clements grapics curator Clayton Lewis speculates that the delicate white marks representing fur may have been created by scratches in the surface of the printing stone. He considers the story that the lithographers used actual fur in the production of the images to be apocryphal. “Pish.” he said when asked. “Tosh. How many Jackalopes would they have had to shave to get all that fur? What kind of idiot spends his time on something like that?”

“White paint, maybe,” he added, “but fur? Ridiculous. Pure fabrication.”

Although the plates say “Drawn from nature”, Audubon did not paint “from the life”. He used stuffed and ingeniously posed models, many of which he had killed himself. He was an avid hunter, and prided himself on his shooting, ultimately using his skilled marksmanship as part of the wild backwoodsman persona he constructed for himself. It is certainly true, however, that his renderings were based on extensive field observations, and they are justly praised for combining scientific accuracy with artistic poses in natural settings. His depiction of this creature is more scientifically accurate than earlier illustrations, such as Plate XLVII in Joris Hoefnagel’s Animalia Qvadrvpedia et Reptilia, circa 1575.

Given Audubon’s long history of painting the species, the North American Jackalope has long been considered a peculiar omission from the Viviparous Quadrupeds. The artist’s interest in the Jackalope began early. In 1818, while his family was living in Henderson, Kentucky, Audubon did a watercolor of a Jackalope caught in a trap. This turned out to be a significant image for Audubon, both financially and in terms of public acclaim at a time when he was regaining in Europe the confidence he had lost in America.

According to one of his biographers, Alice Ford: “The ‘Jackalope in a Trap’ was his first exercise in England...He wished to present the Jackalope painting to the wife of one of his new and sympathetic friends, William Roscoe.” (Audubon's animals : the quadrupeds of North America / compiled & edited by Alice Ford.)

Later, out of gratitude to the wealthy Rathbone family, who had done so much for him in Liverpool, he painted one for William Rathbone’s wife, whom he called “the Queen Bee” She, however, found it too gory for her liking and ultimately gave it to the Royal Institution. However, it was generally well received: in his journal Audubon records his chagrin when his new European friends, and important advisors such as the portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence, ignored his avian paintings in order to praise the Jackalope. These excerpts from 1826 bear witness to his investment in the image.

"August 21. I painted many hours this day, finished my Jackalope"

"September 17, Sunday I gave to the Institution a large piece, the wild Turkey Cock; to Mrs. Rathbone, Sr., the Jackalope in a trap, to Mr. Roscoe a Robin, and to many of my other friends some small drawing, as mementos of one who will always cherish their memories."

"Sunday, December 3. My good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lizars came in as usual after church; they like the Jackalope better than the Turkeys."

"Monday, December 4. I then took to my brushes and finished my Jackalope entirely. I had been just thirteen hours at it, and had I labored for thirteen weeks, I do not think I should have bettered it."

Moreover, during this same trip to Great Britain, while he was arranging to have the Birds published, he painted several copies of the “Jackalope Caught in a Trap” in oil and sold them to support himself. Alice Ford writes:

“By summer a desperate lack of funds returned him to his ever popular ‘Jackalope’; he made seven identical copies to sell in London, Liverpool, and Manchester, often taking them fresh from the easel to some street of dealers… He sold an uncertain number of copies of the ‘Jackalope’ and other oils to defray his expenses in 1828.” (Audubon's animals : the quadrupeds of North America / compiled & edited by Alice Ford.)

Indeed, Audubon's biographers speculate that it was the success of this image that encouraged him to think of undertaking the Quadrupeds as a successor to The Birds of North America. It has long been thought curious, therefore, that a Jackalope was missing from the work

The “Jackalope Caught in a Trap” is not, however, the Jackalope of our Viviparous Quadrupeds. Therefore, its appearance in our copy is not only unprecedented, as mentioned above, but raises further questions. How did it come to be painted? Was it really part of the Quadrupeds? If it was, why and how was it redacted?

The answers, it appears, lie in the Audubon family's history. Recent research has show that Audubon’s second son, John Woodhouse (The “J.W. Audubon” of the Viviparous Quadrupeds) was actually a daughter. Audubon, who was away from home when she was born in 1812, somehow got the idea that he had sired a second son, doubling his hopes of having an artistic successor. Even as early as 1812, Lucy Bakewell Audubon knew her husband to be moody and extremely fragile emotionally, swinging as he did from intense elation and confidence to anxiety and the depths of despair. For fear of upsetting him, it is believed, she chose to cater to Audubon’s mistaken belief, and J.W. was raised as a boy.

And, indeed, J.W. was a highly talented artist in her own right, as her work in the Viviparous Quadrupeds shows. What was more problematic was that from early on she was a crack shot with a rifle, surpassing everyone else in the family and indeed amongst Audubon’s whole acquaintance. This was something Audubon had not anticipated, and reading between the lines of his letters and journals it is clear he rather resented it. Her superiority as a marksman came to annoy not only her father but also her older brother, Victor Gifford, who seems to have felt considerable resentment at being overshadowed by his “little brother.”

These family dynamics came to play a part in the mystery of plate CXXIX. The original plan had been for Audubon’s “Jackalope Caught in a Trap” to appear in the work. But after the reaction of not only the public at the Scottish Academy’s Exhibition of 1826, but also friends, such as Mrs. Rathbone senior, to whom he presented copies, his advisors convinced Audubon it should be left out, deeming it too gory and upsetting an image.

Unbeknownst to Audubon or any of the others involved in the publication of the Quadrupeds, J.W. had painted her own Jackalope, and bribed the lithographer's devils Hitchcock and Trembly to transfer it to stone. When J.T Bowen received it with the rest, he accepted it unquestioningly and it was included in the original 26th Part.

Her ruse nearly succeeded, but was foiled by her older brother. In what was probably a fit of sibling rivalry, Victor Gifford, when he discovered it while looking through the plates, insisted that it be removed. He used as his pretext the disappointment Audubon (who was by now dead) had experienced when his beloved “Jackalope Caught in a Trap” was censored, and the resentment he would have felt at the substitution of J.W.’s more placid depiction.

It seems Victor Audubon was not entirely successful, however. The evidence leads us to surmise that one copy of Part 26 had already been sent to an aristocratic French collector. The plate found in our copy of the book bears a faint pencil inscription on the back in the hand of the Comte de Fortsas, an indication that it might once have belonged to his fabled private library.

Our discovery of plate CXXIX, then, goes a long way towards answering a number of the questions and mysteries surrounding Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. The William L. Clements Library and the Special Collections Library are proud to be making accessible this important work, in its only complete copy, and preserving it to be enjoyed by future generations.

To learn more about the Quadrupeds, please join us for this special event

"The Birds and The Beasts: Audubon's Masterpieces at the University of Michigan"

Wednesday, April 22

4:00 p.m.

Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery Room 100.


Further Reading:

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2005.

Ford, Alice. Audubon's animals : the quadrupeds of North America / compiled & edited by Alice Ford. New York : Studio Publications in association with Crowell, c1951.

Audubon, John James. Audubon and his journals, by Maria R. Audubon, with zoölogical and other notes by Elliott Coues ... London, J.C. Nimmo, 1898.

Ford, Alice. The 1826 journal of John James Audubon. Transcribed with an introd. and notes by Alice Ford from the original in the collection of Henry Bradley Martin. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press [1967]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Women's History Month: Women in Men's Clothing

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Manuscripts Curatorial Assistant

In mid-July 1860, travelling salesman George P. Slade wrote a letter to a female correspondent about his experiences plying his trade in the Midwest. In his attempts to sell fruit trees, he covered a great deal of territory, including the Illinois prairies which "spread out like a map before me as far as the eye could trace." He also encountered a wide range of people, from struggling farmers to a dulcimer salesman. Slade had a gift of the gab, and people offered up stories to him, including one man who described how he met his wife. "…he said that he got acquainted with her when she was dressed in mens cloths and chopping cord wood. Her father had abused her and she put on men's clothes and went to work at wood chopping and no one knew she was a woman until her father came after her." Slade goes on to state that the man "admired her spunk, courted and married her." This letter from the Clements's American Travel Collection speaks to the power of clothing as a form of protection. We never learn the woman's name, but we gain a sense of her determination to avoid mistreatment by co-opting a degree of male privilege through the use of masculine clothing.

The Library cares for a number of items that speak to the social power of dress. Our Geo. F. Mahoney Journal is an especially compelling example. The author documented travel in the western United States but never recorded their gender. Multiple entries reflect people's confusion about the journal writer's masculine clothing. In May 1930, while in Fairbury, Nebraska, Geo. wrote, "I have on hiken suit, every body say look at the woman." A few days later, Geo. continued, "Two girls picked me up in their car, saying wish we could act the boy like you." The focus on Geo.'s gender ambiguity continues throughout the journal. An entry dated July 30th, 1930, in Farmington, Washington, reads: "Every body says I am a w- in mens clothes." The journal concludes with a copied letter, where Geo. acknowledged, "Peopl Don’t know if I am a HE OR A SHE. I have been arrested 7 times for wearing men's clothes." While never directly commenting on gender identity, the journal attests to the hardships caused by ambiguities of gender and dress.

Geo. F. Mahoney Journal, William L. Clements Library

While men's fashion could protect women or serve a vital role in people's self-identification, the Library also has examples of more playful uses of clothing. The Edward Missling Photograph Album, ca. 1900-1908, includes several images of women dressed in men's clothing. Two parallel photos of a group of three ladies features them dressed as men in one sitting and as women in another.

Edward Missling Photograph Album, William L. Clements Library

The reversal of gender norms serves here as a jovial turn amongst a group of friends. Other examples of women's light-spirited cross-dressing appear in the Mark Anderson Gender Studies Collection.

Two photo postcards from the Mark Anderson Gender Studies Collection, William L. Clements Library. Image on the left was taken in Battle Creek, Michigan, 1913, and the image on the right reads, "A pair of Peaches."

Whether they appear mounted in photo albums or as individual items, images from the Graphics Division document women's playful relationships with each other and with men's fashion. Whether done in jest, for protection, or as an expression of identity, the way people use clothing reveals significant details about the role of gender in American life. Women's History Month offers a chance to bring these matters to the forefront of our conversations, but the collections at the Clements Library provide first-hand glimpses into American women's varied experiences year round.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Latest Quarto: Natural History


The Fall-Winter 2014 Quarto is now available. The Quarto is a semi-annual magazine published by the William L. Clements Library and sent to members of the Clements Library Associates. This issue of The Quarto focuses on the Clements Library collections related to natural history, in celebration of our recent acquisition of Audubon's Viviparous Quadrupeds.
  1. "Natural History," by J. Kevin Graffagnino, Director of the Library.
  2. "Natural History Drawn Large," by Emiko Hastings, Curator of Books & Digital Projects Librarian. Large color-plate books of American natural history. 
  3. "Finding Flora," by Jayne Ptolemy, Curatorial Assistant. Botanical samples in the Manuscripts Division. 
  4. "Castor Canadensis," by Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Associate Director & Curator of Maps. The North American beaver.
  5. "Nature Surveyed," by Clayton Lewis, Curator of Graphic Materials. United States railroad surveys. 
  6. "Political Animals," by Diana Sykes, Head of Reader Services. Political cartoons featuring animal caricatures. 
  7. "Developments," by Ann Rock, Director of Development. Acquisition of John James Audubon's Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America
  8. Announcements
  9. Calendar of Events
Read past issues of The Quarto online. Members of the Clements Library Associates will receive the current copy in the mail. If you would like more information about membership, please contact Ann Rock at annrock@umich.edu or 734-358-9770.