“Sultan of swat” swung into MLB history 100 years ago today

A Babe Ruth baseball card from 1914. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Today is the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s Major League Baseball debut after a short assignment with the Baltimore Orioles, which was a minor league team then. At age 19, Baltimore-born George Herman Ruth Jr. arrived in Boston as the new Red Sox pitcher and won the game 4-3 against the Cleveland Naps (now the Indians). His star career with the Red Sox, New York Yankees, Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves), and the Brooklyn Dodgers flourished and included seven World Series wins.

Ruth’s last appearance at Yankee Stadium was in 1948 for its 25th anniversary celebration and the team retired his number three jersey. After the celebration, Ruth sent  former Yankee Vice President George Weiss a typed thank-you letter on a Babe Ruth letterhead. The Bambino died two months later at age 53 of cancer. That letter along with other Babe Ruth collections are at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1939.

Such an artifact would make a nice candidate for digitization. It may appeal to English author Shaun Usher of the website Letters of Note where he exhibits scanned and transcribed correspondence with scholarly value. Or if Usher can acquire blank Babe Ruth stationary, an image could go on his eyecandy-of-a-Tumblr, Letterheady.

Pipe company keeps Missouri corn cob history burning

In “Frosty the Snowman,” Frosty smokes a corn cob pipe, hinting at this time of summer when corn’s cheap and chomped off the cob. In fact, it was 145 years ago when Henry Tibbe, a Dutch immigrant to Missouri, started making and selling corn cob pipes out of his woodworking shop in Washington. Within nine years he had switched to making corn cob pipes exclusively and put a patent on the fire-proofing process he invented for his pipe bowls. He called them Missouri Meerschaum pipes, got the trademark patented, and in 1907 the Missouri Meerschaum Company was born, along with Washington’s reputation as the corn cob capital of the world.

A corn cob pipe. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Today the company runs out of the original building, sources its corn from local crops, and has enough cobs stored to sustain its handcrafted production for three years. History researchers may be interested in trolling the Tibbe family papers at the State Historical Society of Missouri. Or seeing a photograph at Library of Congress of General Douglas MacArthur famously smoking a corn cob pipe. Mark Twain also must have helped business at Missouri Meerschaum because he too was known for smoking that pipe type. So was Popeye, and characters in Normall Rockwell paintings.

70 years ago, Versailles peace treaty led to political discord in the U.S.

Last month this blog featured the 75th anniversary of the start of World War I, when Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo by a teenage Serbian rebel. On June 28, exactly five years after the assassination, warring countries signed the Treaty of Versailles in the French palace’s Hall of Mirrors, officially ending the “war to end all wars.”

What was being there on that day like? In ArchiveGrid, researchers can learn about a unique collection at the University of Maine that holds some answers: A first-hand account of the scene outside the palace, and later in Paris.

Records also found in ArchiveGrid are papers at George Washington University from the peace conference; copies of telegrams from Versailles at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center documenting the agreement; photographs taken by Wilson’s aide in France at the Hagley Museum and Library; and materials in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace collection at GWU, documenting these historical events.

President Woodrow Wilson (right) with British, French, and Italian delegates at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Treaty of Versailles was part of a series of international peace treaties that came out of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, which U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attended and returned from 70 years ago this week. Mixed approval at home of the Treaty of Versailles had Wilson trying to garner support for it all summer until he suffered a stroke.

A major opponent of the treaty was Republican Senate Leader Henry Cabot Lodge, mainly because it allowed the newly-formed League of Nations to declare war without a U.S. vote. Wilson and Congress didn’t agree on terms. That November when it was time for countries represented at the Paris Peace Conference to pass the treaty, the U.S. declined.

In 1921 under President Warren Harding, Germany and the U.S. officially ended their hostilities – they started in 1917 when Germany tried to ask Mexico to side against the U.S. Still, not signing the Versailles treaty kept the U.S. out of the League of Nations until after World War II when it became the United Nations, and gave the U.S. the voting power Lodge wanted.

Slugger’s gracious farewell speech still a hit after 75 years

One of the most lasting and heroic Fourth of July oratories of the 20th Century celebrates 75 years today.

Known as “The Iron Horse” during his professional baseball career with the New York Yankees, Henry Louis “Lou” Gehrig played in a record 2,130 consecutive games between 1923 and 1939. He was a seven time All-Star, a two time MVP and a six time World Series champion.

A 1933 Lou Gehrig baseball card. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ironically, the first baseman known for his rugged durability fell to a progressive neurological disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), now often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Gehrig was forced to give up baseball forever at the age of 35. In ArchiveGrid, there is a record for a collection at the National Baseball Hall of Fame consisting of a letter Gehrig wrote to his wife in the spring of 1939 after he removed himself from the team’s lineup to rest.

About a month later, a Mayo Clinic doctor explained Gehrig’s condition and that he can no longer play baseball. That letter is also at the hall of fame.

Instead of wallowing in his misfortune, Gehrig re-established himself not only as a hero to baseball fans, but created a lasting American tribute to gratitude.

In the two most famous stanzas of his speech delivered at Yankee Stadium, Gehrig speaks his mind about his good fortune to play the game he loved so much with so many great people: “today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth….So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

As if to prove the words were delivered straight from his heart, no full copy of the speech exists. There are only partial recordings, but they are enough.

The disease claimed Gehrig’s life in 1941, at the age of 37. But in his final speech to faithful fans on July 4, 1939, he left a final message of hope, optimism and grace that will last throughout the ages.

WWI centennial uncovers old wounds

Considered the start of chain of events that led to World War I, the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife occurred 100 years ago this Saturday.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The shots were carried out by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian teenager from Bosnia who was part of a revolutionary group that opposed occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary. Ferdinand was heir to that empire’s throne. Princip, whose father opposed the Ottoman empire when it occupied the area, wanted an independent Yugoslavian nation for Serbs and other Balkan ethnic groups.

Most historians agree Ferdinand’s death ignited what had been a “powder keg” of tensions stemming from decades of conflict between empires, countries, and ethnic groups. Austria-Hungary and Serbia went to war. Sides formed, and World War I erupted. It lasted for four years, leaving tens of millions of soldiers, civilians, and war horses dead, wounded, and traumatized.

The United States didn’t get involved until 1917, when it intercepted an encrypted note from Germany to Mexico requesting an alliance against the U.S.

The losing countries fell into ruin, especially Germany, and the “war to end all wars” paved the way for nationalist groups responsible for World War II activity to take root. The former ruling empires dissolved and Yugoslavia was formed. So Princip today considered either a hero or a terrorist, depending on where his name is mentioned. A scholarly conference held last week in Sarajevo to mark the war’s centennial revealed that conflicting political viewpoints about who was responsible for it are still contentious.

All quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and The poems by Wilfred Owen are prominent examples of works about World War I by people who were in the throes of it. Remarque was a German solder and his papers can be found in ArchiveGrid. Owen fought for the British and his papers are also in ArchiveGrid. Another interesting collection at the Center for American History at the University of Texas documents the experiences of 20 American soldiers.

Grant to enhance outdoor theater archive at ECU’s Joyner Library

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the 2013 Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Image source: www.osfashland.org

Put me in the category of Oregonians who hasn’t been to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, but will someday go. For nearly 80 years, the Tony award-winning OSF has attracted audiences to its outdoor Shakespearean stage plays each summer and more recently to indoor plays by other classical and contemporary playwrights.

Although OSF has its own archive, the professional theater company is a member of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre at East Carolina University’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. IOT membership provides the OSF and other theaters around the world with technical assistance, documentation of best practices in the field, management and feasibility studies, networking and conference activities, and other support.

More than 600 performing arts organizations, some dating back to the 1920s, have joined the IOT since it began in 1963. That means over time, the IOT has grown an archive of photographs, video and audio recordings, publicity materials, feasibility studies, original research, and other materials. Now the archive is on its way to reaching more researchers – especially set builders, folklorists, and historians.

A $56,290 National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant awarded this month to ECU’s Joyner Library will help pay to process the collections and publish a detailed EAD finding aid. ECU matched the one-year grant so a total of $119,500 can go toward the IOT archive project. The NHPRC of the National Archives funds projects  promoting the preservation and use of the nation’s most valuable archival resources.

A view of life masks in ArchiveGrid

James Leo Herlihy life mask. Image courtesty of University of Delaware Special Collections.

In a post last week listing archival materials which could undergo replication with a 3-D printer, we pointed out life masks of Abraham Lincoln and Ludwig van Beethoven as possible candidates.

We then asked ArchiveGrid contributors what valuable items in their collections they would replicate with 3-D technology. Rebecca Johnson Melvin at the University of Delaware Library’s Special Collections pointed us to their life mask – a plaster cast of James Leo Herlihy’s face made while he was alive. Herlihy was an American writer and actor and his life mask is part of a collection of his letters.

Here are some other faces revealed by a search in ArchiveGrid for “life masks”:

  • Poet John Keats at Harvard University, where the largest collection of his papers is held.

Is there a life mask in your collection, or have you learned about one in your research? Let us know in the comments below or by emailing us.

Freedom rings across generations

Anniversaries of three historical events that shaped the 20th Century are this week: The 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square on June 3 and 4, the 1968 Robert F. Kennedy assassination on June 5, and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy invasion on June 6. It’s interesting to look at the sequential generations each one affected.

Tiananmen Square. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Generation X, generally defined as those born between 1961 and 1981, may not carry the same cultural meaning in China as it does in the Western World. But students and others in 1989 who led weeks of protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square for a more democratic government – until martial law used deadly force to shut them down – probably shared their global cohort’s pursuit of political and social change. An American couple living and teaching English in China at the time saved materials focusing on the political turmoil and Tiananmen Square and that collection is now at the University of Puget Sound for research.

Credit for significant political and social change after World War II in the United States goes to the Baby Boomers, born from about 1945 through the 1960s. After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, Robert F. Kennedy ran for president, determined to continue the legacy of change ushered in by his older brother. What would the 1970s political landscape have looked like had RFK  been elected, rather than fatally shot in Los Angeles?

Kennedy’s oldest brother, Joseph Kennedy Jr., belonged to The Greatest Generation, or the G.I. Generation, because they were born around 1901 through 1924 and fought in World War II. Joe Jr. was killed in action just months after the D-Day Normandy invasion. But he and others who helped allied forces win the war have, and will continue to be, remembered by future generations thanks to the work of archivists and researchers.

Printing the past in 3-D

This article about a Berkeley, Calif., startup that sells life-like figurines of people demonstrates commercial opportunities in three-dimensional printing. Meanwhile at the Smithsonian, a project to replicate rare objects shows the future of 3-D technology in archives and special collections. It can transform research and also how collections are preserved and exhibited. Will it also change policies about off-site requests for copies and reproductions of items, as more archives own 3-D printers? Time will tell.

A 3-D printer in action. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In ArchiveGrid, I trolled more than 19,000 records for three-dimensional objects and selected items which may someday be good candidates for 3-D replication based on their historical significance. (How to do that search in ArchiveGrid: Type recordtype:r in the search box and you will see just the records for three-dimensional artifacts or naturally occurring objects. In MARC-speak, that means Leader Byte 6 has subfield r.)

1. In the 1800s when it was en vogue to create life masks – casts of peoples’ faces – there was one made of Ludwig van Beethoven when the composer was 42. It’s now at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. Abraham Lincoln’s life mask at The Smithsonian already underwent a 3-D makeover.

2. A take on Lincoln Logs would be a 123-pience Frank Lloyd Wright building block set at at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Wood and slate pieces come in a box with a design sheet.

3. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln would guard your money in this Mount Rushmore-shaped coin bank at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

4. Learning about the history of printing, at least from a Victorian-era point of view, could be fun with a 48-piece jigsaw puzzle at the Rochester Institute of Technology that depicts historic moments in printing.

5. Access to around 500 pieces of African art at New York Public Library is for qualified and experienced researchers, according to the collection’s finding aid. Modeling some highlights into 3-D prints is one way this emerging technology can open doors for more researchers.

6. Cast hands of pianist Percy Grainger are kept at University of Melbourne and are a tribute to Australian-born composers of the 20th century.

Collections from land down under now aboard ArchiveGrid

A century-old story of the British Antarctic expedition and the Australian photographer who documented it needs to be told before going into detail about our most recent ArchiveGrid index update.

100 years ago, against the backdrop of the early stages of World War One, the national heroes in Great Britain and Norway were men who had been on expeditions in Antarctica, the world’s final frontier at the time. Like the 1960s United States/Russia race to the moon, Britain wanted to beat Norway to the South Pole. Roald Amundsen took that honor for Norway in 1911, easily beating Britain’s Robert Falcon Scott with superiority in skiing and dog sledding.

As a sort of consolation prize, 40-year-old Sir Ernest Shackleton, who contracted scurvy while on Scott’s first polar mission 12 years before, was determined to re-capture England’s glory by being the first to cross Antarctica.

Shackleton made sure that members of his expedition had the best of everything. Outfitted in Burberry aboard the new Norwegian barquentineEndurance,” the men, along with 69 sled dogs, left a south Atlantic whaling station on Dec. 5, 1914, bound for the Weddell Sea. Their plan after crossing the continent was to catch a relief ship, the Aurora, in the Ross Sea.

Strong tents, big and hearty dogs, a disease-preventing nutrition plan, and a ship built of Norwegian fir to withstand ice were supposed to help the Shackleton Expedition succeed. Instead, ice packs trapped the Endurance, crushed her, and marooned the crew. They didn’t touch land for 497 days and they turned to eating their dogs, penguins, and seals for survival. Their survival was a testament to Shackleton’s leadership.

Some funds the Irish-born Shackleton raised for the cross-Antarctic expedition came from news and film rights sales. That’s where Australian photographer Frank Hurley comes into the picture. He provided the images that would cement what went from an ambitious undertaking to one of the most compelling stories of human survival. Not only did they help pay off debt Shackleton owed after the expedition, they are still held in high regard for their beauty and storytelling power.

Photo-journalists today can learn from Hurley’s innovation and courage to push the limits for the best shots, get close to his subjects, and leave no angle unconsidered. Hurley’s preservation technique of soldering negatives in metal casing is how his work incurred little damage during the expedition.

Gone is discovery done the Shackleton way, marked by hunger, strain, animal deaths, and rugged perseverance. But now you can discover photographs from the Shackleton Expedition in ArchiveGrid. New Australian contributors and collections of Hurley’s work were brought aboard during our most recent index update. The National Library of Australia’s collection of digitized glass plate negatives of photos taken during the expedition are just part of the collections that are newly included in ArchiveGrid.

We recently expanded the filter that selects WorldCat records for inclusion in ArchiveGrid to include more collections of images and both visual and audio recordings. After that expansion we needed to also broaden our horizons for institutions that we register for inclusion in ArchiveGrid. WorldCat contributors in Australia and New Zealand that weren’t previously registered as ArchiveGrid institutions have now been added, including:

We were excited to see how rich these collections from Down Under are, especially the materials related to the history of South Pole exploration. We are also excited that these collections are more “discoverable” for researchers. Isn’t excitement what drives people farther than they imagined? Who else on Dec. 5, 1914 felt more excitement than Sir Shackleton? Maybe, by seeing the uncharted future through Hurley’s lens, we can feel a bit of that excitement, too.

With the addition of these significant collection descriptions to ArchiveGrid, the Shackleton Expedition records are just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of collections you can explore. We invite you to share your discoveries with us!