Thursday, June 14, 2018

Library Acquires Important Artwork depicting Native Americans

By Frank Boles

The Clarke Library recently acquired a copy of George Catlin’s lithograph, “O-Jib-be-Ways,” a late addition to his American Indian Portfolio. The acquisition was made possible by the Alice C. Webb Memorial Endowment.


Catlin’s American Indian Portfolio, published in London in 1844, is rightly hailed as a milestone in the visual documentation of Native Americans. The Portfolio contains the results of Catlin’s years of living with and traveling among the Great Plains Indians. From 1832 to 1837, he traveled west and spent the summer months sketching tribal people. Then, during the winter, he completed his pictures in oils. The more than 500 paintings he created were unique, both in their breadth and also in the sympathetic understanding that his images constantly demonstrate. A selection of images from this body of work were published in the North American Indian Portfolio in an effort to reach as wider audience.

Catlin was concerned about the question of who his audience was, because his income came largely from ticket sales generated by exhibiting his work. He spent from 1837 to 1852 touring the United States, England, France, and Holland with his collection of paintings and examples of Indian crafts, allowing the curious to view his exhibit for a fee. His exhibit was sometimes augmented by members of Indian tribes who were also part of the show.

Although all of the images found in the original Portfolio are of Native people who lived west of the Mississippi River, for individuals interested in Native American who lived east of the Mississippi River, there is an important coda to this work. In the early 1870s, the British publisher Chatto & Windus bought the copyright to the Portfolio, as well as the original printing plates, and in approximately 1875 issued a reprint edition. To make the reprint more saleable, it included six new images, for which printing plates had been created at the time the first edition appeared but which had never been used. These six images included the one acquired by the Clarke Historical Library, “O-Jib-be-Ways.”

How this image came into existence is a story unto itself. The Ojibwas in Catlin’s image were not painted in America, but rather in England. Victorian England’s fashionable elite developed a taste for viewing “exotic” peoples – paying admission to see non-Europeans, dressed in “native” clothing. In 1843, an enterprising showman found a group of Ojibwas from the western end of the Great Lakes willing to leave their homeland and sent them to England.

Catlin was also in London, where the profit from showing his paintings had begun to decline seriously. Learning of the Ojibwas, he decided to “improve” his show by renting the nine Native Americans from their original manager for one hundred pounds sterling a month. Subsequently they appeared twice a day in Catlin’s rented gallery space. London newspapers reported that “the audience stood amazed and delighted with the wildness and newness of the scene that was passing before them.”

The combination of the paintings and living Ojibwa people made the exhibit a great success. The group was invited to appear before Queen Victoria, to both perform for her Majesty and dine with the Queen. The Queen later thanked her guests by sending them twenty pounds sterling and a length of a plaid in the royal tartan, presumably to be made into blankets.

Catlin was quite sensitive to the charge that he was exploiting the troupe merely to make money. He pointed out that they were a people “with reasoning facilities and shrewdness like our own,” who had a written contract. He added, “I have undertaken to stand by them as their friend and advocate – not as wild beasts, but as men, laboring in an honest vocation amid a world of strangers … for the means of feeding their wives and little children.”

The portrait Catlin painted of the traveling group includes includes symbols corresponding to individuals Totem or signature. Catlin's descriptions and translations, printed on the work, are as follows. "1.) An-que-wee-zaints, the boy chief. 2.) Pat-au-ah-quat-a-wee-be, the driving cloud, war Chief. 3.) Wee-nish-ka-wee-be, the flying Gull. 4.) Sah-man, tobacco. 5.) Gish-e-gosh-gee, the moon light night. 6.) Not-een-a-akm, strong wind, interpreter. 7.) Wos-see-ab-e-neuh-qua, woman. 8.) Nib-nab-e-qua, child. 9.) Ne-bet-neuh-qua, woman."

Catlin’s more than 500 original paintings were eventually acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, but were destroyed in a fire that swept the Institution’s building in 1865. What remains of his work are the prints from the Portfolio.

CMU Class Trees


By Frank Boles

Recently, toward the end of the commencement ceremony I was attending, my ears picked up when Provost Michael Gealt reminded the graduates that a maple tree, then in a container located in front of the building, would be planted on campus in their honor. As the provost spoke about the tree, I was thinking, “and you do know that we have mapped all of the existing class trees on the Clarke Historical Library’s website – right?” As if on cue, the provost shared with the graduates that if they would like to see where the other class trees are planted, they should visit the Clarke’s website.



Sometimes things do work out!

A project several years in the making, the ”Trees Planted in Honor of Graduating Classes” page of the Clarke website, traces the history of a tradition begun in 1994, when a Blue Spruce was planted in honor of the graduating class. A google map uses a gold pin to locate each tree and show a picture of it.  In addition, information is included about the tree species as well as a link to supply more information about that species of tree.

The map also includes information about a few trees that have been removed. And to the Class of 1997, really at the time a Mountain Ash seemed like such a good idea! Nobody had ever heard of an Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis). Native to Asia, the insect was first detected in Canton, Michigan in 2002. Since then, this invasive species has made Michigan the epicenter of the borer infestation, devastating the state’s Ash tree population.

To view the map with a chronological listing of the trees, visit this link.

To each graduating class, we’ll think of you whenever summer heats envelopes the campus. Thanks for the shade!

Congratulations to Autumn Pinkley and Lilah Haines, Clarke Student Employees!

The Clarke Historical Library would like to congratulate two of our student employees. Autumn Pinkley and Lilah Haines have been awarded scholarships from the University Libraries’ Scholarship Committee. The two awardees submitted essays as part of the scholarship process.

The University Libraries has two scholarship opportunities for library student employees. The Library Student Employee Scholarship was established in 2010 and the Helen Holz Rooney Endowed Award began in 2013. Both scholarships were established to support academic expenses of exemplary CMU Libraries’ student employees. The Clarke Staff is very proud of Autumn and Lilah for receiving these well-deserved awards. We think they are definitely exemplary!

If you would like to know more about how you can help with gift giving to Central Michigan University, please visit the following website click here.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Congratulations to Marian Matyn


By Frank Boles
 
Governor Rick Snyder has appointed the Clarke Historical Library’s archivist, Associate Professor Marian Matyn, along with one other person, to the State Historical Records Advisory Board.
 
“I thank these individuals for working to preserve Michigan’s great history for future generations,” Snyder said.
 
Housed within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the seven-member board serves as a central advisory body for historical records planning and for National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) funded projects in the state. The board acts as a coordinating body to facilitate cooperation and communication among historical records repositories and information agencies within the state, and as a state-level review body for grant proposals that meet National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant program guidelines.
 
Among its initiatives is the Board’s "Save Michigan History" campaign. The campaign offers financial assistance to groups within local communities to preserve and make available to the public historical records.  In 2017 awards were made to:
 
        City of Dexter
        Saugatuck-Douglas History Center
        Lathrup Village Historical Society
 
NHPRC is a component part of the National Archives. The National Archives is responsible for maintaining the historical records of the federal government. Through the NHPRC program it also reaches out to assist state and local agencies to preserve historical records relevant to their areas of interest.
 
The Library’s Board of Governors and staff congratulates Marian on this important appointment and distinct honor.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Abraham Lincoln and His Generals

 By Frank Boles

Through the generosity of former CMU Trustee John Kulhavi, the Clarke Historical Library has been given nine framed collages featuring the autographs of Abraham Lincoln, as well as many of the generals who led the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.


Among the most interesting is the panel including the signature of Abraham Lincoln, and which tells the story of Edward G. Beckwith.

Born in 1818, Beckwith graduated from West Point in 1842 and was a career Army officer.

He was promoted First Lieutenant June 18, 1846, and took an active part in the Mexican–American War. However, Beckwith is most often remembered as the man responsible for the Pacific Railroad Survey, which he commanded from 1853 to 1857. The First Transcontinental Railroad followed his recommended route.

During the Civil War Beckwith served in the Commissary Department. The Office of the Commissary was responsible for purchasing and issuing food for the Army. During the Civil War, the Office was also responsible for feeding escaped slaves, prisoners of war, political prisoners, and for caring and compensating Union families in areas invaded by the Confederacy.

Included in the panel are the documents signed by both Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton promoting Beckwith to major, as well as a second document issued shortly after the war’s end, making him a brevet brigadier-general. Brevet promotions gave a commissioned officer a higher ranking title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct but without conferring the authority or pay of an officer who held the title by regular promotion.

As John E. Smith wrote in, Our County and It's People: A Descriptive and Biographical Record of Madison County, New York, published in 1890, “After the close of the war he [Beckwith] was brought to Washington to settle the claims held against the Commissary Department throughout the country. His record of fidelity and ability in the accomplishment of this arduous task is too well known to need comment.”

In addition to the signatures of Lincoln and Stanton promoting Beckwith, there are several other important signatures, including U.S. Grant, Brinton McClellan, William Tecumseh Sherman, Joseph Hooker, Henry Slocum, and John Adams Dix. Each man had a career worth remembering, and many clashed with each other over how best to pursue the war.

In 1861 no one would have expected that at the end of the war Ulysses S. Grant would be the nation’s most acclaimed general. Grant began his military career as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at in 1839. He was forced to retire from the service in 1854, accused of chronic drunkenness. In April 1861, Grant was working as a clerk in his father's leather goods store.

When the war began he was denied an assignment in the regular Army, but soon was in command of an Illinois Volunteer Infantry regiment. Promoted because he had both an ability to win and the willingness to candidly acknowledge when he failed, Grant saw his principle objective as destroying the Confederate armies. Grant doggedly engaged the Confederates, inflicting unsustainable casualties on their army. At war’s end, Grant’s forces captured the Confederate capital of Richmond and forced the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

The book-end to Grant’s autograph is that of Major General Brinton McClellan, who became commander–in-chief of the Union Army in November 1861. The “Young Napoleon” was very popular with the men who served under him, but as a commander proved consistently timid and was sometimes outmaneuvered by his Confederate opponent. After several defeats Lincoln relieved him of command of both the Union Army and the Army of the Potomac. Although temporarily reappointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, in November 1862 McClellan was relieved of all command responsibilities and sent to Trenton, New Jersey to await orders. Those orders were never issued. In 1864 McClellan ran against Lincoln for president as a Democrat, running on an anti-war platform calling for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy.

William Tecumseh Sherman was another West Point educated soldier. He was less serious than many of his peers in the Academy. Fellow cadet William Rosecrans would later remember Sherman as "one of the brightest and most popular fellows, who was always prepared for a lark of any kind." Those in charge of the Academy found his larks less amusing than did his classmates. Sherman himself noted that “My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty,”

Sherman resigned from the military in 1853 to pursue a business career. When war broke out he was summoned to Washington, and recommissioned a colonel. Although successful, the strain of command caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown. He himself would write that in the waning months of 1861 the concerns of command “broke me down” and he contemplated suicide. A newspaper described him as “crazy.” By December 1861, however, he was again in active service, although in rear-echelon positions.

On March 1, 1862 Sherman reported to U.S. Grant, under whom he had long hoped to serve. The Battle of Shiloh changed his career. As Sherman wrote to Grant, "Before the battle of Shiloh, I was cast down by a mere newspaper assertion of 'crazy', but that single battle gave me new life, and I'm now in high feather." Shiloh also led to one of the war’s most quoted exchanges. The first day of the battle had gone very badly for Grant and the Union army, with only Sherman’s fighting retreat saving the Union from a complete defeat. At day’s end, finding Grant smoking a cigar under a tree, Sherman said simply: "Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" After a puff of his cigar, Grant replied calmly: "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though."

And they did.

With Grant’s confidence and friendship, Sherman went on to become one of the most successful of Union generals. When Grant assumed overall command of Union troops, Sherman took Grant’s old command of the Western theatre. In a prophetic letter to Grant he wrote, "if you can whip Lee and I can march to the Atlantic I think ol' Uncle Abe will give us twenty days leave to see the young folks."

Both men did exactly that, and won the war.

Joseph Hooker, like Grant and Sherman graduated from West Point but resigned his commission in 1853 to pursue private interests. Considered a highly competent officer, when the war broke out he was quickly commissioned as a brigadier general. Hooker’s career during the war had both significant successes and major failures. He would be chosen by Lincoln to command the Army of the Potomac but lose that command after being defeated in May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville, losing to a Confederate force half the size of the one that he commanded. He was re-assigned to serve under Sherman, with whom he was constantly at odds. Eventually, when Sherman passed him over for promotion, Hooker asked to be relieved of duty. In September 1864 he was given a rear echelon assignment.

The West Point-educated Henry Slocum was severely wounded in the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). He recovered in time to lead Union troops in 1862’s Peninsula Campaign and earn a promotion to major general that July. During the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was temporarily the senior Union officer present, Slocum was criticized for his hesitation to order troops into action on the first day of fighting. More recent scholarship, however, suggests such criticism was misplaced.

Regardless of the justness of the criticism, after Gettysburg Slocum was reassigned to the war’s western theater, under the command of Joseph Hooker. Slocum deeply distrusted Hooker’s judgment and resigned his commission rather than serve under him. To keep Slocum in the Army, Abraham Lincoln personally arranged a peculiar command structure that, although Slocum would be in the general area commanded by Hooker, Slocum and his troops would act independently rather than serve under Hooker’s orders. Slocum later served successfully under General William T. Sherman, in the Atlanta campaign and his famous “March to the Sea”.

J.A. Dix was Secretary of the Treasury who order revenue agents in New Orleans: "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot." Although considered too old for a field command, Dix was appointed a major-general of volunteers at the outbreak of the war. In this capacity, he was notable for ordering the arrest of several pro-Southern Maryland legislators, thus preventing the legislature from meeting and the state from seceding.

The signatures recall many stories of those who served during the Civil War. They will be on display in the library’s reading room through the summer.