Happy Spring!

It’s here! Spring is here! On Monday, did you run outside and beat on the ground with a stick to tell the earth to wake up? And some daffodils were blooming on Monday. Did you pick one and eat it?

No? *Whew!* Good move! They’re not edible! Although someone at Ohioana did indeed eat one and nothing bad happened. It was planted on top of a mound of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce (a Blooming Sundae — get it?) and she ate the bits you are supposed to eat as well.

But you needn’t feel slighted — there are plenty of other flowers to add to salads, soups, or main dishes.

In Edible Flowers: A Global History by Constance L. Kirker and former Ohio University professor Mary Newman, you can easily learn what to eat and why (Mary will be at the Ohioana Book Festival on April 8, by the way).

This nifty little book provides a history a edible plants from all over the world. It also provides a unique history of the world since plants found useful or delightful in one country are imported to other countries for propagation and use.

The book also makes the reader re-think the concept of a “flower,” which most of us consider to be a beautiful, fragrant, but perhaps useless thing. After all, what is an artichoke but the flowering part of the plant. We eat them. And the preferred part of the broccoli in North America is the stuff at the top, although some people reject the buds for the stem.

Authors Kirker and Newman always advice caution, reminding the reader that even plants considered medicinal can be bad for you if over-used. Even too much of a good thing will make you sick.

So when you’re at the garden center later this spring, you’re ready to check out with your cart full of flats of marigolds and nasturtiums, and the clerk asks you if you need some help getting them out to your car, you can say, “No thanks. I’ll just eat them here!”

Good Luck and Bad Luck

March is a month when we remember fate and destiny. Or the lack of fate and destiny. Sometimes, things just happen.

March 15 is famous for being the Ides of March, or the middle of the month. It’s the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated by members of his senate. It’s memorable to the English-speaking world because of William Shakespeare’s play. So it’s because of a writer that we remember this particular assassination and feel the chill in our own bones as we look at the calendar.

Likewise, March is the month of St. Patrick’s Day. But before you go slinging about the phrase “the luck of the Irish” like it’s something to celebrate, realize the phrase is ironic. The Irish were considered an unlucky group of people because of the poverty they faced in the old country and the prejudice they faced in the new.

Luck also reminds us at Ohioana about two sons of our state: Eddie Rickenbacker (good luck) and George Armstrong Custer (the other kind).

In our collection, we have Rickenbacker’s own memoirs of his service during the Great War, Fighting the Flying Circus, which was published in 1919 by the Frederick A. Stokes Company. The book includes a handsome portrait of Colonel Rickenbacker in the front as well as a glossary of terms unfamiliar to the reading public at the time, including “joystick” and “zoom.” A biography in our collection is titled Rickenbacker’s Luck, and was written by Finis Farr and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1979. Rickenbacker was never injured in combat, and not seriously in a childhood attempt to fly a bicycle off of the roof of the family garage. So that’s good luck right there.

Neither luck nor heroism are associated with Custer. He’s regarded, rightly or wrongly, as a vainglorious fool with emphasis on the “vain” part. The 1970 film, Little Big Man probably has a lot to do with that perception. The general was portrayed as a complete creep (at best) by actor Richard Mulligan. The truth, as always, is somewhere else, a concept investigated by Nathaniel Philbrick in The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Bighorn. In the end, the only place left for Custer to find another way forward is in the land of alternate history, like the novel Custer’s Luck by Robert Skimin and William E. Moody, published by Herodias in 2000. Yes, the victor of Little Bighorn was elected president in 1880.

Strange days indeed. Be careful out there today, March 15, OK?

 

Black History Month is something to celebrate!

Black History Month was much shorter when it began in 1926: it was only a week long. The celebration was the brain child of historian and educator Carter G. Woodson, who spent quite a bit of his youth in Huntington, West Virginia – one of Ohio’s neighbors to the south. February was chosen since it’s also the month of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

A new documentary was just released last week reminded us of one our books in the collection. The documentary is I Am Not Your Negro, which brings to life the words of James Baldwin. The book is Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White. Written by Kathy Y. Wilson, the title is based on Wilson’s exasperation with a white newsroom colleague. Sick and tired of questions about hip-hop groups, Wilson advised the colleague to get a black friend and said “I’m NOT your Negro tour guide.” And a column was born. Ms. Wilson’s collection of essay, published by Emmis Books in Cincinnati in 2004. The review in Publisher’s Weekly noted that “Wilson writes in a voice that can fairly simmer with disgust, indignation and a powerful blast of irony.”

We also want to share some images from events and the collection.

Way back when, one of the librarians at Ohioana wrote to Mr. Langston Hughes. He wrote back, alerting her to the existence of some writers that he thought she ought to know about.

We also want to share a picture of Rita Dove, who was honored by Ohioana in 2010 — The honor was all OURS, however. And to celebrate Ms. Dove a bit more, here’s a link to a recent interview that the Poetry Foundation recently published. Good stuff here. Good to read and take to heart.

We love our old books at Ohioana, not only for what’s between the covers but for the covers themselves. We love this book for the paisley print, like fabric, and for the photo of the sweet and handsome man. While Dunbar’s use of dialect in written speech has long fallen from use, we can still appreciate his intent to write with love and compassion as well as his commercial and  popular success.  As Nikki Giovanni said of Dunbar, “He wanted to be a writer, and he wrote.”

Poetry in Ohioana’s Collection

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As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we’re sharing some beautiful vintage books by Ohio poets Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice and Phoebe Cary.

We’ve already shared biographical information and the cover of Li’l’ Gal by Paul Laurence Dunbar here. Today we’re sharing more covers from this Dayton-born poet, novelist, lyricist, and playwright.

Cover of "When Malindy Sings" with brown background and red flowers climbing up a white trellis.When Malindy Sings is one of Dunbar’s most popular dialect poems, and was written as a tribute to his mother, Matilda, and her habit of singing while she worked. Interestingly, Malindy herself never appears in the poem.

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of "The Uncalled" by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dark blue background with gray Art Deco ornaments along left and right sides, gold metallic background behind title and author, and stylized author's monogram in black.The Uncalled was Dunbar’s first novel. Although it was not well received by critics, Dunbar went on to write three more novels while still producing multiple poetry and short story collections.

 

 

 

 

 

Cover image of "Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow" by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dark green background with metallic gold lettering and floral decorations.

Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow, published in 1905, was one of the last poetry collections Dunbar produced before his death in 1906 at age thirty-three.

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of "Alice Carey's Poems," with taupe background, gold floral border, and color image of a woman in a long yellow dress standing in a garden.Although Alice and Phoebe Cary are not as well known as Dunbar today, they were extremely popular during their lifetimes. Alice Cary was born near Cincinnati in 1820; her sister Phoebe was born four years later. Although the girls received little formal schooling, they were educated at home and developed an affinity for literature and poetry. Both sisters published their first poems in newspapers when they were still teenagers. Over the course of the next ten years their work gradually garnered the attention of literary notables including Edgar Allen Poe and John Greenleaf Whittier. Their first book, Poems of Alice and Phoebe Carey, was published in 1850.

Cover image of "The Poetical Works of Alice and Phoebe Cary," with dark green background, black and metallic gold decorative ornaments along top and bottom edges, and metallic gold lettering.After the publication of their book, Alice and Phoebe moved to New York City, where they both became regular contributors to the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, and other periodicals. Alice wrote novels and short stories as well as poetry; Phoebe published two volumes of her own poetry and wrote numerous lyrics that appeared in church hymnals. Both sisters were keenly interested in social justice.

The Carys were famous for their hospitality, and their home became a gathering place for New York literati. Although Alice was the more prolific writer (possibly because Phoebe devoted much of her time to keeping house and, in later years, caring for Alice), Phoebe later received strong critical acclaim. Alice passed away after a long illness in February of 1871; Phoebe died in July of the same year.

Menus in the Ohioana Archives

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Having actual food in the archives would be bad, but menus are another story. The Laura M. Mueller ephemera collection includes a selection of Columbus restaurant menus that spans most of the 20th century. We’re sharing a few sample menus below.

Henry Chittenden built a total of three hotels in the same location on the northwest corner of N. High St. and Spring St. The first two burned to the ground within a three-year period in the late 1800s, but the third (which was designed by Columbus architects Frank Packard and Joseph Yost and was built without any wooden structural elements) operated from 1895 until 1972. The eight-story hotel was one of the finest in Columbus, with luxurious décor and an equally luxurious restaurant. Below is the Hotel Chittenden dinner menu from May 3, 1908.

Chittenden menu int

Chittenden menu front

For a change of pace, we also have a menu from a downtown Walgreen ca. 1930.

Walgreen menu frontWalgreen menu int

The Neil House hotel stood across the street from the Ohio Statehouse. It had several incarnations, from the original 1820s tavern to the final hotel that was demolished in 1981. Notable guests of the hotel included Charles Dickens, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), opera singer Jenny Lind, Oscar Wilde, Orville Wright, Eleanor Roosevelt, and several U.S. presidents. This menu appears to date to the 1940s. (For an 1863 Neil House menu, visit the Hospitality Industry Archives at the University of Houston digital library here.)

TownCountry menu front

Finally, we have a menu from the Jacques Barn restaurant on Broad Street. The menu is undated, but visitors could get a porterhouse steak with fries, salad, rolls, and a beverage for 85 cents.

JaquesBarn menu front

Zane Grey

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Black and white photograph of Zane Grey's childhood home in Zanesville, Ohio. Photo shows a partial view of a two-story white house with a large tree in front.
Zane Grey’s childhood home, Zanesville

On this day in 1872, novelist Zane Grey was born in Zanesville, Ohio.

Grey’s ancestors were some of the early settlers of Ohio; Zanesville was founded by his maternal great-great uncle Ebenezer Zane. As a child Grey enjoyed fishing and baseball, and was also an avid reader of adventure stories. He attended Zanesville High School until his father moved the family to Columbus in 1889. When not in school Grey worked part-time in his father’s dental practice and also played summer baseball for the Columbus Capitols. After being spotted by a scout, Grey was able to attend the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. He graduated in 1896.

Scanned cover of Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage. At top of greenish-grey cover is a color landscape of ground, trees, and the sky at sunrise or sunset. Book title and author's name appear in black type.Grey played minor-league baseball with several teams before establishing a dental office in New York City. He had practiced creative writing throughout college, and continued to write in the evenings after work. After marrying Dolly Roth in 1905, the family moved to Pennsylvania and Grey began writing full-time.

Grey’s first published novel was Betty Zane, released in 1903 and based on the story of his Ohio ancestors. His first major success, and ultimately his best-selling book, was Riders of the Purple Sage, published in 1912. By this time Grey had taken multiple trips to the American West; his photographs and detailed notes helped him create realistic settings and characters in his books. Grey would follow this pattern of traveling and writing for the rest of his career.

Although Grey is best known for his westerns, he also wrote books about baseball and the outdoors and was a regular contributor to Outdoor Life for many years. He died in 1939 at age 67.

The image of Grey’s childhood home shown above is from Ohioana’s scrapbook collection. The photo was taken by Mrs. Oliver Kuhn, an early Ohioana member who traveled throughout the state photographing locations connected to Ohio authors. We’ll share more of Mrs. Kuhn’s photos in a future post!

Civil Rights Photos of James Karales

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Cover of the book "Controversy and Hope" showing a photograph of a young African-American man carrying the American flag while white soldiers and African-American children look on. Photograph was taken during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights.In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this week we’re highlighting a recent addition to our collection: Controversy and Hope: The Civil Rights Photographs of James Karales.

Karales was born in 1930 in Canton, Ohio. He attended Ohio University, switching his major from engineering to photography after seeing the work of his photographer roommate. After graduation, Karales moved to New York and eventually became a staff photographer for Look magazine in 1960. This job not only allowed him to travel the world, but also gave him the opportunity to document the civil rights movement over the course of several years. During this time he developed a professional relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and became one of only a few photographers who were granted access to King’s home.

The photographs in Controversy and Hope include a range of assignments between 1960 and 1965, culminating the historic Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights. Karales documented not only the major events of the civil rights movement, but also the preparations leading up to them, including quiet moments with the King family at home. Many of the book’s photographs are previously unpublished, providing a rare and unique view of events that changed the nation.

Vintage Christmas Books

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This week we’re sharing a few vintage Christmas-themed books from Ohioana’s collection.

First is Christmas Every Day and Other Stories Told for Children by William Dean Howells, published by Harper & Brothers Publishers in 1893. We talked about Howells in our last post about decorative publishers’ bindings here. This particular book is a first edition donated to the library by Carl Vitz (1883-1981), who was an Ohioana Career Award winner, president of the American Library Association, and director of both the Toledo Public Library and the Cincinnati Public Library.Chr Every DayNext is Yule-Tide in Many Lands by Mary P. Pringle and Clara A. Urann. (Urann also wrote Centennial History of Cleveland.) The book was published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepherd Co. in 1916, when it was priced at $1.00.YuleTideManyLandsSanta Claus on a Lark, a collection of short stories by Washington Gladden, was published by The Century Co. in 1890. Gladden was a nationally recognized theologian who served at the First Congregational Church in Columbus for thirty-two years, served on the Columbus City Council for two years, and was considered for the presidency of Ohio State University. He was an outspoken advocate of labor rights and racial equality.SantaClausLarkFinally, we have Santa Claus’s New Castle by Maude Florence Bellar, published in Columbus, Ohio by Nitschke Brothers in 1896. You can see another work by Nitschke Brothers from Ohioana’s archives here.SCNewCastle

Mildred Wirt Benson

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"The Hidden Staircase" was rumored to be Benson's favorite Nancy Drew book.
“The Hidden Staircase” was rumored to be Benson’s favorite Nancy Drew book.

This past weekend, keepsakes and other items belonging to Nancy Drew author Mildred Wirt Benson were sold at auction in Toledo, where Benson worked as a newspaper reporter for nearly 60 years until her death in 2002. Items sold at the auction included a desk, typewriter, books, and a few hundred cancelled checks signed by Benson. The typewriter she used to write the Nancy Drew books had already been donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Benson was born in 1905 in Iowa, and was the first woman to earn a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. In the late 1920s publisher Edward Stratemeyer, who specialized in producing inexpensive serial novels aimed at teen readers, hired Benson to revive his struggling Ruth Fielding series. Stratemeyer, who also created the successful Hardy Boys books, would generally create story outlines and then have ghostwriters expand the outlines into books. When he decided to create a female detective series he gave Benson the job, and Nancy Drew was born. Dana girls coverBenson is credited with shaping Nancy’s independent character. Although Stratemeyer thought Nancy was too “flip,” she resonated with young readers and became an inspiration for generations of young girls.

Benson wrote 23 Nancy Drew mysteries and 12 Dana Girls mysteries under the Carolyn Keene pseudonym (which was owned by Stratemeyer and shared by multiple ghostwriters), as well as nearly 100 other books. Under her own name she wrote the Ruth Darrow books (about a girl pilot) and the Penny Parker books (about a girl reporter).

The book covers shown in this post are part of Ohioana’s collection. To see additional books as well as correspondence, journalism scrapbooks, and more, visit the University of Iowa’s online Mildred Wirt Benson Collection.

Decorative Publishers’ Bindings

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During the 1800s publishers began looking for an economical way to produce books in large quantities. Cloth covers replaced leather, and case binding (where the text block and cover were produced separately and the cover was then attached with glue) became the norm. Although these bindings were economical, they were often ornately decorated with gold or silver stamping and illustrations that reflected not only the book’s subjectPubBindRemington matter, but also the artistic style of the day. Following are a few examples of decorative publisher’s bindings from Ohioana’s collection.

Alfred Henry Lewis was born in 1855 in Cleveland. After working as a prosecuting attorney he gave up law and became a journalist, working as a reporter for the Chicago Times and as editor of the Chicago Times-Herald. During his career Lewis published numerous magazine articles and short stories and a dozen novels. Wolfville was his first published book; this 1897 edition was published by the Frederick A. Stokes Company and contains illustrations by Frederic Remington.

PubBindDunbarPaul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1872 in Dayton, where he was a classmate of Orville Wright. He wrote for Dayton community newspapers, published an African-American newsletter, and worked as an elevator operator while writing poetry. His work gained notice among literary figures including Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley and Ohio-born novelist and Atlantic Monthly editor William Dean Howells. Dunbar eventually achieved international fame. Although he is best known for his poetry, he also wrote short stories, novels, plays, and songs. He died in Dayton in 1906.

This edition of Li’l’ Gal was published by Dodd, Mead and Co. in 1904. The cover and highly decorated interior pages were created by Margaret Armstrong; you can see her initials at the base of the bouquet. Armstrong was one of several prominent women designers working in publishing during the late 1800s and early 1900s. She specialized in nature-inspired themes and worked on several of Dunbar’s books.

PubBindHowells1Finally, we have two books by William Dean Howells. Howells was born in 1837 in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. His father was a newspaperman, and Howells often helped with typesetting and printing as a boy. In 1858 Howells began to work at the Ohio State Journal, where he wrote poetry and short stories. As a reward for writing a campaign biography of Abraham Lincoln, Howells was appointed U.S. consul in Venice, Italy in 1861. After his return he became editor of the The Atlantic Monthly in Boston. In this position he helped introduce new European and American Realist authors to American readers, and supported such writers as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Stephen Crane, and Mark Twain (with whom he formed a lifelong friendship). However, some of Howell’s most critically acclaimed books were written after he left The Atlantic, including his best-known work, The Rise of Silas Lapham. Howells wrote more than 40 novels and short story collections before his death in 1920.

PubBindHowells2The edition of Tuscan Cities above right was published in Boston by Ticknor and Company in 1886. The Daughter of the Storage, a collection of short stories and poems, was published by Harper & Brothers Publishers in 1916.

To see more decorative publishers’ bindings, visit Publishers’ Bindings Online, a joint project of The University of Alabama, University Libraries and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

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