Friday, February 28, 2014

Patricia Lay-Dorsey Presentation

by Frank Boles

On February 24, Patricia Lay-Dorsey, author of Falling Into Place: Self Portraits: A Compelling narrative of the photographer’s day-to-day life with a disability, spoke in the Park Library Auditorium. It was indeed a compelling narrative as Ms. Lay-Dorsey described her life as a photographer and as a person diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

What was particularly interesting was the discussion with the audience, which largely revolved around Patricia’s professional endeavors rather than her illness. That turn of discussion was important, I believe, because it reinforced something she herself had said during her presentation. In looking at photographs taken of those suffering with MS, the photographer’s tended to frame the person as either heroically overcoming an obstacle or a tragic victim of disease which had ruined their life. Patricia’s self portraits strove to be neither heroic nor tragic, but simply to show her life. She is a photographer, and like all photographers she does her work living with certain personal limitations.

Her presentation, and the questions which followed, reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago with a student who also was diagnosed with MS. She, like Patricia, used a power scooter to move about. One day I asked her what she, and her friends who also used scooters daily, called people who did not need the device. “TABs,” she replied. When I looked a bit blankly at her, she smiled and said, “Temporarily Able Bodied.”

Patricia Lay-Dorsey’s presentation told the story of a published photographer who, like everyone else, works within the physical parameters that meet us when we awaken in the morning. When asked about the subject of her disability, she said something very interesting. People, she noted, are almost invariably kind to her, helping with her occasional need for assistance. Patricia’s heart went out to people with hidden disabilities, psychological diagnoses that have no obvious external signs but which can be equally or even more challenging than physical disabilities. The recognition and help she receives simply is not offered to individuals with hidden disabilities.

It was a thoughtful and enlightening evening, both because of the interesting description of the work of a skilled photographer, and the sharing of some thoughtful insights into the human condition.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wild West Image

by Marian Matyn

My students were sorting through a box of mostly duplicates and peripheral visual items when they found this and wondered what it was. My first thought, based on the headdress of the man in the lower left, was a Wild West show. The original image has some lightening on the left side, so I asked Pat Thelen, our digitizing specialist, to darken it. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can clearly see the crowd, flags, telegraph poles, and some large buildings. Perhaps the first is a barn? A group of men, carrying weapons, are walking ahead of the women in long dresses with long hair. Some men have feathered headdresses. There are wagon wheel marks circling in the right of the image which are hard to see except in the darkened image. Pennant flags are flying in the breeze. A number of ladies have parasols up to shield them from the sun on this very bright day. In the far upper left is a sign, which enlarged reads Coal Wood Hay Straw. This is clearly a wild west show, which performed outside, not in a tent. Is it being held on a fair grounds near fair buildings? Where, when, whose wild west show? Unfortunately, we have the backs of the performers. Note in the very lower left the derby of a nearby spectator.

The original image is sepia-tone 4.25 X 3.5 inches mounted on board. It has two accession numbers on the back. The first, Number 828, is not the accession number because the accession register says it is the number for a railroad ledger. The other number, 2731, is for a very large group of unidentified daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, stereographs, and other images, none of which are individually described, purchased for a lot price by Nina Ness and donated to the Clarke on Dec. 5, 1974. There are more than a thousand items in this group so this image may have been #828 in the entire group. It is most likely that over time, the lot collection was divided by format and topic and became many smaller collections. Nina was a member of the early Clarke Board of Directors.

Friday, February 21, 2014

50th Anniversary of first CMU Board of Trustees Meeting

[editor's note: Monday, February 24 at 7:00 pm in the Park Auditorium, Patricia Lay-Dorsey will speak about
her self-portrait project documenting her experience living with Multiple Sclerosis. This is the first event in the Clarke Speaker Series for the semester. For more information on Patricia Lay Dorsey, her lecture, and the accompanying exhibit on the Library's third floor, see this link]

50th Anniversary of first CMU Board of Trustees Meeting

by Bryan Whitledge

For much of the first 72 years of Central Michigan University's existence, the major institutional decisions were made by the Michigan State Board of Education. But that all changed in 1963 when voters ratified a new State Constitution. Article VIII, Section 6 of the 1963 Constitution gives bachelor's degree-granting institutions their own independent boards of control. These boards of control were designated to be made up of eight members, appointed by the governor for eight year terms, with no more than two terms expiring in the same years.

Per the Constitution, the new Board of Trustees - the title CMU would adopt for the governing board - was to "have general supervision of the institution and the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution's funds" beginning on January 1, 1964. Due to Governor Romney's busy schedule in the early part of 1964 and the need for numerous gubernatorial appointments at all of the state universities, the Board was not fully formed until February of 1964. As soon as the trustees were appointed, on February 13, plans for the first meeting got under way. The eight members of the board were Jean Backus, Willis Campbell, Lloyd Cofer, Katharine Hafsted, Lawrence Rahilly, E. Allan Morrow, John Sivier, and Walter Wightman.

The first trustees meeting was scheduled for February 24, 1964 at 10:00 am. The Trustees, along with President Judson Foust, Dr. Norval Bovee (Vice President of Business and Finance), and Doris Crippo (Administrative Assistant to President Foust) met in the President's Conference Room of the University Center. Dinner, after the day-long meeting, was scheduled for 5:30 pm.

The report from the first meeting noted that the Trustees discussed their newly adopted formal name - "Central Michigan University Board of Trustees" (p. 1). They also discussed tuition, what defined state residence for tuition and fees, capital improvements and expenditures, and faculty and staff personnel matters, such as pay increases, leaves of absence, resignations, and appointments. In addition, the Board identified the honorary degrees to be granted to commencement speakers in June and formally accepted gifts to the University, including a $10 gift from a student for the Creative Arts Room and $119,600 in National Science Foundation grants (p. 5).

In the 50 years since that first meeting, quite a bit about CMU has changed - the University's built environment now extends well south of Preston, Central athletics program have attained NCAA Division I status, there are now eight colleges and over 200 academic programs, and the number of students enrolled has increased nearly five times. But there is still an independent board of eight trustees, appointed by the governor, who oversee the major operations of the University. The Clarke looks forward to documenting the next 50 years of the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees and beyond.

Pictured at the first Trustees meeting on February 24, 1964 are, from left to right, Willis Campbell, Walter Wightman, Katharine Hafsted, Lawrence Rahilly, Judson Foust (CMU President), E. Allan Morrow, John Sivier, Lloyd Cofer, and Jean Backus.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Celebrating America’s Presidential Near Misses

By Frank Boles

Document signed by Lewis Cass, Governor of Territory of Michigan.
Found in Clarke Historical Library, Richard Collection

President’s Day celebrates the individuals who have served as America’s chief executive, and offers an excuse to also think about some of the near misses. One of those “could-have-beens” was Michigan’s Lewis Cass, one of many candidates documented through the Clarke Historical Library’s Presidential Campaign Biography collection.

Lewis Cass was born in New Hampshire in 1782, and in 1801, he moved to what would eventually become Ohio. During the War of 1812, he became a brigadier general. In 1813, the rising young star was appointed first military, and subsequently civilian, governor of the Michigan Territory. Cass would remain territorial governor until 1831 and would make his home in Detroit for the rest of his life. However, much of that life was spent far away from Michigan. In 1831, he joined Andrew Jackson’s cabinet as Secretary of War. He served as ambassador to France from 1836 until 1842. Cass “stood” for the presidential nomination within the Democratic Party in 1844, but lost to dark horse James K. Polk. His political aspirations were undiminished and in 1845, Cass was elected to the United States Senate from Michigan. He finally was named the Democratic Party’s nominee for the presidency in 1848.

By 1848, slavery increasingly divided the nation. Cass tried to avoid the issue by walking a very narrow political line. The means he promoted to do this was “Popular Sovereignty.” The idea, which Cass was a chief proponent of, would allow each state, whether currently existing or newly formed from a federal territory, to decide by vote whether to be slave or free. In essence, he hoped through an appeal to local democracy to remove slavery from the federal arena and make it the exclusive concern of the states.

Cass soon discovered that his seemingly clever solution to an intractable political and moral issue pleased no one. Anti-slavery northerners were incensed that formerly free federal territories might enter the Union as slave states. Southern slave owners were incensed that they could be denied their “property” by a popular vote. The idea split the Democratic Party and placed Cass into an unwinnable presidential campaign, which was summarized by some with the phrase, “alas, poor Cass.”

Cass lost the 1848 presidential election to Zachary Taylor. Despite this national defeat, Cass remained popular in Michigan and continued to be an important figure in the Democratic Party. He was returned to the U.S. Senate in 1849, and was a serious contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1852. In 1857, Cass left the Senate when President James Buchanan appointed him Secretary of State.

Deeply disapproving of Buchanan’s weak policies toward the increasingly restive South, Cass found in national unity a moral compass he failed to possess about slavery. Unwilling to compromise about the Union itself, he resigned as Secretary of State on December 13, 1860, protesting Buchanan's failure to protect federal interests in the South or to mobilize the federal military to meet the increasing possibility of Southern secession. After resigning, Cass returned to Detroit, where he lived to see the victory of the Union Army in the Civil War. He died in 1866.

The presidential campaign of 1848 is but one documented in the Clarke Historical Library’s Presidential Campaign Biography collection. The books found in the collection look across American history through the issues of each presidential election. Presidential campaigns have often raised issues of great moral significance as well as sometimes descending into trivia. Regardless of the issues in a given election, how candidates addressed those issues and the decision of the voters have collectively shaped America as a nation, and are told through the Presidential Campaign Biography collection.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

“Love Letters”

By John Fierst

In honor of Valentine’s Day I searched the Clarke holdings for a collection of love letters. We have two files of letters exchanged in the 1890s that could be described as a collection of love letters, though both correspondents appear reluctant to commit the word “love” or “lover” to paper, preferring “friend” or “ever true friend.” This is not unusual, given the time and place. The two sweethearts, Lucy Luscombe and Clarence Beardslee, grew up in Greenville, Michigan, and the letters they exchanged provide a glimpse at romance in rural Michigan at the close of the 19th century.

Letter from Clarence, July 10, 18??
“Well, Dear Lucy,” writes Clarence, “it seems like a long time since I saw you.” “Friend, Clarence,” writes Lucy, “write soon and often.” The letters do not reveal the exact ages of the correspondents. For certain, Lucy is in school. It is not clear that Clarence still goes to school. He is probably older. He works long hours on the family farm, chopping wood, cutting rye, killing hogs, grubbing potatoes. He is a hard worker and will have to provide for Lucy if he hopes to marry her. The work keeps him from visiting her as often as they both would like. They communicate through letters.

Lucy writes longer letters. She has better penmanship. Grammar and spelling are not strengths of Clarence. “Lucy your Letter’s does me the most good of any Letter’s I get.” They see each other once a week, usually on Sunday evenings, and endure the hectoring of siblings. Clarence writes of his sisters, “the girls bout hector the life out of me about us feeding each other candy.” In the letters Lucy and Clarence worry over and comfort one another. “I was sorry to here that you were so sick dear L. and I hope you wont hafto be trubbled that way very often.” Lucy calms Clarence when he is upset over her mother calling Lucy inside one Sunday evening. “You must not think anything about her calling me in,” she writes, “and you surely would not if you had lived with her as long as I have.” Clarence in another letter confesses it was “a hugging be[e]” that Lucy’s mother had interrupted.

Letter from Lucy, February 15, 1894
The letters held in the Clarke Historical Library Lucy and Clarence exchanged between 1890 and 1896. The closings to the letters reflect the progress of their “friendship.” As time passes, Clarence grows more ardent, Lucy less reserved. Clarence writes “From the one that loves you dearer than gold.” Lucy closes, “Truly Thine.”

We like happy endings, especially on Valentine’s Day. They married. We know this from Clarence’s account book which can be found in the collection. Along with the cost of fertilizer, the price of hog and chicken feed, and the expense to repair the barn roof, Clarence recorded in his accounts the many purchases he made for his wife. On March 27th 1904 he paid $8.25 for a “Washing macine and a Ringer.” That might not light up a woman’s heart today, but it probably did Lucy’s. Later accounts showed more luxury items. In October 1943 Clarence bought “Lucy a hat & pin.” The last love letter in the collection is dated 1896. According to his account book, fifty years later Clarence was still sending Lucy valentines.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Clarke

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Molson Collection of Art Exhibited In Petoskey

by Frank Boles

On January 18, I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit opening at Petoskey’s Crooked Tree Arts Center (CTAC) featuring fifty-two original works of art selected from the Francis and Mary Lois Molson Art Collection, which is currently on loan from the Clarke Historical Library. The Molson Collection is a superb group of original art drawn for publication in children’s books. It features work created by some of the finest contemporary illustrators in the field and is one of the gems of the Clarke.

Cover art from The Frog Princess by Gennadii Spirin
Although the Clarke regularly displays some of these treasures on a rotating basis, rarely is there an opportunity to see so many of these works at one time. However, through April 5 the opportunity will exist in Petoskey. CTAC has installed the art in a marvelous exhibit that I encourage you to visit.

I am particularly pleased that, in conjunction with the show, school children are being encouraged to read some of the books in which the art appears and then visit the gallery to see the original art work. The works are, of course, beautiful and, as Francis Molson has noted, "It’s much different to see the original artwork, than just the prints in books." In commenting on the collection, Francis Molson also said, "Surely it will benefit students." Certainly the art work has proved beneficial to Central Michigan University students when it is used in various classes. But I think it is also important to make the experience created by the art available to children in northern Michigan. A lifetime of reading can begin by experiencing a single work of art found in this collection.

Perhaps the most important, and least predictable, outcome from the exhibit would be a newspaper story published in some future edition of the Petoskey News-Review, or the New York Times, that begins, “I was inspired as a child by an art show I saw in Petoskey.” A critical part of the Library’s mission is to make the legacy of the past available today to inform, inspire, and change the future. One never knows exactly when or how that mission will impact an individual life, but creating or enabling exhibits using Clarke material, like the Molson art on display at the Crooked Tree Arts Center, creates the opportunity for that moment of individual inspiration to occur.

For more information about the exhibit, and the Crooked Tree Arts Center’s hours and other policies please visit the CTAC’s website,