Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Wooden Educational Toys

By Marian Matyn
The collection of wooden educational toys.

In late August 2018 Intern Tyjuan Swain (the archive's first CMU football player and intern) and I (Archivist Marian Matyn) were very excited when we discovered original drawings and class notes by Eva M Langworthy Dutcher of her 1921 CMU Manual Arts class. This finally allowed us to link the wooden "educational toys" in the collection to her life and papers. 

Student teachers at CMU in 1951 were physically learning in Manual Arts class how to make various toys from paper designs, wood and cardboard, how to sew, how to create braided objects, and other very crafty, very creative projects. These skills allowed them to use basic materials effectively and inexpensively to create learning experiences for their students, and create educational toys to illustrate movement, color, coordination, geometry, physics, how to make furniture, and to encourage various types of play.

Eva graduated in 1921, got married and took a 20 year break from teaching while she raised her family. She finally returned to complete her CMU teaching degree in 1951. She taught in Remus, MI. Her papers were processed by Tyjuan during his Cultural Resources Management internship and cataloged by Marian. The toys were transferred to the CMU Museum where the curatorial students there will house and care for them according to museum standards.

Dutcher's drawing of fish and cat's cradle circle.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Central Normal Bulletin Now Online

by Clarrissa Klein

At Central Michigan University, the document known as the “Bulletin” brings to mind a course catalog with descriptions of academic programs on offer. But from 1905 to 1919, there was another “Bulletin” – the Central Normal Bulletin. The Central Normal Bulletin was the earliest school newspaper and it contains a lot of CMU history. Once a month, the Bulletin was published and it updated the campus and alumni about news from campus, news from alumni, and short essays by Central faculty about a wide variety of subjects. Now, we have added this great asset to our CMU History document repository, part of the CMU Digital Collections.

The project to put the Central Normal Bulletin online required a great deal of scanning and even involved taking photographs of pages that were too hard to scan because the 100+ year old bindings were too delicate. With the work of other students in the Clarke and our colleagues in New Zealand, who host our document repository, we were able to produce high-quality images of the Central Normal Bulletins and upload the files to the CMU history website. Now, over 5,000 pages of CMU history that were only available to those who visited the Clarke Historical Library in person, are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

The Bulletins are a good source of information about past students and staff members, and many Bulletins have fun stories about CMU. One story that I personally love and find to be outrageous comes from November 1912. In October that year, Central lost a football game by a score of 0-106 to Alma! The story puts the loss in the best light possible, pointing out that Alma had practiced three weeks more than Central and the Alma team “outweighed us fifteen pounds to a man.” Also, Alma had an fantastic season, already beating Olivet 58-0 and Kalamazoo 54-0 before the Central game. Because of this loss and other reasons, for the next three years there was no football team-- only soccer.

Another fascinating story comes from July 1907. During the commencement program for the 1907 class, seventeen girls in white dresses performed a beautiful dance to add to the ceremony. They captured the audience by using colored lights and “charming steps of dance.” According to the Bulletin, it was a highlight for the ceremony. Professor Maybee’s choir might have been a highlight as well, but the article simply reads, “[his] success in getting music out of his choir is too well known to Central Normalites to need comment.” These mentions are found in the four-and-a-half-page article recounting the commencement events in detail. The news about commencement today is nothing like this.

These stories are just the start of the vast amounts of information found in the pages of the Central Normal Bulletin. We invite you to step back over 100 years in Central’s history and find your favorite – it can all be accessed via this link.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

175th Anniversary of a Christmas Classic

By Brian Whitledge

On December 19, 1843, the arguably most-beloved of Christmas stories was first offered to the public. Despite disputes and differences of opinion about the publication of the book, Charles Dickens and his publisher worked up until the very end to ensure that A Christmas Carol would be on the shelves ahead of the Christmas holiday. Dickens’ insistence on the highest-quality product possible created a great deal of work for the publishers. But most agree that all of the work to bring the novel to market prior to Christmas was a great idea - the entire run of 6,000 copies sold out on the first day! Before the end of that year – less than two weeks – Chapman and Hall, the publisher, produced a second and third edition of the text.

From the start, the book was a critical and popular success. In the United States, the story became Dickens’ most popular, with over two million volumes sold in the one hundred years following the initial release. Countless adaptations for radio, stage, television, and cinema have been produced. And our language has been forever changed – Bah! Humbug is a curmudgeonly way of dismissing anything, nobody ever wants to be called a scrooge, and merry is the preferred adjective for a Christmas greeting.

At the Clarke, you can find various editions of A Christmas Carol spanning 163 years -- from an 1843 first edition to a 2006 edition illustrated by award-winning Irish artist P.J. Lynch (pictured at right). Lynch is not the only award-winning artist to have added his or her graphical interpretation to the story. Lisbeth Zwerger and Roberto Innocenti (pictured at bottom), who have been awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award from the International Board on Book for Young People, have illustrated editions of A Christmas Carol. The beautifully-illustrated British and American editions of famed artist Arthur Rackham are among the most attractive copies of the book that one can find. And there are pop-up versions of the story from the late-twentieth century among the 39 different editions of Dickens’ classic yuletide story in the Clarke's holdings (pictured at bottom).

A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Arthur Rackham

The first edition, one of the 6,000 copies released 175 years ago, is a special item found in the Clarke. The only book for which Dickens sprung for color illustrations, the famous red and blue title page and frontispiece of Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball are a delightful touch for a book published in 1843 (pictured at top). It is a wonder to think that this little book was part of a frenzy in England matching that of a new smartphone release in San Francisco today. One presumes that this book was a coveted acquisition when it was purchased on December 19, 1843. All these years later, anyone can have the same experience of opening the pages of this treasured story and reflecting on Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from a scrooge to a wisher of Merry Christmases.

"Marley's Ghost" from the 1843 first edition
A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

Pop-up editions of A Christmas Carol

Friday, December 14, 2018

Copies of Largely Unknown Annuity Rolls Donated to the Clarke Historical Library

By John Fierst

For years annuity rolls filed in the records of the General Accounting Office (Record Group 217 in the National Archives) were largely unknown to researchers. Entry 525, “Settled Indian Accounts and Claims, 1794-1894,” in this record group contains many rolls relevant to numerous tribes in Michigan and Wisconsin. This was brought to our attention by researcher and compiler, G. Russell Overton, who recently provided the Clarke Historical Library with PDF copies of these important files.

Each item in the collection pertains to a particular annuity paid, under a specific treaty, to a single band or group of regional bands. Each item lists names of recipients who received payments. The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, the Grand River and Little River Ottawas, the Grand and Little Traverse bands, the Sault Ste. Marie Band, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and many others—all are included in the collection.

Overton has carefully identified each document. The first page of each document is a title page containing a complete citation in conformity with the Chicago Manual of Style. Overton’s intention is “to provide scholars the information they need to cite these documents correctly and fully.”

“Sometimes annuity payments were late,” writes Overton. “Indian agencies in the mid nineteenth century were always overworked and understaffed, and an agent spent much of his time traveling throughout his territory making annuity payments. Because of challenging geography, difficult traveling conditions, and short summer months, the Michigan agents usually paid the Upper Peninsula tribes during the summer months and paid the Lower Peninsula tribes in the fall and early winter. The most southerly tribes often had to wait until January to receive their annuities. In an attempt to clarify how these late payments were made, I have entitled them by the fiscal year they represent.” Pulling these little appreciated documents off the shelves of the National Archives, making us aware of their importance, and then making them easily accessible, Overton has advanced our knowledge of tribal history in a small but significant way. A user’s copy of the Record Group 217 annuities can be consulted in the Clarke Historical Library reading room.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Grace Lin

By Frank Boles

On November 27, children’s author Grace Lin spoke to a large audience in the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium in the Park Library. Grace Lin is a nationally recognized author and illustrator, but her topic for the evening was not exactly what you would expect an author with her reputation to discuss. She discussed how she grew up wanting to be white, like her classmates, and eventually embraced her Asian heritage.

Grace Lin was born in upstate New York, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She and her two sisters were the only Asian children in their K-12 school classes. Grace desperately wanted to fit in, but slowly realized she was “different.” What finally made her realize this was her experience after the class decided to put on the play, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Grace, like a number of other girls, very much wanted to play Dorothy. They would gather daily on the playground to practice singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a successful rendition of which was seen as a sure ticket to being cast in the role. On the day of the play audition, Grace asked a friend if she thought Grace had a chance at the role. The friend responded, directly and with devastating simplicity, “of course not – Dorothy isn’t Chinese.”

Grace decided she wouldn’t be Chinese either. She refused to learn the language. She refused to participate in “Chinese” customs at home. At college at the Rhode Island School of Design she studied western art, and eventually studied art in Italy. Sitting in a cafĂ© one day in Rome, an Italian acquaintance asked, “so you’re Chinese, right.” Grace quickly set the man straight – she was American. When her companion looked puzzled, she went on to explain that her parents were Chinese. This led to another puzzled look, and to a question Grace had no answer to, “so okay, they're Chinese but why did they immigrate to the U.S., and how did that change you?”

That question led Grace to discover a new sense of self. She could draw beautiful depictions of European art, but as she noted ruefully on the auditorium stage, “let’s be honest – look at my package.” She began to study Asian art and also began to think about a career as an illustrator.

Like most struggling young children’s illustrators the road to her first book was torturous, but eventually she published The Ugly Vegetables, based on her own experiences with her mother. Unlike her upstate New York neighbors, who grew flowers around their homes, Grace Lin’s mother grew nothing but vegetables, Chinese vegetables.

The book was a reasonable success, and her publisher asked if she had an idea for a second publication. She most certainly did – a book about how her sisters learned about science, with sidebars that clearly explained the piece of science the girls were struggling to master. The publishers had several suggestions, the most important being that books about science that featured girls didn’t sell well – she should make the lead character a boy; a Caucasian boy. Lin didn’t mind too much the advice about what sold and what didn’t, which is certainly something a publisher would know – but why a white boy?

The publisher was as brutally honest as Grace’s grade school friend. “Your first book was ‘multi-cultural.’ That’s fine, but if your second book is also classified as multi-cultural you will be pigeonholed as ‘merely’ a multi-cultural author.”

As it turned out, another, much larger publisher approached Lin about a book before she really began working on the science publication. Dim Sum for Everyone sold well, and true to her first publisher’s advice, “classified” Lin as a multi-cultural author.

Lin admittedly candidly that this classification caused a crisis in her own work. Was she a children’s author and illustrator, or an illustrator and author who worked with Chinese themes? Was she valued for her work, or for her ethnicity? For a period of time, she refused to do another “Chinese” book, instead publishing volumes using animal characters. What she found, however, is that when she went on book tours, what parents and children showed up with to have signed was not her animal books, but her multi-cultural publications.

Perhaps the turning point was a signing at which she was approached by an Asian-American couple who asked for her autograph and tearfully thanked her for writing books in which their children could see themselves and their lives. The children in Lin’s books looked like them. That moment brought back to Lin her K-12 experience; that Dorothy couldn’t be Chinese, and by implication Lin wasn’t like the other girls and had nothing to offer them.

Lin realized her unique contribution to children’s literature was not drawing animals, but embracing her ethnicity, and through that embrace, allowing children growing up as she did to understand that they too were not only part of the American experience, but had their own enviable characters who looked just like them that other children would want to be.

In her award winning, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Lin tells the story of ten-year old Minli, who saves her village with the help of a dragon she befriends. What ten-year old wouldn’t want to save their village with the help of a Chinese dragon? And any well-read ten-year old knows that while Dorothy has a lot going for her, what with being acquainted with a wizard, and a scarecrow, and a tin man, and a lion, there aren’t any dragons to befriend in either Kansas or Oz. For that story to be told, the school play needs to be set in China, and the lead character becomes Minli.

It was an evening of true learning for many of those in the audience, who saw the world through a very different lens.