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A Firsthand Account of the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and the Plymouth Colony

One of the first pilgrims to make the journey to the New World was a man by the name of William Bradford.  Bradford was born in Austerfield, Yorkshire on March 19, 1590.  Orphaned at a young age, Bradford was raised by his two uncles who wanted him to help on the farm.  Because of illness, Bradford was unable and instead immersed himself in the Bible and literature.  As a teenager, he was introduced to Puritan theology and found himself actively involved in the Separatist movement which decided to cut all ties with the Church of England and attempts for reform.

The Separatists suffered religious persecution in England and after seeking refuge in Denmark, decided to head for the New World to start a colony where they would be free to worship as they choose, and to raise their children in the traditions of their heritage.

The pilgrims ventured into the blue horizon on board the Mayflower in September 1620 and arrived at Cape Cod in November 1620, after 65 days at sea.  Bradford was one of the first volunteers who went out to explore the land.  Bradford and the other pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony, making a sort of alliance with the native Pokanoket tribe.

William Bradford became governor of Plymouth after the previous governor suddenly died.  He remained governor for thirty years and created a record of the pilgrims and their experiences as they made their homes in the New World.  This record is now widely known as The History of the Plymouth Plantation and is the primary source from which we get our Thanksgiving history.

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections library has a 19th Century, sixth edition volume of this publication which presents a facsimile of the original manuscript (Call # 974.402 B72 1896).  It can be viewed in the reading room and would be well worth the visit as it gives a better sense of meaning to the Thanksgiving season.

Upper left and lower right images taken from William Bradford, History of the Plimoth Plantation: containing an account of the voyage of the ‘Mayflower’/ written by William Bradford one of the founders and second governor of the colony; now reproduced in facsimile from the original manuscript with an introduction by John A. Doyle, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford (London: Ward and Downey Limited; Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1896).

Past Presidents of the United States of America

In the spirit of the elections tomorrow, now is a great time to look back in our history and review the administrations of past presidents of the United States of America.

Special Collections houses a beautiful special edition, rare book entitled The White House Gallery of Official Portraits of the Presidents, published in 1907.  This book measures just a few inches shy of two feet in height and contains beautiful illustrations of the presidents beginning with our first president, George Washington, and continuing until William McKinley, our 25th president.

According to the book’s introduction, the artists for each presidential portrait were selected not only for their skill but also for their personal familiarity of their subjects.  The same great care was taken by the publishers in selecting the authors of the historical review for each president.  The authors were experts for the period of history in which each respective US President administered as well as authorities on the life and personalities of the men themselves.

Whether you browse through the book or take the time to read the story illustrated by the beautiful prose, you will enjoy the artful portraits and succinct, academic honesty which recounts our presidential history.  George Washington is described in respectful honesty as Washington, the man. Abraham Lincoln is praised and described by a personal acquaintance.  Others are described as well in their successes or failures.

One of the most poetic entries is that for Thomas Jefferson.  John W. Daniel, US Senator from Virginia, immortalized President Jefferson through a stirring tribute to his character, his public service, and his innovation.  He concludes his entry in the following way:

“[Thomas Jefferson] was strong in all courage; yea, in civic courage, the rarest of all forms of bravery.  This Jefferson had the quiet, patient, daring, superb courage that looks public opinion in the eye, and dares confront and affront it and not flinch the encounter.  When he stood for Independence they said ‘Rebel.’  When he stood for justice they said ‘Communist.’  When he stood for religious freedom they cried ‘Infidel.’  When he aroused the people against monarchy and concentrated power they said ‘Demagogue.’  But the common people heard him gladly.  They knew their ears, and with one accord they said, ‘All Hail, Our Friend.'”

Dying without a penny, his very books, his land, his home were sold away from his inheritors, and fighting successfully every battle but his own, he crowned the people as victor in every battle that he won.  If it is right that a man sues for, and if he does not believe that one man is born bridled and saddled, and the other booted and spurred – let him pluck a flower from this good man’s life and wear it in his soul forever.”

Much more can be read about Thomas Jefferson and our other presidents.  Those history buffs who are interested will find this book using call number 923.173 W58 1907 at the Special Collections reference desk.

Upper left image taken from the title page of The White House Gallery of Official Portraits of the Presidents (Washington, DC: The Gravure Company of America, 1097, c1901).

Lower left image of Thomas Jefferson taken from The White House Gallery of Official Portraits of the Presidents (Washington, DC: The Gravure Company of America, 1097, c1901).

Tryst Press and the Craft of Making Books

What one expects to find in a library are books. What one expects to find in a Special Collections library are old books made from old printing practices, preserving the beauty of the past. However, did you know that Special Collections also has modern books made from handcrafted material in the old tradition of letterpress?

A locally run printing press known as Tryst Press has been printing books for years in the tradition of 15th century printing known as letterpress. Letterpress is a printing practice in which inked, movable type is used as a relief while paper is rolled or pressed against it to create a printed page. This type of printing was invented by Johannes Gutenberg and was used until the mid-19th century. Today, Tryst Press uses this method to create custom, handcrafted books incorporating watermarks, and colorful, original artistic illustrations.

Tryst Press also creates its own materials for the books by hand, starting with making paper in their very own paper mill. They have maintained the tradition of western-style hand-papermaking using the plant fibers from hemp, cotton, and flax.

Many of the items mentioned on Tryst Press’s website can be found in Special Collections. Among them are beautiful, custom cards and many custom books.

A few books worth mentioning include an original printing of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, which displays enchanting images printed and designed by owner Rob Buchert. Another is an original collection of poems called A Harvest of Love, which is an endearing tribute from a husband to his wife throughout a lifetime of companionship. One final recommendation is a book of quotes titled Beauty: being several quotes upon the subject. The poetic charm of B. G. Jefferis, J. L. Nichols, Christopher Morley and Alexander Pope complement the artistic charm and quality of the book itself.

Taking the opportunity to view these items is well worth the visit. The craftsmanship of the paper, binding, printing and books will take your breath away as you turn each artistic page.

Source: www.trystpress.com

Upper left image taken from Leslie Norris, A Harvest of Love (Provo, UT: Tryst Press, 2003).

Lower right image taken from B.G. Jefferis, Beauty: Being Several Quotes Upon the Subject (Provo, UT: Tryst Press, 1995).

The Joseph Smith Sr. Family Room Open House at Special Collections

This Thursday, October 25th, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm Special Collections will be holding an Open House in honor of their newly designed donor room, the Joseph Smith Sr. Family Room.

The Smith Family donor room is located in room 1141 on the first floor of the Harold B. Lee Library inside Special Collections.  During the open house, visitors are welcome to drop by and browse the new displays of family artifacts which enhance the ambience of this donor room named in honor of the family of Joseph Smith Sr.

Among the artifacts on display visitors will find the original painting of Lucy Mack Smith familiar to many church members.  Lucy was the mother of Joseph Smith Jr. and Hyrum Smith.  She was also Joseph Smith Jr.’s main biographer and a major figure in LDS history. 

One will also find the Smith Family Bible, which belonged to Hyrum Smith and which kept a record of the family genealogy.  Journal entries and missionary letters from Hyrum’s sons, John Smith and Joseph F. Smith, are also on display revealing the same struggles as modern missionaries involving the difficulty of learning a new language and waiting on letters from home.

There are also fun little facts hidden in the descriptions of the displays.  The walking stick which belonged to Hyrum Smith, and which John Smith inherited on his father’s death, is displayed.  The metal tip was shaved down to adjust for the difference in height between father and son.  Joseph Smith Jr.’s coin purse is also on display with a ticket to a theological lecture given by Brigham Young.

This opportunity to see so many rare items which tell the story of the Smith family is made possible by Eldred G. Smith, the great-great-great grandson of Joseph Smith Sr.  Elder Smith was ordained as the eighth Presiding Patriarch of the Church in 1947 and was given emeritus status in 1979.  At 105 he still serves as patriarch, making him the oldest living General Authority in the history of the church.  His generous donation of the material for this exhibit is a special honor and we invite everyone to share in our appreciation.

Come join us and see our local treasures.  Light refreshments will also be served.

Upper left image is a portrait of Lucy Mack Smith, artist unknown.  The original artwork is on display in the Joseph Smith Sr. Family Room Open House.

Lower left image is a picture of Joseph Smith’s coin purse displaying a ticket to a lecture by Brigham Young.

Ghost Towns and Near Death Experiences

You never know what fascinating stories can be found so close to home, and so appropriately for a season about ghosts and the supernatural.  From the depths of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections come two such examples. Local voices from Utah’s history add to the golden feeling of reminiscence and the strange feeling of the supernatural.

Title: The ghost town of Hillsdale; Author: Naomi A. Jensen; Call # MSS SC 1624

Along US Highway 89, about 9 miles south of Panguitch, lies the old town of Hillsdale, Utah.  Hillsdale got its start when Joel Hills Johnson and George Deliverance Wilson started a saw mill in the 1870s.  They were soon joined by about thirty families.  Over the years, the quaint town eventually fell silent as residents began to move away from the difficult climate and overlapping land claims.  It’s now known as one of Utah’s own ghost towns.

Practically deserted, the haunting charms of a previous life to the town lies in the abandoned schoolhouse, with a bell that still rings; rustic log houses, with sheds and barns adorning the property; and a cemetery on a hill that can be seen from the highway.

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections contains a record of one whose family used to live in the town. The author describes memories and personal connections to the area.  Part of her narrative includes the argument that the town should be maintained as an historical settlement.  It promotes preservation and encourages a visit to days gone by.

Title: A glimpse of the spirit world; Author: James F. Washburn; Call # MSS SC 1061

Another interesting narrative in Special Collections is that of a near death experience told by James F. Washburn, a residence of Blanding, Utah in the 1920s.  Written in his own hand, Washburn begins his story by describing the death of his wife earlier that year.  He also recounts the sudden death of his son a few months later, who at age 15 was accidentally shot in the abdomen.  Finally, he tells of the tragic death of an adult son killed in a wagon accident, leaving behind a wife and six young children.

At the time of his experience, Washburn was severely ill with influenza.  Yet, his emphasis that he was completely lucid illustrates his conviction and the sacredness of the experience.  While struggling to sit up, Washburn has a vision of his wife holding the child they lost at 5 months old.  She greets him and tells him that she and their two sons are all well.  She tells him how each of his sons are doing and what they are up to in the Spirit World.  She tells him about his brother, who died at a young age, and how he is serving his mission among the Lamanites.  Washburn goes on to describe what he learned and saw of the Spirit World with fascinating insight.

As the vision closes, Washburn watches from his make-shift bed as his departing wife’s spirit encounters their son who was entering the room.  He records, “She had to edge around him as he came in, in order to reach the door behind him … [I exclaimed] ‘O Ross I have seen something’ and asked him if he had not seen anybody.  He said ‘no,’ though he had met his mother face to face.”

Similar records can be found in the archives of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections library.  You never know what fascinating stories you may find in its vaults.

Image taken from James F. Washburn, A glimpse of the spirit world 1922; Call # MSS SC 1061

Salt Lake City Legend Tripping

Every town has its very own ghost stories and tall tales which can fascinate the adventurous or frighten the timid. Even our very own Salt Lake City has its share. From the vaults of Special Collections you can find one particular collection which describes 16 sites in Northern Utah ideal for the adventurous spirits interested in what the author terms “legend tripping.”

In this context, legend tripping is used to describe a trip where a group seeks out the sites of local legends and visits them to explore, experience, and test the validity of the lore. In the item titled Salt Lake City legend trip sites (Call # FA 1 2274 box 228) by Brent Nielson, 16 local sites are listed and their legends described. A flurry of the fantastic, mysterious, or supernatural surrounds the story of each site. Among them are ghost stories, murders, tragic accidents, witchcraft, and intrigue.

One of the sites mentioned by Nielson is that of the Black Pool in Salt Lake City. Legend tells a story of a wealthy couple with a young daughter. While the story tends to vary, ranging from the mother as murderess to a tragic accident, the common tale is that the small child drowned in the pool outside the family home. From the moment the child died the water turned black and has remained black ever since.

A supernatural story, known as the Lady in White, sets the scene for another mother who lived in Salt Lake City. This is a ghost story in which a desperate mother is unable to save her baby from a burning house. After charging into the flames in an attempt at rescue, she and the child are lost to the flames. This legend prompts the listener to visit the home where now a large tree is prominent. When night falls, one can see an unnatural light descending upon the tree and a ghostly figure of a woman cradling an infant in her arms.

The other intriguing stories include those of the Mafia house, Hobbitland, Gravity Hill and Suicide Rock. Since Nielson visited a number of the sites, pictures are included in the collection. Among them are pictures of the black water of the Black Pool and the old tree of the Lady in White.

To take a look at this collection the call number, title, and author are needed (all of which are provided above). Visitors will be expected to leave their personal belongings in a locker, will be required to fill out paperwork and complete a brief Reading Room Registration interview.

Come visit the L. Tom Perry Special Collections and see what new ghost stories you will find for Halloween.

Image Use courtesy of L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602. (Image call# MSS P 4 #202318; Title: Coffin at grave)

He’s Got Rhythm: Upcoming John W. Bubbles Collection

From the 1930s lights and glamour of motion pictures in Hollywood and Broadway Theater in New York City, John W. Bubbles emerges in entertainment history as the father of rhythmic tap.  Mr. Bubbles, as he was commonly known, merged tap and provisional jazz styles in his dance.  He improvised by dropping his heels on the offbeat and extending rhythmic patterns beyond the eight bars of music and accenting the rhythm with his toes.  At the time, tap dancers danced mostly on their toes and to a 2/4 beat of early jazz-type music.  Many have opined that John W. Bubbles was the greatest tap dancer of his generation.

With humble beginnings in Louisville, Kentucky, John William Sublett was born in 1902 and was later raised in Indianapolis.  He began performing with his sister when he was only seven years old.  In 1918 he was performing with his childhood friend Ford L. “Buck” Washington and was going by the name John W. Bubbles.  The duo was known as “Buck and Bubbles” and for the next 40 years their talent charmed audiences across the country.

Throughout their career, Buck and Bubbles broke down the racial barriers that many African Americans faced at the time.  They were the first African Americans to perform at the Radio City Music Hall when they appeared in Ziegfeld Follies in 1931.  They were also the first African American act to appear at the Palace.  It is believed that they may have also been the first black artists to appear on television.

Mr. Bubbles had a natural talent for music as a singer, dancer, and entertainer.  This talent was recognized by George Gershwin who taught Bubbles how to read music and chose him for the role of Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess in 1935, a role which helped make him a star. He went on to perform with Judy Garland and Bob Hope, rubbing shoulders with other Hollywood stars and elite entertainers.

As an incredible improvisational dancer, John W. Bubbles was a large influence on tap dancers everywhere including Fred Astaire.  Astaire had the opportunity to learn some steps from Bubbles, but struggled somewhat with the material.  During the tribute “Bojangles of Harlem” in the film Swing Time, Astaire ironically dresses as Bubble’s character in Porgy and Bess and dances in the rhythmic style of Mr. Bubbles.

In 1967, Bubbles had a stroke which left him partially paralyzed on the left side.  However, during the 1970s a surge of new interest in tap dance made him beloved to a whole new generation.  Bubbles was awarded the American Guild of Variety Artists Life Achievement Award in 1980.  In 1986, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in his home.  In 2002, Mr. Bubbles was inducted into the Tap Dance Hall of fame.

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections has acquired an expansive collection of John W. Bubbles’ personal belongings which include many artifacts from his career and personal life.  Among them are his hat and cane which he stylized in his dancing, and which influence can be seen in performances of Fred Astaire. The collection also contains photos and autographs of famous Hollywood stars, original sheet music, film and sound reels, and correspondence just to name a few.

As the collection is still being processed, there is no call number yet but it is something we gladly look forward to browsing through in the future.  In the meantime, interested readers can find many charming videos of Mr. Bubbles online.  Here are a few just to get you started.

http://youtu.be/c58AAcnaPTo

http://youtu.be/jhknrNZyE-I

 

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.  Portrait of John W. Bubbles, as the original Sporting Life in George Gershwin’s 1935 opera Porgy and Bess.  Photography by Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964).

“I Found It In the Archives!”

October is American Archives Month and to celebrate the occasion the L. Tom Perry Special Collections curators will be holding an Open House this Friday, September 28 from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm and Saturday, September 29 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm in the Special Collections Classroom, Room 1130 of the Harold B. Lee Library.

Participating curators include Gordon Daines, Tom Wells, Larry Draper, Jim D’Arc, and Trevor Alford with contributions from Jeff Mahas, John Murphy, and Kristi Young.

Since the curators will be present with displays of significant items from their collections, the Open House presents a rare opportunity for the general public to converse one-on-one with the curators of each collection.  Each curator is a wealth of knowledge and shares fascinating facts about the items they’ve acquired and their significance to history and society.

A sampling of items will be on display from all areas of Special Collections.

There will be the unique opportunity to view the beauty of chromolithographic printing in the reproduction of Thomas Moran’s watercolors of the American West, said to be the greatest example of such printing ever done – a spectacularly beautiful display.

For World War II buffs, the Don Gilmore Christenson journals record his encounters with NAZI Brown Shirts and Gestapo agents as World War II begins to unfold.  There will also be German Propaganda on display, representing how Hitler used persuasive argument with his countrymen.

From LDS church history there will be an unpublished manuscript of a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1832, a letter from President James Buchanan to Thomas Kane to negotiate a truce in the supposed Mormon insurrection, the diary of Levi Jackman who was part of the original pioneer company in 1847, a rare 1942 edition of The Book of Mormon, a 1969 English edition of The Book of Mormon using phonic characters for non-English speaking members, and much more.

From BYU history one will find a UA 716 sweater, coat and hat belonging to a 1930s student at BYU; early photos of Cosmo the Cougar shortly after his unveiling in 1953, an issue of White and Blue which was a student newspaper and literary magazine, and material which highlights the influence of BYU graduates, faculty, and students on Popular Culture including Aaron Eckhart, Stephanie Meyer, and Julie Stoffer.

There will also be pencil drawings from Jessica Day George, author of Dragon Slippers and early drafts of Faking It by Jeanette Rallison, which was later published as My Double Life.

Come join us as we delve into the vault and discover what you can find in the archives!

(Special Collections is located on the first level of the Harold B. Lee Library, two floors down from the main floor.)

Image Use courtesy of L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602. (Image call# UAP 2 Folder 257; Title: A helicopter lowers an antenna in place on top of the Harris Fine Arts Center March 11 1968)

Voices of the Civil War Exhibit

Evidence and ArtifactsOn display right now at Special Collections, visitors will find a beautiful exhibit entitled “Voices of the Civil War.”  An enchanting wafting of music immediately draws in the curious and creates the atmosphere of stepping into the whispering voices of America’s past, while lantern slides rotate through historic pictures of the 19th century.

Through displays of historic correspondence, literature, cinema, artifacts, sheet music, and art, the Civil War is described by those who experienced it, those who were affected by it, and those who have learned from it.

Among those who have been given voice by this exhibit, we become acquainted with slave traders who have left a bill of sale which describes the dark complexions of an African family callously labeled “property.”  We hear the voice of a slave owner who has granted freedom to his own slave as we read his proclamation in his own hand.  We understand the reach of influence literature has as we admire an early edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

We see the fascination later generations have as we observe Civil War themes throughout American cinema.

We lift our eyes in painful awe as we attempt to absorb the details of the 9 feet by 20 feet reproduction of Peter Frederick Rothermel’s painting Battle of Gettysburg.

As we read the letters written home by young Don Carlos Salisbury (the nephew to Joseph Smith), we feel the excitement war is to a young boy and we experience the change and weariness in his voice as the years go on and how innocence changes in the wake of the hard reality known as death.  We see firsthand the turmoil and pain of a family torn by the war.  We see evidence that the war pitted brother against brother, father against son.

We see that historic newspaper, dated Saturday, April 15, 1865 declaring a “terrible calamity.  President Lincoln assassinated” and we hear a young nation gasp.

Of particular interest to Latter-day Saints, we hear the voice of the prophet Joseph Smith as we read the transcript in W.W. Phelps’ hand of the revelation given on December 25, 1835 which begins, “Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina…” (Doctrine and Covenants Section 87)

Ranging from the spring of 1861 to 1865, the American Civil War was the most costly wars of human life in its history.  More than 600,000 lives were lost.  Many more carried the scars, visible and nonvisible, for the rest of their lives.  So many stories and so many voices rise up to tell the defining moment of the United States, a moment when a nation began to define itself as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” (Pledge of Allegiance, emphasis mine)

For more voices from the Civil War visit the exhibit and see the stories that are told first hand.  There are also many other items available in Special Collections that tell about the Civil War.  The Journal of a Grandfather is a privately printed edition of only 100 copies which journals the experiences of a Civil War soldier who served in the 1st Texas Artillery and as colonel of the 16th Confederate States Cavalry.  (Call # 973.78 H87j 1912)  Another item of interest may be a holding titled Chronicles from the diary of a war prisoner in Andersonville and other military prisons of the South in 1864: Experiences, observations, interviews and poems written in prison, with historical introduction. An appendix containing statement of a Confederate physician and officer relative to prison condition and management. (Call # 973.771 N81 1904)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide, with only 300,000 sold in the U.S. The L. Tom Perry Special Collections has several copies of this controversial abolitionist text. The novel has been shrouded in controversy since its inception. As an abolitionist text in 1852 it was extolled by fellow abolitionists and despised by pro-slavery advocates. Mrs. Stowe and her novel were so popular that they even garnered an Abraham Lincoln myth. It is said, but unsubstantiated, that on a visit to meet the President in 1862 Abraham Lincoln said to Mrs. Stowe, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Special Collections has copies of the American first edition and other editions printed abroad in 1853. As we continue to commemorate the Civil War you are invited to come down to Special Collections to see this novel that acted as a spark to incite the Civil War and to draw the line on the issue of slavery in the United States in the middle of the 19th Century.

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