Thursday, June 14, 2018

Library Acquires Important Artwork depicting Native Americans

By Frank Boles

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CMU Class Trees


By Frank Boles

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



Sometimes things do work out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Congratulations to Marian Matyn


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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Abraham Lincoln and His Generals

 By Frank Boles

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they did.

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

Both men did exactly that, and won the war.

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

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

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

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

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

CMU and Michigan Special Olympics

By Frank Boles

In 1973 CMU first hosted the Michigan Special Olympics Summer State Games. The games were begun in Michigan in 1968. The first year the game came to CMU, 1,500 athletes participated in the event. Since 1973, CMU has annually hosted the Summer State Games. This year, the games will be held May 31 through June 2. An estimated 2,600 athletes will come to campus and begin the games on the 31st with a parade and opening ceremony beginning at 6:15 p.m. in Kelly Shorts Stadium.


The program’s primary goal is to support the athletes. As one simply put it, “We get to have a good experience. I enjoy that the most.” The program benefits not only the participants, but also the participants’ families. “I’ve always focused not on what Preston can’t do,” said the mother of one athlete, “but what he can do. I can’t imagine life for him or for our entire family with the Special Olympics.”

Creating that good experience for the athletes and their families involves many, many volunteers, who also find working at the events a life-changing experience. Deon Butler, who played football for CMU from 2011 to 2014 attended events in his football uniform. “It really turned out to be the best thing in my life.” Athletes waited in line to meet him. “They come up to me and make me feel special,” Butler said. “Anybody who can come put a smile on my face, if I can put one on their face, it’s the best thing in the world.”


In 1975 CMU hosted the International Special Olympics. The first International Special Olympics games had been hosted by the city of Chicago, in 1968. 5,000 people attended the 1975 games in Mt. Pleasant, including 3,200 athletes from around the world.

The opening ceremonies featured the release of 4,000 balloons, and 1,000 “doves of peace,” which were actually homing pigeons which found their way home after their release.

In addition to the games themselves, the athletes and their families were welcomed to a number of entertainment events. An outdoor carnival featuring more than 200 booths was held. Sally Struthers, who was then starring on the most watched television sitcom in America, All in the Family, hosted a musical concert. Publicity for the event listed many other “celebrities”:

“Planning to be at CMU in August are entertainer and song writer Mac Davis, TV personality Dick Sargeant, 1960 decathlon Gold Medal winner Rafer Johnson, athletes Lacey O’Neil and Gary Erwin, ex-pro football great Frank Gifford, TV stars Mark Slade and Theresa (“That’s My Momma") Merrit, former baseball great Carl Erskine, basketball’s Wayne Embry, ex-professional football star Roosevelt Grier, Olympic swimmer Donna DeVarona, clown Ronald MacDonald and Gov. William G. Milliken.”

Why the governor of the state was listed after Ronald McDonald (and who came up with that spelling – perhaps someone who had deprived their children of the quintessential American experience of a happy meal served in play place under the Golden Arches?) are questions best answered by the anonymous writer of the PR release.

Celebrities, however, were merely icing on the cake. Perhaps the most memorable feature of the International Games was a very special thank you every participant received – a hug. Mostly CMU students, the “huggers” volunteered to give every participant who finished an event a big hug, and a few words of encouragement.

Michigan Special Olympics is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics in our state this year. We welcome to the organization’s golden anniversary celebration this year’s athletes, their families and friends, and the many volunteers who make the event possible.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

CMU Commencement Traditions

by Sam Flees and Katie Wilson

Central Michigan University has many celebrations documented in its archives: the J-Hop dance, freshman cap burning, and Gentle Friday ice cream cones from CM Life are just a few of the Central traditions that have been a part of student life of years past. One of the most continuously evolving events at CMU is the graduation experience. Graduating is a time of accomplishment and recognition. During the 1950s and 1960s, honor students were distinguished by ribbon rosettes worn on the lapels of their robes. White ribbons signified Cum Laude, red signified Magna Cum Laude and blue signified Summa Cum Laude. Today, honor students are distinguished by cords and medallions; Summa Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude graduates receive medallions and Cum Laude graduates receive cords.

Students with their honors ribbon rosettes, 1955.

There have been other ways in which the graduation celebrations have evolved over the years at Central Michigan University. One tradition that came and went was Senior Swingout. Senior Swingout was a tradition for graduating seniors from 1930 through the late 1960s. It marked the first time seniors would don their caps and gowns. The name comes from the act of students swinging open the doors of the Administration Building (now Warriner Hall) and leaving for one last tour of the campus. This gave them an opportunity to reminisce about the good memories, the friendships created, and the hardships faced here in Mt. Pleasant.

In the early days of the Swingout, as students walked through the doors of the Administration Building out to the lawn and embraced their newly completed education, two hundred Japanese lanterns lit up the pathways around campus with orange and gold. As they walked, a double male quartet sang the “Alma Mater” creating a fitting atmosphere to conclude the journey they had at Central. In later years, President Anspach would address the students from the tower of Warriner Hall, wishing them well and offering words of wisdom the evening before commencement exercises.

Congratulations to all of this year’s graduates who will be swinging out of the doors of the John G. Kulhavi Student Events Center and McGuirk Arena this weekend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Library Obtains Rackham Illustration

By Frank Boles

In late December the library acquired an original drawing created by Arthur Rackham. Rackham was one of the most prolific and successful illustrators in the early twentieth century. The illustration supplemented the now over ninety original works of art drawn to illustrate children’s books founded by Francis and Mary Lois Molson.




A resident of Britain, his illustration was extraordinarily popular on both sides of the Atlantic. The Clarke Historical Library is fortunate to have a large collection of Rackham publications—depending on the title, the Clarke holds a signed “limited” edition, a first United States trade edition, or a first British trade edition. And in some happy cases, all three of the same book; happy particularly for the publishers because they quickly realized that adding a variant illustration or two into each of the three volumes would force serious Rackham fans, as well as libraries with Rackham collections, to purchase all three editions. 

Unlike his books, original Rackham illustrations are rather hard to come by. When Sotheby’s in London offered several for auction this December, the library, using funds from the Francis and Mary Lois Molson endowment, was able to obtain one of the offered drawings. It was from Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, Rackham’s reimagining of that classic New York story about a man who took a very, very long nap. Rackham’s Rip Van Winkle was published in 1905. Rip Van Winkle is often described as Rackham’s “break-through” book. Although already a professionally well-known illustrator, the color illustrations in Rip Van Winkle made Rackham a “household name” and launched him on what would become a legendary career. 

The staff was thrilled to add this wonderful addition to the collection, and grateful to the Molsons for their original gift of art drawn for children’s books as well for creating the endowment that helps make additional purchases to expand the collection.

Jane Hash Speaks

By Frank Boles




On March 15 Jane Hash, of Classy Little Fashions spoke as part of the Clarke Library’s spring speaker series. Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Hash jokes that while she weighs about twice as much as her cat, when the cat stretches out he is longer than she is.

As one might expect, Hash told a variety of stories about growing up. One of the more amusing she told at the reception. As a young girl of about seven she often got tired of other children asking her why she was so small. One day, without thinking much about it, she responded to the question by saying, “because I took a hot bath and shrunk.” Somewhere in America there may be a traumatized middle aged person, who avoids hot baths at all costs.

Her small stature led to a wealth of other stories she shared. While she was in college, Jane and a friend decided to go to a party, but when they arrived the back of the car wouldn’t open and allow them to get out Jane’s wheel chair. In the spirit of a great many college students, Jane shrugged and said, “I’m only going to get a drink anyway,” and her friend carried her into the gathering. Later in the evening one of the guests left in something of a huff, and they later learned the guest was quite upset about ‘that woman” giving a margarita to her baby.

As Jane grew up to become a teenager and young woman she was constantly frustrated that she could not find clothes to wear similar to that selected by her peers. It is hard to be taken seriously as an adult when one is dressed like a five year old (which Jane pointed out didn’t work anyway – clothes designed for five year olds don’t’ fit a woman “ with a J-Lo booty and non-symmetrical limbs and scoliosis.”)

As she writes, “I reacted to this frustration like anyone else would. I posted a rant on Facebook. That proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it lead to the solution."
When Facebook friend Carol E. Briney saw my rant, she responded with a request to meet me and discuss this fashion challenge in person. Together, with the help of my lifelong friend Jess Wallace, we created the nonprofit organization Classy Little Fashions Foundation. Our mission is to provide age-appropriate clothing for adults with nonstandard body-types due to physical disability.”

Classy Little Fashions not only designs age appropriate clothing, it offers counseling to its participants. Hash described her own struggle with her body image, including many self-destructive behaviors. As she eventually realized, while being about two feet six inches tall adult is a very atypical, many people struggles with body image. Almost everyone would like to be a little more something; thinner, taller, shorter, stronger, have a different shaped nose or any of the other things people can obsess over. The issue is not one unique to people with Osteogenesis Imperfecta but one widely experienced – which in the end was Hash’ point; appearance and size does not determine ability; although she did admit finding well-fitted clothing does help in getting people to listen seriously to her (something we all might reflect upon for a moment when we consider another person’s ideas).

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How People Who Fish and Read Spend A March Weekend


by Frank Boles

March 10 and 11 Robert Kohrman and I spent the weekend representing the library at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo. That may sound like a peculiar place for us to be talking to people about the Clarke Historical Library, but with over 3,000 angling books in the library which taken together make up what is arguably the strongest collection of fly fishing books in the Midwest, spending a few days talking about our holdings among people who enjoy the sport is a sound outreach strategy.



Bob, who is a true expert on the sport and the literature, and I, who can kind of talk the talk if I have to but have never walked the walk (that is, gone fly fishing) have attended the show for several years with three goals in mind. The first is simply to let people interested in the sport know the collection exists. The second is to find individuals with book collections on the subject and encourage them to think about donating those books to the Clarke. And the third is to reach out to individuals interested in the sport to support the endowment within the Clarke that allows us to continue to grow the collection.

One of the intriguing aspects of sitting for 14 hours on the floor of the show is that you never know to what topic the next conversation will turn. Over the course of the weekend we talked to a number of Chippewa alums who groaned when they realized that for four years all those books were just a few steps away – and who we encouraged to make a trip back to campus. We also talked to a hobbyist boat builder absolutely fascinated by a model of the original Au Sable river boat that we had on display, and was interested in possibly building a full size replica. And we talked with a gentleman who may have the only surviving notes about rod construction left by one of Michigan’s most famous rod makers.

And of course there were the book people. John D. Voelker, one of Michigan’s most celebrated authors and fly fishers, once wrote, “Old fishermen never die, instead they write books about their passion.” In truth, fishermen read books about their passion rather than write them, and are equally passionate about their book collections. Those passionate readers are the reason two book dealers routinely set up shop at the show – they know there is a market there for their wares. Those passionate readers and collectors are also people to whom we like to talk.

Fly fishing in Michigan is deeply linked to the state’s history. The “holy water” of the Au Sable River is steeped in fishing lore, as are many other Michigan streams. There is also a practical aspect to documenting the sport – fly fishing is a major recreational activity and an important factor in the state’s tourism industry. The Clarke’s angling collection gives researchers, a state, national, and international perspective on the sport.

As always, my thanks to the Michigan Fly Fishing Club, which sponsors the show and again this year kindly granted us a complimentary vendor table, and to Bob Kohrman, who volunteers to spend those long hours at the table with me, and who saves the day whenever someone asks a real question about fishing or the fly fishing literature.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Remembering Bill Strickler


By Frank Boles

 


On Thursday, February 22 I attended a funeral for a good friend of the Clarke Library, William J. Strickler. Bill spent more than two decades as a member of the Clarke Board of Governors, many of those years as the chair. He was thoughtful, kind, cared tremendously about the library, and had a refreshing sense of humor about himself and the situations he observed. He also had little time for pomposity or pretense. Over the years I saw him lead the Board to many sound decisions, tell various people in a few polite but well-chosen words why they were being ridiculous, and stare down University presidents who forgot who they were talking to (from the safety of the sidelines – some fights a university employee does not want to be in the middle of).

When I first met him in 1991 he told me he just wanted two things from the new director: straight talk and pie if there was going to be lunch after the Board meeting. It was typical of his approach to most things.

I knew Bill well enough to recognize that he’d be more than a little annoyed if I wrote a long, flowery obituary. He’d just tell me to stop. So, I will simply tell two stories Bill told me, as best I remember them. I think they capture the self-depreciating wit and unique sense of irony that were among the reasons I so liked him.

Bill was a CMU graduate who by his own admission came close to flunking out one semester because he spent most of his time shooting pool. He fancied himself pretty good at the game, able to regularly win small wagers with his friends. One day when a pool shark from the Detroit area was in town Bill challenged him to a match. The shark eyed up his mark and said sure, let’s play one for fun.

That game went pretty well for Bill, who having shown his mettle against a pro from Detroit was feeling his oats. Then the shark said “want to make it interesting? Let’s put some money on the table.  How about a $50.?” Bill was flabbergasted.  That was serious money. But he both had a $50 and felt he couldn’t back down.  “Sure,” he said, with a bit of false bravado. The shark graciously allowed Bill to break. Bill sank a ball or two, then missed a shot. The shark, demonstrating a skill previously not shown when playing for fun, ran the rest of the table and, with the hint of a smile, pocketed Bill’s $50. Shortly thereafter Bill decided pool might not be a good investment of his time.

A second story involved Bill’s prospecting for natural gas in Wyoming. Bill was a petroleum geologist, and a good one. He transferred skills he learned in the Michigan Oil Patch into some very successful wells out West. Out West, however, environmentalists launched serious and frequently successful opposition to well drilling permits.

As is often the case among people who regularly attend public hearings, Bill became acquainted with those opposed to new drilling. A friendly and polite man, he always had a good morning and a kind word for his opponents. One day at a hearing, the regular representative of the environmental group spoke in opposition to a new drilling permit very near where Bill was already operating a successful well. The permit was denied.

Bill, always one to recognize irony when he saw it, walked over to the environmental spokesperson and told her “I guess I owe you one.”  “Why?” she asked, with more than a little surprise in her voice. Killing the proposed permit had made Bill’s nearby existing well much more valuable.  To settle up he sent the environmental group a financial donation.  It was just too good a joke for Bill to pass up.

I am going to miss Bill’s help, advice, and unique sense of humor. And I hope that not only I, but an environmentalist somewhere in Wyoming, is thinking fondly of him today. You don’t run into too many people like Bill.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Clarke Opens New Exhibit: A Thank You Note


By Frank Boles

Every exhibit opening is accompanied by a list of organizations and people to whom we are indebted. Last Thursday we opened “(dis)ABLED BEAUTY: the evolution of beauty, disability and ability,” and I would like to thank the staff of the libraries for their work in creating this exhibit as well as our CMU institutional partners, including:

 The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

 The Fashion Merchandising Design program within the Dept. of Human Environmental Studies

  CMU History Department 

My thanks also extend to our external institutional partner, the Fashion School at Kent State University, where many components of this show were first conceived and exhibited through a partnership between Dr. Stacey Lim of CMU and Dr. Tameka Ellington of Kent State.

The exhibit crosses disciplinary lines in interesting and informative ways. It addresses the subject of disability and ability both from a scientific and clinical viewpoint, as well from the more subjective world of fashion. In addition the show, as we have constructed it here at CMU, includes substantial additional components reflecting oral history interviews done with individuals with disabilities who are members of our campus community and also, as part of CMU’s celebration of its 125th anniversary, a discussion of both how Central’s academic program has addressed disability as well as how the campus itself has changed to accommodate individuals with disability.

I would particularly like to acknowledge the contributions of the Libraries Exhibit Coordinator, Janet Danek. Although what was created for the exhibit at Kent State was beautiful, their exhibit space is not our exhibit space, and the Kent State show had to be redesigned and sometimes reimagined to work within our galleries, while at the same time honoring the integrity of the original exhibition. In addition Janet had to incorporate substantial additions to the original show, which reflected the contributions of Central faculty and staff who had not participated in the Kent State exhibit but who helped center the exhibit you will see tonight in ways that more fully represent CMU.
 


Much of what you will see in the exhibit reflects Janet’s creative ability and hard work, designing the CMU iteration of (dis)ABLED BEAUTY to high standards and working within a very tight timeline. Despite all the rest of us involved, we collectively could not have created the exhibit without Janet’s many contributions. It just wouldn’t have happened.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Three Stories & Ten Poems


By Frank Boles

Over the past decade the Clarke Library’s collection of material relating to Ernest Hemingway life in Michigan has grown in both size and importance. This week, through the generosity of several friends, we will add a new item, a first edition printing of Hemingway’s first publication, Three Stories & Ten Poems.

Published in 1923 in a run of only 300 copies the slender volume is in many ways a “capstone” printed item in the library’s efforts to document Hemingway’s life in and reflections about Michigan. The title of the book’s first short story, “Up in Michigan” pretty much says everything one needs to know about what at the time Ernest Hemingway thought was important and about what he felt he could write.



The Hemingway collection now includes a wide variety of printed and manuscript material documenting the life of Ernest Hemingway. As I have mentioned many times before, the Hemingway family purchased property on Walloon Lake and built a summer cottage there. Ernest, who was born in 1899, spent every summer at the cottage from 1900 through 1920, with the exception of 1918. In 1921 he also visited, when he married Hadley Richardson in nearby Hortons Bay and the two honeymooned in the cottage.

Much of Hemingway’s adult life was shaped by his experiences in and around Walloon Lake, much more so than the family home in Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway’s opinion about Oak Park, where he spent the other nine months of the year, has often been summarized through a Hemingwayesque sounding, although possibly apocryphal quotation, that it was a place of “wide lawns and narrow minds.”

Whatever his actual opinion about Oak Park, something Hemingway never shared in print, he did draw from and write extensively about his summers in Michigan. The Nick Adams stories tell the tale of a young man, learning about himself and the world. The stories are not biography, exactly. As Hemingway himself would write, “All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened.” Hemingway was after something more than a well-footnoted history.

The Clarke’s role, however, has been to find and preserve documentation that can serve as that well-footnoted history. Through original letters, scrapbooks of cottage life compiled by Grace Hall Hemingway for her children, published recollections, what “really happened” is told in the Clarke Library. Hemingway himself, in his many published works about Michigan, told his readers what he thought made his Michigan fiction “truer than if they had really happened.”