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.

A Thousand Days

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Today we have a guest post by Ohioana’s executive director, David Weaver, who served as development director for nearly eight years before assuming his new position in September. On the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, David reflects on his memories of that day and on the Ohio connection to one of Kennedy’s trusted advisors and friends.

KennedyHeadline“Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – an event that no one who was alive and old enough to remember will ever forget. I myself was a sixth-grade student at East Linden Elementary School. I can still vividly remember my teacher, Mrs. Rogers, ashen faced as she told us, “I don’t know quite how to tell you this, but the president has been shot.” Soon we learned that the man everyone knew as JFK was dead. Like all Americans, my family spent the next three days transfixed before the television. I read the special edition of the November 23, 1963 issue of the Columbus Citizen-Journal and put it away as a keepsake that I have to this day.

From Ohioana's copy of A Thousand Days
From Ohioana’s copy of A Thousand Days

You may not know this but there was a close Ohio and Ohioana connection within the Kennedy White House. Columbus-born Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was a noted teacher and historian who had won the Pulitzer Prize and two Ohioana Book Awards by the time he joined the Kennedy administration in 1961. Schlesinger had been a friend of Kennedy’s since they had been classmates at Harvard. He served Kennedy in a number of capacities: speechwriter, historical consultant, adviser. But mainly he was there to document the administration in preparation for the memoir Kennedy planned to write once he left the White House. The assassination, however, changed those plans irrevocably. Schlesinger decided to take the notes he had compiled during the thirty-four months of JFK’s presidency and wrote A Thousand Days. (The title was taken from one of the passages in JFK’s memorable inaugural address). The book, the first by a member of Kennedy’s inner circle, was released in 1965 and won both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.

Schlesinger would continue teaching and writing for four more decades. He famously coined the term “imperial presidency” in the title of his book about the Nixon administration and its abuses of power. In 1979, Schlesinger won a second National Book Award for Robert Kennedy and His Times.

In 1992, Schlesinger came to his native Columbus to receive Ohioana’s highest accolade – the Career Medal. At the ceremony Schlesinger admitted that since his family had moved to Iowa when he was only five he did not have many memories of his birthplace. But he spoke of the summers he spent at his grandmother’s farm in Xenia and told the audience, ‘I have always felt an Ohioan in spirit.’

Schlesinger remained active to the end of his life; he was one of the first contributing bloggers when the Huffington Post was launched in 2005, two years before his death at the age of 89. During his long career he produced more than thirty books. A Thousand Days remains probably his most famous work, one that is both a historical record and at the same time a memoir of and a tribute to the friend whose life and presidency were cut tragically short on that sunny day in Dallas.”

The Gettysburg Address

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writgettycoverlgOne hundred and fifty years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history. In honor of this we’re highlighting a new book in Ohioana’s collection: Writing the Gettysburg Address by Martin P. Johnson.

Johnson, an assistant professor of history at Miami University, conducted extensive research using numerous primary sources and contemporary accounts of the speech. His book traces the creation of the Gettysburg Address from the first draft through revisions the morning of the ceremony and Lincoln’s delivery of the address itself. Along the way Johnson sheds light on many of the myths surrounding the speech, and also shows how the speech’s evolution mirrors Lincoln’s intellectual and emotional journey from Washington to the battlefield.

For more information, including images of two handwritten drafts of the Gettysburg Address and a photograph of Lincoln on the podium, you can visit the Library of Congress “Gettysburg Address” online exhibit here.

Thomas Edison

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EdisonCover lowresToday we’re highlighting a recent addition to Ohioana’s collection: Edison and the Rise of Innovation by Leonard DeGraaf. The author is an archivist at the Thomas Edison National Historic Park, and it shows; almost every spread contains images such as family photographs, Edison’s homes and laboratories, advertising ephemera, correspondence, and pages from Edison’s notebooks.

Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, and also worked for a while as a telegraph operator in Cincinnati. The book covers his life in detail, including major accomplishments such as electric lighting and the phonograph as well as lesser-known inventions such as a talking doll and an electric pen. Throughout, DeGraaf focuses not just on the  moment of discovery, but also on the process Edison used to design, manufacture, and market the products developed in his labs.

Ohioana is currently looking for book reviewers! If you’d like to review this book or another one in our collection, you can visit this page of our website for more information. You can also visit our “to read” shelf on Goodreads to see what’s available.

Edison letterFinally, we’re sharing an Edison item from Ohioana’s own archives. This 1913 letter was signed by Edison and sent from his lab in West Orange, New Jersey. It is part of the library’s collection of correspondence signed by prominent Ohioans.

Ohio Presidents

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In the spirit of election week, we’re featuring a few items from our Ohio Presidents collection. We’ve featured some ephemera from this collection in a previous post; today we’re sharing some pre-presidential correspondence.

Grant letterThis letter signed by Ulysses S. Grant was written in July 1865 to John Aaron Rawlins, Grant’s chief of staff at U.S. Army headquarters and later his first secretary of war. The two men first met in 1861, when Grant was forming a regiment in Rawlins’s hometown of Galena, Illinois to meet President Lincoln’s call for troops. Rawlins stayed with Grant throughout the war and played a significant role in maintaining Grant’s public image and encouraging his sobriety during the conflict. In the letter Grant mentions GarfieldTelegramRawlins’s return to Washington “…I hope with health materially improved.” This likely refers to the fact that Rawlins had contracted tuberculosis; he died in 1869 at age 38. Grant served two terms as president (1869-1877) and died in 1885 at age 63.

This undated telegraph message from James Garfield appears to have been written sometime during his nine consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although Garfield’s congressional service had been long, his presidency lasted just six months before he was killed by an assassin’s bullet in 1881.

BHarrison LetterThis letter from Benjamin Harrison was written when he worked as an attorney in Indianapolis. In the letter Harrison attempts to negotiate a more favorable legal settlement for a client; however, an addendum at the bottom states that the original offer was the best the other party could do. In addition to his law practice, Harrison was active in both state and national politics: he served as reporter for the Supreme Court of Indiana, was a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention, campaigned for presidential nominee James Garfield, and was elected to the U.S. Senate. Harrison served as president from 1889-1893, and died in Indianapolis in 1901 at age 67.

Authors in the Ohioana Archives

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In addition to biographical files on Ohio authors, the Ohioana Library’s collection includes manuscripts, artwork, correspondence, and more. To celebrate the last day of National Archives Month, we’re highlighting some items from our Lois Lenski collection.

LenskiLtrLenski was born in 1893 in Springfield, Ohio, but soon moved to the small community of Anna. She was a voracious reader throughout her childhood. After graduating from Ohio State University, she studied at the Art Students’ League in New York and the Westminster School of Art in London, England. She began her literary career by illustrating the works of other writers such as Hugh Lofting (author of Doctor Dolittle) and Maud Hart Lovelace (author of the Betsy-Tacy books). The first two books that Lenski wrote herself–Skipping Village in 1927 and A Little Girl of Nineteen Hundred in 1928–were based on her own childhood in Ohio. Lenski went on to write numerous historical and regional novels for young people, and won the Newbery Award for Strawberry Girl in 1946. She died in 1974 at the age of 80.

In the 1930s Lenski began to donate original artwork and other items to libraries, where they would be available to the public. The letter above was written in 1944 to the director of the Ohioana Library, offering to donate pieces from her first two books. The images below show some of these items.

On the left is the cover from a small mock-up of A Little Girl of Nineteen Hundred, showing that the book’s title changed slightly during the development process. The mock-up includes several pages and is hand-stitched. The middle image shows a later version of the same cover, sporting a revised title and finished artwork. On the right is the final cover from Ohioana’s collection copy of the book, which is a later edition. It shows a few more changes, including gold accents and a new publisher. (The original publisher, Frederick A. Stokes, was acquired by J.B. Lippincott in 1943.)

LenskiCovers

The image below left shows an interior page from the mock-up, including edits handwritten in pencil. At right is the same page from Ohioana’s collection copy.

LenskiPages

Magazines in the Ohioana Archives

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MunseyJuly1908The Ohioana Library’s collection includes periodicals focused on Ohio literature, people, and places. Although many of the titles are contemporary, the collection also includes titles from the late 1800s and early 1900s, including The Kit-Kat, The Buckeye Informer, and Buckeye Printerdom. There are also a few surprises…

The Munsey was originally founded in 1889. It became a huge success two years later when it was redesigned to appeal to a broad audience; typical content included articles about current MunseyApr1909events, entertainment/theater news, biographies, and popular fiction. The issue above right from July 1908 contains an article on Theodore Roosevelt’s cabinet (including Secretary of War William Howard Taft) and advertisements for the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and Oxford College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. The issue below right from April 1909 includes a story by O. Henry (who spent some time in the Ohio State Penitentiary) and an article about Judson Harmon, the 41st U.S. attorney general and the 45th governor of Ohio.

CosmoFeb1918Cosmo looked very different in the early 1900s! Originally established as a family magazine, Cosmopolitan soon became a leading source of fiction from writers including Jack London, Willa Cather, and Upton Sinclair. This issue from February 1918 includes a story by Cincinnati native George Randolph Chester and illustrations by Howard Chandler Christy, an Ohioana award winner and creator of the popular “Christy Girl.”

Ephemera in the Ohioana Archives

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As we continue to celebrate National Archives Month, we’re sharing some ephemera from Ohioana’s archival collections. Although these items were designed to be thrown away after they had served their purpose, paper can be surprisingly resilient. Today they provide a unique, often fun, and sometimes beautiful glimpse of everyday life.

PumpShowPCloresBecause the 2013 Circleville Pumpkin Show is now history, we thought we’d share this postcard promoting the 1912 show. Although it’s difficult to see in this image, the pumpkin is embossed. Note that the postcard was provided by Crites’ Book Shop and printed by the Circleville Union-Herald, a weekly newspaper that ran under that title from 1888-1927.

LabDayticketloresAlthough this pass for the 1912 New London Labor Day Celebration is not as well-preserved as the postcard above, the beautiful typography is still visible.

The 1938 Ohio State Fair ticket shown below was provided by the Ohio State Journal, which began as the Western Intelligencer in 1811. It was central Ohio’s first newspaper, and was published in Worthington with James Kilbourne as its original editor. When Columbus became the state capital, the paper moved downtown and served as the official reporting newspaper of the Ohio General Assembly. After several name and ownership changes, it became known as the Ohio State Journal in 1840. Although the paper became part of the Dispatch Printing Company in 1950, it continued to be printed under the same name until 1959, when it merged with the Columbus Citizen to become the Columbus Citizen-Journal.

StFairTicklores

And finally, some advertising ephemera from Circleville.

EggAdvloresCanLabellores

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