Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays

On December 21 at 5:00 pm the Clarke Library will close for the holidays.  We will re-open our doors on January 2 at 8:00 a.m. The Library’s staff and Board of Governors wish each of you a happy holiday season and a prosperous and peaceful new year.

Monday, December 17, 2012


by Frank Boles

During his years as director of the Clarke Library (1961-1982) John Cumming developed a superb collection of pre-1850 Michigan imprints. When we receive sales catalogs today, I am often tempted to not even check any Michigan book printed before 1850 – they are almost always already in the collection. But check we do, and once in a great while we find something that eluded John and his contemporaries.

So it was a few weeks ago when a dealer catalog arrived offering the Acts Passed at the Extra and Second Session of the Sixth Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan, published in Detroit by S. M’Night in 1835. The session was a particularly momentous one. On January 26, 1835 the Territorial Legislature passed “An Act to enable the people of Michigan to form a Constitution and State Government.” Laws leading up to statehood appeared at several points in the session.

However, questions more mundane than statehood also occupied the minds of the Territory’s political leaders. For example, on March 30, 1835 the Legislature passed “An Act to regulate the Weight of Hay.” As of “the first day of April next” …. “a ton of hay shall be two thousand pounds avoirdupois weight, any law or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.” Sometimes political leadership takes a back seat to making sure everybody understands just how much hay is really in a ton of the stuff.

Back in John Cumming’s day finding a pre-1850 Michigan imprint was greeted with a “huzzah.” We don’t say that old-fashioned word very often these days, but to celebrate both our recent acquisition, and all of John’s hard work, please join me in a hearty “HUZZAH!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Purple: organized crime in a small town Film Showing

On Tuesday, November 27, the Clarke Historical Library will be co-sponsoring the Mount Pleasant premier of Purple: organized crime in a small town. Filmed in Clare and produced by CMU Broadcast and Cinematic Arts faculty member Ben Tigner, Purple chronicles the Purple Gang, an organized crime syndicate that operated in central Michigan during the 1920s and ‘30s. The film will be shown at 7:30 pm in the Plachta Auditorium located on the campus of Central Michigan University. Admission is free and open to the public, but you are asked to RSVP via this website or by calling 989-774-331.

Due to the film showing and the preparations involved in this, the Clarke Historical Library will be closing at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, November 27. We apologize for any inconvenience that this presents.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Sinking of the Christmas Tree Ship

[editors note: The Clarke Historical Library staff would like to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. Because of the holiday, we will be closed Thursday, November 22 through Sunday, November 25. We will open with our regular hours on Monday, November 26. 

And don't forget, Tuesday, November 27 is the Mount Pleasant Premier of Purple: Organized crime in a small town. The film will be shown at 7:30 pm in Plachta Auditorium. Visit this site for more information.]

From R. M. Pennington's The Christmas Tree Ship : the story of Captain Santa
The Sinking of the Christmas Tree Ship

by Lindsay Gabriel and Bryan Whitledge

Today, November 21, marks the 100th anniversary of the final departure of the Rouse Simmons, also known as the "Christmas Tree Ship." The Rouse Simmons was a Lake Michigan vessel that was most noted for being loaded with freshly cut Christmas trees to be delivered to the city of Chicago in November and December each year. At the time of her maiden voyage on September 4, 1886, her original purpose was not to haul Christmas trees, but to be used as a lumber boat traveling between Manistee, Michigan and Chicago. In the 1890s, the Rouse Simmons began an annual journey from Michigan laden with Christmas trees for the Chicago market. As the years passed, the schooner was re-purposed to transport iron and copper ores, lumber, piling, and rough stock of all descriptions, but the annual voyage with Christmas trees was always part of her program. The Captain of “Chicago’s Christmas Tree Ship” was Herman Schuenemann. For his part in transporting the cargo, Schuenemann was known as Captain Santa.
Grand Rapids Evening Press,
Dec. 4, 1912, p. 1, col. 4

On the 21st of November of 1912, the Rouse Simmons left Thompson, Michigan, near Manistee on its final voyage. A particularly violent storm had blown across Lake Michigan during the trip. On November 23, the Rouse Simmons was last seen flying a distress signal near Twin River Point and Kewaunee, Wisconsin -- an area “long [...] considered one of the most dangerous portions of the Lake.” During the first week of December, 1912 news reports found in several Michigan newspapers noted that the ship had gone missing and that the haul of the ship - Christmas trees - had been washing up on shore in Kewaunee, Two Rivers, and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and Pentwater, Michigan. The Rouse Simmons, along with Captain Schuenemann and the fifteen members of the crew, went down, most likely on November 23, 1912.

The story of the fateful journey of the "Christmas Tree Ship" is documented in the newspaper and book collections of the Clarke Historical Library, particularly The historic Christmas tree ship and The Christmas Tree Ship: the story of Captain Santa, both by Rochelle Pennington. Discover Michigan's maritime past at the Clarke Historical Library.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lecture and Book Signing at Ziibiwing Center

This Saturday, November 17 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Raph Naveaux will speak about Michigan and the War of 1812. The event takes place at the Ziibiwing Center for Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways, located at 6650 E. Broadway in Mount Pleasant.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Association for Documentary Editing Call for Papers

This year, the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) is holding its 35th Annual Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 11-13, 2013. For those interested, the Program Committee welcomes submissions for presentations or posters on all aspects of documentary editing and textual scholarship, including but not limited to editorial practice, theory, varieties of texts, collaboration, uses of edited documents in K-12 curricula, and publication. To propose a paper or poster, send an abstract of no more than 250 words to the chair of the Program Committee at no later than February 1, 2013. Please include a brief c.v. or biographical note and your address, email, and phone number.

Through its annual meeting, the ADE promotes cooperative networking and the exchange of ideas among editors who employ critical thinking and technical skills to present original texts to diverse audiences in a variety of formats. In addition to the Annual Meeting, there will be workshops and training from July 7-11, including the Institute for Editing Historical Documents, otherwise known as "Camp Edit."

For more information, please visit the ADE Annual Meeting website.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bringing Election History to the Clarke (With A Little Help from Our New Best Friends)

by Frank Boles

With Tuesday, November 6 being election day (remember to get out and vote!), we thought that this would be a great time to focus our exhibit on U.S. presidential campaigns. Exhibits often need a visually appealing item to help bring people in the door. For our current exhibit, we found what we thought would be just the thing, an old-fashioned mechanical voting machine. First introduced in the 1890s and still being used in a few places as late as the 1990s, these metal monsters were an amalgam of gears and counters that weighs around 500 pounds. For the better part of a century, mechanical devices like this one were how many Americans registered their vote.

The Michigan Historical Center, which included one of these machines among its collection of artifacts, was happy to loan it to us for display, provided we came down to Lansing and picked it up. Given the size of this machine, this wasn’t going to be a typical field trip. In mid-September, Janet Danek, the Libraries’ coordinator of exhibits, and I got into a rented truck and started south. With the help of several staff from the Center we managed to roll the machine, which was mounted on four large metal casters, out of the large state warehouse where it is stored into the truck and tied it down with rope.

The "guts" of the automatic voting machine
As we drove away from the loading dock, things were looking good, until the first stop sign. A bumping, grinding sound made it clear the machine had begun to roll around. The noise got worse with every start and stop. A few blocks later we pulled over to see what was happening and discovered the ropes we had brought simply weren’t holding the machine in place. A few more miles and the machine was either going to roll into the cab of the truck or through the truck’s back door. Either way, we guessed the folks back at the Historical Center wouldn’t be too happy with us.

As I struggled with the ropes in a vain effort to make them work Janet, a wiser person than I, walked into a local business – a recycling center. Having been to more than one such facility in my day, we used to call them by the somewhat less elegant name of “scrap yard,” I was doubtful that she was likely to find anyone much interested in our problem. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Friedland Industries has been in Lansing for more than a century. Founded by a Latvian immigrant, the public-spirited firm has a long history of recycling, civic involvement, and a deep love of history. Mike Bass, great-grandson of the founder, came out and looked over our situation. We needed tie downs, and after telling Janet where to buy them he decided maybe he should go over and help her pick them out.

When Mike and Janet came back, Mike sized up the situation pretty quickly and said, “Hey, let me help you get those on right!” Half an hour later, after having come inside to look at wonderful historic photos of the company that Mike had, we were on our way. And Mike was our new BFF!

If you have some time, drop by the Clarke exhibits galleries to see the engine of democracy that nearly decimated a rental truck on the short trip between Lansing and Mount Pleasant (no need to mention that decimating thing to the Mt. Pleasant Rental Center – this is all between friends, right?), as well as viewing a promotional film made during the 1950s by the machine’s manufacturer.

And if you happen to have some scrap you need to dispose of, you might consider Friedland Industries at 405 E. Maple St. in Lansing (telephone 517.482.3000 or visit their website, Ask for Mike and tell him Frank and Janet sent you! We’re in his debt for a big favor! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Homecoming Memories

by Frank Boles

Saturday, between the parade and the football game, Megan Moreno, the Libraries Director of Development and Outreach, and I sat in the hallway of the Park Library Building collecting memories of alumni on campus celebrating Homecoming. The memories were many, and often meaningful. It’s hard to match “met my husband” for world-changing significance, but best friends, the Medallion hunt, the marching band, and mud sliding during a thunderstorm (apparently on cafeteria trays) all received an honorable mention.

However, the most unexpected story of the day came from a couple who as students had worked at the Biological Station on Beaver Island. I expected a story about the idyllic island life but what they shared was a seagoing tale about 8-10 foot waves and a boatload of very seasick students, most of who arrived on the island minus their breakfast, but not in the mood for lunch. You never know what the next story will be.

If you have stories or photographs to share from your days as a student at CMU, we’d love to hear from you.Send us an e-mail at or visit the CMU Libraries' facebook page.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Betsy Hearne Presentation on October 10

by Frank Boles

Professor Elizabeth “Betsy” Hearne spoke at the Library on October 10 presenting a speech entitled, “Fooling Around With Stories: Children’s Books, Oral Lore, and the Playful Imagination.” It was indeed a wonderful evening of fooling around with the auditorium filled with listeners enthralled by Professor Hearn’s mix of entertaining storytelling, deep insight into children’s books, and profound sense of fun.

For one student in particular, it was also a wonderful learning moment. As part of her presentation, Professor Hearne talked about the large number of children’s stories that include an element of risk. Whether chased by witches or wolves, abused by evil step-mothers or abandoned by overburdened caretakers, terrible things often happen to children in stories. These terrible occurrences, however, are important in that the stories give children a safe place to work through their own fears. Learning how to deal with fears and difficult situations is part of a child’s “work,” and stories with simply awful occurrences in them help children undertake that process in a way that might be impossible in the real world.

At the reception following the presentation, Professor Hearne was engaged in discussion by a graduate student from Indonesia. The discussion was long and intense. Driving Professor Hearne back to her hotel, I asked about it. The lecture had given a student a new way to understand the importance of children’s stories. Children’s tales in Indonesia rarely include the kind of gruesome occurrences routinely found in Western stories. Indonesian stories, reported the graduate student, are happy tales intended to make children feel safe, not to cause them potential worry. Professor Hearne’s presentation opened to this student an entirely new way of thinking about children’s stories; something the student enthusiastically looked forward to taking back with her to Indonesia after completing her studies in the United States.

Part of the Library’s mission is to enlighten and inform. Based on the conservation between Professor Hearne and the graduate student, I think we did our job particularly well on the 10th. I am deeply grateful to Eunice Burgess, who made this presentation possible through a generous gift that created the David M. and Eunice Sutherland Burgess endowment. Funds from this endowment made it possible to bring Professor Hearne to campus, and resulted in a marvelous learning experience for a student – the magic the Library exists to make possible.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Special Olympics Michigan and CMU

[editor’s note: This evening, University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Elizabeth “Betsy” Hearne will be presenting "Children's Books, Oral Lore, and the Playful Imagination.” This is the inaugural David M. and Eunice Sutherland Burgess lecture. The program begins at 7:00 pm in the Park Library Auditorium with a reception in the Clarke to follow. Please see this link for more information about the Clarke Historical Library Speaker Series.] 

Special Olympics Michigan and CMU

by Lindsay Gabriel and Bryan Whitledge

This month is the 40th anniversary of Special Olympics Michigan having its headquarters on the Central campus. In addition, October is Disability Awareness Month and this is the perfect time to reflect on the four-decades-long relationship between Special Olympics and the University.

After a long personal history of advocacy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968. Since then, Special Olympics has blossomed and today there are more than 3.7 million athletes from over 170 countries around the World. In Michigan, CMU was selected in October of 1972 to become the home of Special Olympics Michigan, the state-specific Special Olympics program. The CMU community immediately embraced the opportunities presented by having Special Olympics as a member of the community. For the first State Games held at CMU in June of 1973, 1,600 athletes participated and more than 200 individuals volunteered, many of them CMU students.

Soon after this inaugural statewide effort, CMU was invited to enter a bid for hosting the world games – the only university invited to do so for these games. Shortly after the 1974 state games in June, which saw even more participation and a greater volunteer effort, CMU was named as the site of the 1975 International Special Olympics (the three previous sites were Chicago, 1968, 1970; and Los Angeles, 1972).

Ever since the first competition in 1973, thousands of Michigan athletes with disabilities make their way to Mount Pleasant every year to participate in the Special Olympic State Games. Many of the documents about Special Olympics and CMU are part of the archives maintained by the Clarke Historical Library. Newspapers, administrative reports, photographs, correspondence, and memoranda relating to the founding of Special Olympics Michigan, the landmark Fourth International Special Olympics Summer Games, and the ongoing activities of Special Olympics Michigan can all be found in the Clarke. The Clarke Historical Library takes great pleasure in sharing with you the rich history of disability awareness at CMU.

If you are interested in this history, the Clarke Historical Library will be one of many organizations participating in the disABILTY Awareness Expo. The event will be held in the Education and Human Services Buildings this Saturday (October 13) from 10 am to 2 pm. Throughout the month of October, CMU has many events planned. A full list of events is available here via this link (this link is for a PDF).

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spanning the Great Lakes

by Bryan Whitledge

Up until the 20th Century, the primary way to traverse the major water crossings in Michigan –the Detroit River, the St. Clair River, the Mackinac Straits, and the St. Marys River – was via water-faring vessels, particularly ferries. The technological advances of the 19th Century associated with the Industrial Revolution brought about the possibility to cross these waterways via bridges and tunnels. The opening of the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario in 1910, followed by the Ambassador Bridge in 1929, made getting across the water a simpler and cheaper endeavor than before.

But creating spans across great water in Michigan has not come without controversy. As far back as the 1870s there was talk of either digging a tunnel or erecting a double draw bridge from Detroit to Windsor. In an April 1874 document, Bridge or No Bridge: Address to Citizens at the Meeting called by the Committee appointed by the Board of Trade, proponents of the bridge cited the need for an expedited crossing mechanism to aid the railroad industry and establish Detroit as a hub of rail travel rather than a spur. These proponents noted that plans for a tunnel had been drafted and a small pilot tunnel had been started, but it failed and the high cost made it impractical until better technology would come along.

According to this document, those against the crossing were afraid that such a structure would disrupt vessel traffic on the Detroit River. The anti-bridge group also felt that the effectiveness of the ferry system was good enough to preclude the construction of a bridge at Detroit. No bridge was built in 1874, but the rise of automobile traffic and the desire for an expedited crossing led to the construction of a span that opened in 1929.

Another controversial span was the Mackinac Bridge. Today, the Mighty Mac is a distinctive symbol of Michigan, however, there were some Michiganders vehemently opposed to it in the early days. As told by Lawrence Rubin in Bridging the Straits, erecting a bridge at the Straits had been a dream since the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 19th Century. In the 1950s, when technology and perceived needs caught up to the dream, the idea of the Mackinac Bridge came to fruition. The major controversy surrounding the Bridge was funding. The State Treasurer, D. Hale Brake, was not as enthusiastic about the Bridge as others and he certainly did not want to see it be a “financial burden to the people of Michigan.” He and some of his colleagues from the legislature worked to introduce legislation making the sale of bonds to finance the span difficult. In fact, State Senator Haskell Nichols petitioned the state Supreme Court regarding the legality of the bond and even demanded a referendum be given to the people of Michigan regarding the Bridge. The efforts to block the Mackinac Bridge in the Winter of 1953-54 ultimately failed and the link between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas was open for traffic in 1957.

Today, we take for granted the ease of travel to and from our peninsulas. But these spans have not come easy. The materials documenting the history of these controversial projects as well as materials that document a variety of public works projects across the State of  Michigan can be found at the Clarke Historical Library.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banned Books Week and the Clarke

by Marian Matyn and the Clarke Staff

Next week, September 30th – October 6th, the American Library Association (ALA), along with several other institutions and organizations, will be celebrating Banned Books Week. The ALA regularly creates lists of the most challenged and banned books across the United States. Thanks to the ALA, every year we have the opportunity to celebrate the books that have been challenged and our freedom to read these books if we choose as well as the freedom of libraries to keep these books in their holdings.

The ALA has put together a website for Banned Books Week that you can access via this link. We are willing to bet that some of your favorites have been a part of a banned books list at one time or another. Use these links to access the list of challenged classics and the list of most challenged books for 2000-09. Check out how often certain books have been banned or challenged as being “acceptable” as well as just when it was in history that they were challenged.

At the Clarke, like at many libraries, we have several works that appear on the ALA list of most challenged and banned books. Some of these challenged and banned titles from the Clarke are special because they are first editions. Some of the first edition banned books we hold may include some of your all-time favorites, such as Flowers for Algernon, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Call of the Wild, and Bridge to Terabithia. The striking thing about our holdings of first edition banned and challenged books is that most of these items are from our children's collection.

We here at the Clarke Historical Library will be more than happy to share these titles with you and help you look into the past, when these books were banned, to better understand the spirit of the times and possibly why some of these books were challenged.

In a community-wide context, the Department of English Language and Literature at Central Michigan University, the Riecker Literary Series, Central Michigan University Libraries, and Veteran’s Memorial Library in Mount Pleasant will host a series of events all week including youth read outs, a panel discussion, and a film about banned books. Lean more about it on Facebook at Get involved in Banned Books Week and help promote reading, not banning more books.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Central's 120th Anniversary

by Bryan Whitledge

On September 13, Central Michigan University celebrated its 120th birthday. The Institution has come a long way since that first meeting of the students of the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute in the Carpenter Building (it would be another year before the Institution moved from Carpenter Building, which was located at the corners of Michigan and Main in the downtown Mount Pleasant area and was later destroyed by fire, to the area where the CMU campus is today).

The 120th anniversary of the opening CMNS & BI has been marked by the University community with various events. The "State of the University Address" by President George Ross was specifically selected to take pace on September 13 to mark the occasion. Prior to the start of the fall semester, the University Communications office began posting historic photos of CMU, broken down into decades on the CMU facebook page. The final posting with images from the 2000s coincided with the week of the anniversary. Several of the images from pre-1980 can be found in the holdings of the Clarke Historical Library. For example, here are some images from the 1920s on the CMU facebook page. To see all of the images, use the timeline feature on the right side of the facebook page to scroll back through the decades.

Celebrating milestones in the history of Central is nothing new. For over 70 years, beginning with Professor Roland Maybee's 50th anniversary research in the 1940s, we have reflected on where the University has come from and how this foundation will allow us to evolve in the future. The 2.5 cubic feet of research materials that Professor Maybee collected to create a 75th anniversary is maintained at the Clarke Historical Library for generations of future researchers to consult.

In the early 1990s, to mark the 100th anniversary of the University, the former director of the Clarke Historical Library, John Cumming published a history entitled, The First Hundred Years: a portrait of Central Michigan University, 1892-1992. This item is available to view in both the Park and Clarke Historical Libraries, and it is also available in a digital format on the Library's digitized documents website, CONDOR. Click here to view a digital copy of John Cumming's book.

A study of the history of our institution does not only give one a sense of the happenings in Mount Pleasant, but it relates to the larger world of higher education and changes in what it meant to be a young person attempting to get ahead in our society. In five years, Central will surely be recognizing the 125th anniversary of its founding and for those looking to study the history of Central Michigan University, there is no better resource than the Clarke Historical Library.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Great Lakes Week

by Bryan Whitledge

This week, several governmental and non-governmental organizations are participating in Great Lakes Week. When it comes to researching the Great Lakes, in terms of environmental factors, cultural impact, and history, Central Michigan University has a bevy of tremendous resources for researchers of all kinds. The Institute for Great Lakes Research at CMU is a regional hub for furthering the knowledge relating to the ecosystems of the Great Lakes area.

When it comes to the history of the Great Lakes, the Clarke Historical Library’s holdings cover the history of the 5 lakes and all of the surrounding areas from the first documents of European explorers to Michigan governmental documents about impact of various forms of fishing on the lakes. Some of the highlights of the Clarke collection are the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers’ Association Records, maritime records and charts from the days of fur trading up to the more recent car ferries, and hundreds of maps showing the Great Lakes from the 17th Century to recent shipwreck charts.

Another strength of the Clarke Collection is closely tied to this year’s Great Lakes Restoration Conference - documentation and scholarly analyses of the efforts by the State of Michigan, and other Great Lakes States, in the 20th Century to make the lakes more healthy after the disappearance of several native species and the increase in polluted waters. Since these efforts began, the health of the lakes has improved, in some part thanks to the introduction of several non-native fish to the lakes. One of the most well-known and successful of these introduced species was the coho salmon. The above image, from Salmon of the World, by E. Schwiebert shows this Pacific salmon, which was introduced into the Great Lakes in the 20th Century. The success of this fish, in terms of its ability to thrive in the lakes and as a draw for sport fishers, has made this non-native species a key player the Great Lakes ecosystems.

As we think about Great Lakes Week and what it means to restore the Great Lakes, it is valuable to remember that sometimes improving the overall health of the ecosystem has meant bringing something new to the table, such as non-native species. The Clarke Historical Library is your resource for the historical context that helps to understand what the Great Lakes have meant to centuries of people and what it means to protect this valuable resource.

Friday, September 7, 2012

French-Canadian Maps at the Clarke

by Bryan Whitledge

The recent legislative elections in Québec have made French-speaking Canada front page news this week. The history of French and francophone peoples in Canada stretches back centuries, since the first French explorers came to the Western Hemisphere in the 16th Century. Over these nearly 500 years, there has always been a large francophone presence in the North America, which at some points in history has included Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

As part of the Clarke Historical Library’s mission to collect and preserve materials documenting the history of Michigan, including territorial and pre-territorial periods, we have a large collection of documents that cover the history of French exploration and settlement in North America. These include bound volumes such as Pierre F. X. Charlevoix’s report of his voyage to New France in the early 18th Century and the Voyages of Jacques Cartier from the 16th Century. It also includes several maps that are part of our Jenks Collection. There are numerous 17th and 18th Century maps – in Latin, French, and English – that chart the evolution of the territory of New France, or Canada.

The particular map featured in this posting is an English language map from 1755, created by John Mitchell, an Englishman, showing how the land in North America had been divided in the middle of the 18th Century. In 1750, Mitchell was commissioned by the Board of Trade and Plantations to create a map of the British colonies in North America. Commonly referred to as a Mitchell Map, this map shows a great amount of detail of the known territory in North America at the time. In fact, this map was consulted to define the boundaries of the newly-formed United States at the Treaty of Paris in 1783, after the Revolution.

With regards to New France, or Canada, one can see that the territory includes much of the northern part of this map including most of the land north of the St. Lawrence River from present-day Newfoundland and New Brunswick in the east to Manitoba in the west and south to encompass the entirety of Michigan (click on the map for a larger image).

The political boundaries and arrangements that we know today in North America have a long history. This history, from the time of the first explorers to the 19th Century fur traders and Jesuit missionaries, is chronicled in the maps, documents, and scholarly analyses that are held at the Clarke Historical Library. For further information about the long history of the French in Michigan, visit our web-site and view the exhibit catalog (in PDF format) from a 2008 exhibition When France Claimed Michigan.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Once Every Four Years

by Frank Boles

Among its many holdings, the Clarke Library has an extensive collection of presidential campaign biographies. Originally founded by the graduating class of 1967, in practice the presidential campaign collection means that once every four years, we gather the serious, less than serious, and sometimes clearly outrageous publications that purport to share with voters the story of the nation’s presidential candidates.

The publication of presidential campaign biographies for this election cycle actually began in 2010 and 2011. Although their candidacies may have evaporated like dew on the morning grass, nevertheless the Clarke obtained copies of books authored by virtually all of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, (whose book was published a bit earlier than most and, in an odd twist of fate, is introduced by Newt Gingrich) are all found in our catalog.

During the fast moving primary season, authors had little time to focus on “opposition” books regarding Republican hopefuls. But as spring turned to summer and the campaign narrowed, authors began to take aim at the two remaining candidates. Republican authors attacked President Obama’s record with titles such as, The Case Against Barack Obama, Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream, and The Amateur. As is traditional when an incumbent president is seeking re-election, the challenger has faced fewer book length critiques, although some have been published, like The Romney Files.

But if Mitt Romney’s political record has not been scrutinized by authors as closely as that of the incumbent president, Romney’s Mormon faith has generated an interesting number of books which suggest a subtext to the election that has gone largely unreported. Books like, The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney or Could I Vote for A Mormon for President? focus attention on a candidate’s faith in a way that has not been seen since 1960, when John Kennedy’s Catholic faith was the subject of many publications, such as A Roman Catholic in the White House.

As in 1960, the volume’s sometimes draw the conclusion that religious belief can make an individual unsuitable for the presidency. Titles such as Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?: the Mormon Church versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America clearly fall into this category. In a sidebar, a few books on the topic of a potential Mormon president appeared in 1968 when Mitt Romney’s father and Michigan’s then governor, George Romney, offered himself as a Republican presidential hopeful. The 1968 literature, however, was short-lived, reflecting George Romney’s short-lived candidacy. In 2012, it seems the discussion will be carried out at much greater length.

And finally there are the books with titles so outrageous that the author voluntarily surrenders any pretense to objective analysis. That’s a Crock Barack is not a title designed to attract those seeking carefully reasoned criticism of the Obama presidency. But this title seems generous when compared to, Why Mitt Romney is Going to Hell, which moves beyond contemporary politics to render eternal condemnation.

Whoever the voters select on the first Tuesday in November to lead the nation, part of the presidential campaign history will be found here, in the Clarke Library, as we carry forward the gift from the Class of ’64.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Summer Childrens Read in the Clarke

by Christa Clare

It’s summertime in Michigan and that means fresh berries are abundant and sweet. Cherries, strawberries, blueberries and all sorts of wild berries are there for the picking. Farmers markets make it easy for locals to come and buy freshly picked produce for eating, making pies and canning homemade jams and jellies. The Clarke Historical Library has purchased a delightful children’s book titled Jam and Jelly by Holly & Nellie written by Michigan native Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen.

The story is about a family who lives a simple life in Northern Michigan enjoying the bounty of the earth and very much aware of the changing seasons. Winter will be coming on, and Holly needs a new winter coat and boots, but money is tight. Holly and her mother, Nellie, work all summer long picking wild berries around their northern Michigan home and making homemade jams and jellies to sell on their roadside stand. The story and the illustrations are very attractive and make a nice read on a hot summer day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Expansion of Clarke's Digital Newspaper Holdings

The microfilming unit of the Clarke Historical Library has had a busy summer, which means that there are more digitized resources available to the public.

One project is the digitization of the historic Saline Observer. We are in the midst of uploading all of the available editions from 1880 through 1963 to the CMU Online Digital Object Repository (CONDOR). Currently, all of the editions that we hold on microfilm through 1926 have been uploaded to the Clarke Historical Library Newspaper Collection on CONDOR and we are adding more items every week. This is your source for historic Washtenaw County news.

Another project that is just starting is a National Digital Newspaper Program funded initiative to digitize 100,000 pages of local Michigan newspapers. To be a candidate for digitization, the newspaper run must date from before 1923, it must be a Michigan newspaper, and it cannot be currently digitized by another source. The final result will be the addition of the newspapers to the Library of Congress's Chronicling America site for historic American newspapers As this project kicks into high gear in the fall, we will keep you up to date with its progress.

As always, the Clarke Historical Library is working to improve the resources that we can provide to research the rich history of the State of Michigan and beyond. If you have any questions about any of our research resources, or if you would like further information about our digital newspaper initiatives, please contact us at

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Recent Award-Winning Additions to our Children's Collection

by Christa Clare

The Clarke Historical Library has made a conscious effort to collect all of the Caldecott Medal winners as well as the Newbery Medal books. As you may know, the Caldecott winners are picked for their fine illustrations in children’s books. The Newbery winners are judged based on the story itself. These books are sometimes hard to find, and are often pricey. We recently purchased several such books and happily add them to our children’s collection. They include My Brother Sam is Dead, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and The Whipping Boy.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier won a Newbery honor in 1975. This is a fictional story about how the Revolutionary War affects the Meekers, a typical Tory family in Redding, Connecticut. The Tories thought the Colonies had some legitimate complaints against England, but nothing serious enough to shed blood over. The story is told through the eyes of the younger brother Tim, as he watches his older brother Sam join the war effort, against the wishes of their parents. This book is a clear example of how history can be made interesting and educational for young people.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien won the Newbery Medal in 1972. The story is centered around the plight of a widowed field mouse, Mrs. Frisby. She struggles to care for her family, especially when her son Timothy becomes ill. She is aided by other field mice, rats and a bird. The book is an entertaining read for children and adults alike.

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman won the Newbery Medal in 1987. The story is about a prince and his whipping boy. As you may know, a whipping boy was a young boy who was assigned to a young prince and punished when the prince misbehaved or fell behind in his schooling. Whipping boys were established in England and were created because of the idea that princes were not to be punished except by their father, the King. In this story “Prince Brat” as everyone called him and the whipping boy didn’t get along at all. After the Prince tries to run away and the whipping boy reluctantly goes with him, they have many adventures together and end up learning to like each other. Readers will enjoy this step back into history and a look at a completely different way of life for children.

I think you will find all of our recent additions to the Clarke children’s collection cleverly written and very entertaining. We have award winners, first editions, and assorted other marvelous books for visitors to read.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

West Michigan Pike Presentation

Tonight, Wednesday July 18 at 7:00 pm in the Park Library Auditorium Christine Byron and Tom Wilson will discuss their volume, Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike, which was selected as a Michigan Notable Book in 2011.

Before US 31 wound its way along west Michigan, there was the West Michigan Pike. The Pike was begun in 1913 to promote tourism along the Lake Michigan shoreline among the rapidly growing number of automobile owners. The 400-mile route meandered through smaller towns like Saugatuck, Frankfort, and Mackinaw City, mid-sized communities like Grand Haven and Ludington and larger cities like Muskegon and Traverse City. At each stop on the pike, tourism became a major economic force as community’s developed local bed-and-breakfasts, art galleries, museums, and of course beaches to entertain and care for the needs of summer visitors.

Join Christine and Tom in the Park Library Auditorium as they share with us stories and pictures from the first wave of tourists who discovered Michigan’s “west coast” by car. A reception will follow the presentation, and copies of the book will be available for purchase

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rebecca Zeiss Receives Award

[editor's note: In the State of Michigan, the bicentennial of the War of 1812 is being marked with numerous events across the state. The Michigan War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission has provided the Michigan Historical Review and the Clarke Historical Library with a digital flier that we are making available as an appendix to our previous posting about the War of 1812 special issue of the Michigan Historical Review. In today's posting, we are highlighting the recognition of the work of a Clarke Historical Library collaborator - Rebecca Zeiss.] 

by Janet Danek

For several years CMU has enjoyed the artistic expression of Rebecca Zeiss through the beautiful exhibits she has created for the Clarke Historical Library galleries. This past week she was recognized with the top honor as she was awarded the Grand Prize in the 51st Annual Greater Michigan Art Exhibition which currently on display at the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art in Midland, Michigan. Her award-winning piece titled: Inculcated Domesticity is a collection of 5 photography-pigment ink prints. The collection is stunning and is enhanced by its overall scale of a nearly 20-foot width.

Rebecca is a CMU alumna, having earned her Master of Fine Arts in Photography.

This is one of the few statewide visual arts competitions in Michigan. At the exhibit opening, Bruce Winslow, director of the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art said he felt this collection is one of the best in the show’s history. Ten cash awards went to a diverse group of artists employing a variety media including wood, metal, and fiber. The juror for this exhibition was Robert Schefman, a master painter and instructor of art at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

The exhibit will be on display through August 18 at the Midland Center for the Arts.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Michigan Historical Review: War of 1812 Issue

by Bryan Whitledge and Mary Graham

Monday, June 18 of this year marked the 200th anniversary of the declaration of war by the nascent United States against the British Empire - the beginning of the War of 1812. In recognition of this milestone in United States, Canadian, British, and American Indian history, the Spring 2012 issue of Michigan Historical Review (Vol. 38, no.1) is a special issue devoted to the War of 1812. The issue focuses on the western front of the War, specifically on events in and around Michigan Territory. Particular articles relate to the Black Hawk War, the War on both sides of the Detroit River, and in Michilimackinac and Prairie du Chien (click on the image of the table of contents to enlarge it).

The Michigan Historical Review is also highlighting another of their efforts - the 2012 Graduate Student Essay Prize. The deadline for this contest, which features a $1,000 cash prize and publication in the Michigan Historical Review, is July 2, 2012. For further information, please click on this link.

For more information about the Special War of 1812 issue or any other issue of the Michigan Historical Review, including ordering copies, please feel free to visit the MHR website via this link or call 989-774-6567.

Finally, please look at Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alan Taylor's The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies for further information about the War of 1812.

[UPDATE: Please click on the images below to see the list of events being sponsored by the Michigan War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Clarke Events in the Little Traverse Bay Area This Summer

The Clarke Historical Library’s just-closed exhibit, A Delightful Destination: Little Traverse Bay at the Turn of the Century, is currently on tour this summer. The exhibit will be shown at the Harbor Springs History Museum from June 14th through the beginning of 2013. There will be an opening reception from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Thursday, June 14th at the Harbor Springs History Museum.

A second event in the Little Traverse Bay area is the premiere of a WCMU produced documentary entitled Into the North, which tells the story of the tourist culture that blossomed at the turn of the 20th Century. This half-hour film will be shown on Wednesday, June 20th at 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm at the Crooked Tree Art Center in Petoskey.

Finally, the Little Traverse History Museum will have a special viewing on Tuesday, July 17th from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm of a traveling Clarke Historical Library exhibit, Hemingway’s Michigan Story. This exhibit will be shown from mid-June throughout the entire summer.

Join the Clarke Historical Library and our partners in the Little Traverse Bay area this summer to explore the history of this delightful destination.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Senator William Alden Smith and the Sinking of the Titanic

by Bryan Whitledge

In a previous posting, we highlighted how the local media in Mid-Michigan reported the sinking of the RMS Titanic to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated voyage. Six weeks after the sinking, on May 28, 1912, U.S. Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan spoke in front of Senate regarding his subcommittee’s findings regarding the Titanic disaster. In his speech, Senator Smith, pulling from testimony that was given before his subcommittee, recounted the events as they unfolded from the time passengers boarded the ship to the rescue by the Carpathia. The focus of his speech was the lessons to be learned from the tragedy. At the Clarke Historical Library, we maintain a presentation copy of this speech printed by Government Printing Office.

We also hold other materials related to Senator Smith, including the guest book from his time as a U. S. Senator. Signatories in his guest book include constituents, friends and associates from Grand Rapids, and notable individuals in higher education, politics, and business. Some famous names in Senator Smith’s guest book are Woodbridge N. Ferris, founder of Ferris State University and 28th Governor of Michigan; J. L. Snyder, President of Michigan Agricultural College; Frank B. Kellogg, Minnesota Senator and Nobel Peace Prize laureate; Arthur Vandenberg, a Grand Rapids newspaperman who would later be elected to the U. S. Senate; Thomas R. Mitchell, Vice President of the United States; Senator Warren G. Harding, who would later be the 29th President of the United States; and Henry Ford (pictured above - click to enlarge).

These documents are just two of the items dealing with American politics held in the Clarke Historical Library, which include a large U. S. presidential campaign biography collection, the multi-volume Messages of the governors of Michigan, and the papers of Senator Robert P. Griffin. The role played by Michigan politicians in the events that have shaped the world can be found at the Clarke Historical Library.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Paper Doll Collection at the Clarke

by Tanya Fox

Paper dolls are inexpensive toys that have been around for quite some time. The Clarke Historical Library has a variety of paper doll books as part of our children’s collection. Our paper doll books include fashion dolls, storybook and character dolls, dolls from around the world, and animal dolls, as well as a variety of other cut-out toys. Do you remember Trixie Belden, Dolly Dingle, Curious George, and Peter Rabbit? Would you like to see Japanese kimonos or fashion by the designer Erté? The Clarke has paper doll books for your viewing pleasure.

Paper dolls can be windows into the culture of a people, nostalgic trips down memory lane, or glimpses into a certain historical period. Some paper dolls can simply be whimsical moments of fun and play. There are over one hundred paper doll books to be found at the Clarke. Whether you are interested in old advertising via paper dolls or just want to have fun, come see our paper doll book collection. If you are interested in reading more about the history of paper dolls, you may find the following website of interest:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Clarke staff bids farewell to graduating seniors

by Christa Clare

If you have visited the Clarke Historical Library in person, you already know that our student employees are a big part of the daily operations of running the library smoothly. In the reading room, they assist our users with many duties from making photocopies to doing minor research. They prep documents for microfilming, run errands, help with the Clarke website, and process collections. They often are given many of our tedious jobs and they do them cheerfully. Many of our students come to us as freshmen, and leave 4 or 5 years later when they graduate and head out into the “real world.” This year we have five such students graduating on May 5. Between the 5 of them, they total close to 20 years of experience!

We wish our graduating students well and thank them for their exceptional service to the library. Besides taking a bit of us with them, they leave a little of themselves behind, too.

Pictured Back row left to right: Hannah Jenkins (5 years) , Andreah Grove (1 year), Andrew Kreiner (4 years)

Front Row : Clay Kreiner (4 ½ years), and Andrea Plude-Binge (5 years)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

ALA Preservation Week and the Clarke

by Kim Hagerty and Bryan Whitledge

This week is the American Library Association’s Preservation Week. It is a week designed to highlight all of the complexities that are involved in preserving the objects of enduring cultural value that are stored in libraries across the United States. The goal is to raise awareness and give educational opportunities to those who care about preserving all forms of information – from priceless antiquarian books to the latest presidential tweet – for generations to come.

As part of the Clarke Historical Library’s mission to keep and make available resources related to the history of Michigan, we are involved in a very large project to preserve local newspapers from throughout the state. Newspapers, as many of us have seen, do not do a good job of withstanding the test of time. They tend to become acidic over time and they will eventually become yellow and brittle and, in the advanced stages of degradation, they can begin to crumble with even the slightest touch. To ensure that researchers have access to old newspapers without worrying about deterioration, the newspapers must be preserved. The primary way that we preserve newspapers for future use is to photograph them and store them on microfilm.

While it seems that everything is going the digital route, analog preservation microfilming is still a preferred method for keeping information well into the future. The advantages of microfilm include that it is static and cannot be changed (i.e. it is exactly the same as when it was created), it will last for over 500 years if it is stored and maintained properly, and it doesn’t require any special equipment other than something to magnify the image unlike digital documents which require computer software or a special player.

At the Clarke, our preservation microfilming unit uses state-of-the art equipment and techniques that meet or exceed American National Standards Institute (ANSI) specifications for preservation microfilming. We work with several libraries and newspaper publishers to create high quality, enduring, accessible copies of historical and contemporary newspapers. Many of our projects are continuing and we have standing orders to microfilms all copies of specific publications. On average, we process 100,000 images on microfilm each year. After the pages are filmed and inspected, multiple copies of the film are created and stored in climate-controlled secure locations, both in-house and offsite. We also work with libraries and other clients to distribute user copies of film. The redundancy of multiple copies ensures that if one copy is ever damaged, there will be a backup available, and if one storage location suffers a disaster, all of the copies will not be affected.

Besides newspapers, the Clarke Historical Library preservation microfilming unit works with documents, manuscripts, and scrapbooks to reformat the information. We offer institutions across the World the opportunity to purchase user copies so their researchers can remotely access the unique holdings of the Clarke Historical Library.

If you are interested in further information about preservation microfilming in general, please see this Northeast Document Conservation Center Preservation Leaflet regarding preservation microfilming. If you would like further information about working with the Clarke Historical Library to preserve documents or newspapers that are in need of reformatting, please visit the microfilming unit’s webpage or call us at 989-774-3352.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Generosity of Clarke Staff Recognized by University

by Frank Boles

At a ceremony on April 19, the Clarke staff was recognized for its contributions to CMU’s Annual University Campaign (AUC). The AUC is a fundraising event in which CMU employees are asked to voluntarily give back to the University. Employees are allowed to direct their contribution to specific units on campus. As an added incentive the President’s office matches each dollar pledged with an additional fifty cents.

This year the Clarke staff was recognized for having the highest percentage of donors for a CMU unit with less than twenty-five employees. Although the award itself is significant, what is particularly noteworthy is that this is the third consecutive year the Clarke Library staff has been awarded this honor.

Part of my job is asking people for things. Whether it is a bunch of books in the attic or a sizable number of dollars, much of what the Library accomplishes is due to the public’s generosity. In a typical year at least one-third of our newly acquired material is donated. Annual giving and spendable funds from our endowment accounts make possible at least an additional one-third of our acquisitions, with this percentage likely to increase dramatically over time. The spendable income from the endowments and annual giving also support a wide range of other Library activities and services, including speakers, exhibits, reference, and digitizing activities.

Dependent as we are on our many friends for so much of what we do, it is nice to be able to share with them that those of us who work in the Library also understand the need for non-university funding and that we believe so much in what we do that what we support the Library’s activities with our gifts.

Today, my thanks go first to the people I work with for their generosity, and then to you, for your generosity. Together, we make a difference.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Sinking of the Titanic and Clarke Resources

by Bryan Whitledge

April 14-15 this year will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic - an historic event, the legend of which permeates our general knowledge to this day. It has been characterized as one of the greatest maritime disasters in history and the hundredth anniversary is being remembered with a flood of information about the subject, from historic investigations of the sinking on news websites and in magazines to the re-release of a big-budget Hollywood film - this time in 3-D.

At the Clarke Historical Library, we are also marking the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking by reflecting on the coverage provided in local newspapers and highlighting some of the historic resources that we make available to researchers across the world. One of many local newspapers that reported the Titanic tragedy was the Clare Sentinel. The April 19, 1912 edition of the Clare Sentinel features the story of the ill-fated ocean liner front-and-center with stories of local happenings in Mt. Pleasant, Harrison, and Farwell. The first bit of information mentioned in this report concerns the number of survivors and why the survivors would include men and some of the crew members, commenting on the fact that "women and children first" was not followed 100%, but was the general rule.

Besides this edition, the Clarke has thousands of reels of historic newspapers available on microfilm for researchers to use - but that is not all. In addition to making historic newspapers available in microfilm format, this edition of the Clare Sentinel and the entire run from 1896 to 1945 has been made available in a digital format via CONDOR. You can view the entire April 19, 1912 edition of the paper by clicking on this link.

There are also numerous other historic and contemporary resources made available on CONDOR, including Central Michigan Life (currently 1968-98, but it is always expanding), the Chippewa Yearbook, CMU Board of Trustees Minutes, historic local newspapers, and select titles from the Clarke Historical Library and Park Library holdings. CONDOR, an effort of the Clarke Historical Library, the Park Library, and Central Michigan University as a whole, is a institutional repository or “a permanent, safe, and accessible collection of the academic and intellectual output of the CMU community.” The CONDOR homepage can be accessed via this URL -

If you have any questions about the functionality of CONDOR or any of the web resources that the Clarke Historical Library makes available, or if you would like to see other historic newspapers that are not yet available in a digital format, please feel free to contact us for more information - Stay tuned for a future post about the reaction to the sinking of the Titanic by a former Michigan Senator.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Birch Bark Book

by Tanya Fox

The Clarke Historical Library has a new acquisition that is very interesting not because of its content but because of its pages. The book is made entirely of birch bark. The souvenir book holds sketches of sites in and around Petoskey, Michigan. Though it is small with just 10 pages, its unusual composition is worth checking out. The title of the birch bark book is Souvenir of Petoskey Michigan and it was published around 1900. Some of the pictures in the pint sized book include the Arlington Hotel and a bird’s eye view of Petoskey. The pages are surprisingly thin. The birch bark grain can be clearly seen. The book’s texture can be felt by the reader. One of the neat things about the Clarke Historical Library is we allow patrons to use our collection with few limitations.

Our current exhibit focuses on Petoskey and the Little Traverse Bay area as tourist destinations at the turn of the 20th century. So, come on in and peruse the birch bark book and our exhibit, as well as many other interesting and informative items in the Clarke. For information on the Clarke Historical Library’s current exhibit click here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jennifer and Dan Digmann Speak March 15

by Frank Boles

On March 15, local authors Jennifer and Dan Digmann spoke about their recently published book, Despite MS, To Spite MS. Both Dan and Jennifer, who are married to one another, suffer from multiple sclerosis; Dan inflicted with the mildest form of the disease while Jennifer suffers from a much more severe version of the disease. In the presentation Dan and Jennifer talked about the disease but more importantly sought to put a human face on the affliction.

The presentation was touching, moving, and at times very funny. We thank the authors for giving us permission to record the presentation and make it available for viewing at CMU's iTunesU page (you will need Apple's iTunes to access the events). Be sure to take the time to view the whole recording. You can particularly anticipate Dan’s story about the day he found a bat in his shoe. The audience laughed at Dan’s wonderful retelling of the event, but also reflected on what it is like to live with an incurable disease, one symptom of which is numbness in the extremities so severe in Dan’s case that he didn’t notice a bat in his shoe. But Dan tells the story far better than I. Look for it.

You can also learn more about the book and the authors at their website,

image courtesy of

Friday, March 23, 2012

Paul Taylor Speaking Engagement Cancelled

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the next event in the Clarke Historical Library Speaker Series - a talk by Paul Taylor about his award-winning biography of General Orlando Poe - has been cancelled. This event was originally scheduled for March 26, 2012. We will work to include Mr. Taylor in a future Clarke Historical Library Lecture Series.

However, with the assistance of the Library of Michigan Foundation, we have the opportunity to host an additional lecture this semester. Sara Fitzgerald will speak about her 2012 Michigan Notable Book Award-winning book, Elly Peterson: "Mother" of the Moderates. This event will take place on Thursday, April 26 at 7 pm in the Park Library Auditorium.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Fairy Tales in the Clarke Historical Library

[editor's note: Today's posting has been done to highlight just one item of the Clarke Historical Library's extensive holdings. If you click on the title of the book, you will be linked to our catalog listing for the book. There you will view a bar in the middle of the entry noting that the book is available on-line. This link will take you to a digitized version of the book made available by Hathi Trust - a cooperative project of more than 60 institutions attempting to digitize their holdings and publish them on-line. If you can't make it into the Clarke to view the hard copy of this book, you can still enjoy an Irish fairy tale or two from the comfort of your own computer!]

Irish Fairy Tales in the Clarke Historical Library

by Hannah Jenkins

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, we turn our attention to the Emerald Isle, Ireland. One book pertaining to Ireland among many in the Clarke’s collection is Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens and illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Stephens is a well-known author for his work on compiling and retelling Irish myths and folktales. Rackham is a famous illustrator who often did work for children’s books as well as fairy tale and mythology books. Irish Fairy Tales contains stories of kings and queens in Ireland and the powerful men that worked for them, as well as stories of the mischievous Irish fairies who were always trying to trick humans.

In this book, one group of fairies leads a woman astray in her attempt to meet her lover. There are also jealous fairy men and women who attempt to curse humans or do them harm. However there are also nice fairies, such as the story of a fairy woman who asks for protection in exchange for her hand in marriage, and in another story a fairy lord helps protect Ireland and its kingdom. Irish fairy tales often present a very strong connection with nature because of the pagan beliefs that stretched across the country before Christianity. Ireland is known for its beautiful landscape of rolling green hills and this comes across in the stories. Again, in association with pagan beliefs, three of the stories found in this volume speak of animals. One tells of a man who transformed into various animals and survived hundreds of years. Another tells of a man who was granted the gift of the Salmon of Knowledge. The third tells of a woman who was transformed into a dog. Irish fairy tales such as these are full of wonder and fancy and often a bit of darkness. The Clarke Historical Library has many books on fairy tales from Ireland, and from across the world. If you would like to read more about them, we would be happy to help you. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!