Gifts from Queen Victoria

Friday, May 24, 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria. The Victorian Collection here at L. Tom Perry Special Collections contains a wealth of material about the Queen and her life, as well as a number of documents signed and written by Victoria herself. In honor of her birthday, we’re sharing a gallery of books from the collection once given by the Queen as gifts! Details about these items can be found in the bibliography of the David Magee Collection — just search on Victoria’s name.

Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”: The Unpublished Art of Maynard Dixon

May 31 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the foremost poets in American literature, Walt Whitman. To celebrate, Special Collections is exhibiting one of its most unique items from our Walt Whitman Collection: a suite of tempera paintings by Maynard Dixon, which were intended to illustrate a never-published edition of Whitman’s poetry collection, Leaves of Grass.

Dixon (1875-1946) created these illustrations between 1929 and 1933. He was living in San Francscio at the time and may have been encouraged in the project by the distinguished fine press printers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, who were working on their own edition of the book around the same period (the Grabhorn edition, which they considered one of their finest works, can also be found in Special Collections). The Dixon Leaves of Grass collection consists of 18 pieces, including seven tempera paintings measuring approximately 6 x 9 inches, and eleven smaller drawings in tempera and ink. Eight of these are on display in the small case exhibit on display in the Special Collections Reference area this month.


New exhibit to celebrate the builders of the First Transcontinental Railroad!


This month the sounds of train whistles and the puffs of steam engines will fill the air in Utah, celebrating 150 years since the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. We here at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections also wish to do our part in acknowledging this important historical event and its impact on Utah and the American West. Along with the current exhibit “Since the Golden Spike: 150 years of Utah railroad history” on display in our main gallery, we are pleased announce a new smaller exhibit titled “Road to Promontory: Planning and Building the Pacific Railroad.”  This exhibit showcases the amazing engineering and building feats it took to complete the First Transcontinental Railroad (aka Pacific Railroad) in 1869.

A focus of this exhibit is not only what was accomplished by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, but how, including the contribution of those, like the Chinese, Irish, and other minority groups, who have gotten little recognition over the past 150 years. This exhibit also acknowledges the impact the railroad had on this land’s native people. While the railroad allowed for safer travel to and through the American West, and boosted economic opportunity, it also spelled the eventual demise of Native Americans and their way of living. To best honor the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, it is important to recognize all sides of the story and all who were involved or effected in its construction.

Also shown are examples of various routes that were proposed for the Pacific Railroad, including an original map and several others viewable digitally on an iPad.  There are also handouts with lists of selected events to celebrate the anniversary in general, as well as events focusing on honoring the Chinese railroad workers. For other events , visit:

This exhibit will be on display in the Entrance Lobby to Special Collections until the end of May 2019. If you are looking for ways to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the completion of the TCRR this month, this is a perfect place to start. You may even see a “golden spike”!


New Book of Mormon Exhibit

We are pleased to announce a new exhibit now on display in L. Tom Perry Special Collections. It is titled “The Book of Mormon in Church History,” and it showcases early significant editions of the Book of Mormon, including an 1830 First Edition, and 1837, 1840, and 1920 editions, with explanations of uinique changes or corrections made. Also shown are various documents related to the history of the Book of Mormon, including a handwritten copy of the 1829 revelation to Martin Harris regarding the calling of Three Witnesses (now D&C); a journal kept by Hyrum Smith where he records selling copies of the Book of Mormon in Kirtland in the 1830s; and documents from the James E. Talmage papers related to his work on the 1920 Book of Mormon Committee.

This exhibit will be on display in the Reading Room in Special Collections until the end of April 2019. Come see this new exhibit and learn more about the early history of the Book of Mormon!

Art Nouveau Bindings for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, we’ve created a gallery of some rather gorgeous poetry books. The bookbindings shown here were all designed in the art nouveau style, and published between 1880 and 1910. Art nouveau features long, flowing lines, inspired by organic forms. It was popular in decorative arts of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods in both Europe and America.

BYU’s Ghost Scroll

One of the most popular items from the Japanese Rare Books Collections, Bakemono no e (化物之繪), also known as the Ghost Scroll, has been digitized along with a number of other rare maps, scrolls, and illustrated books from the collection in order to facilitate research for scholars worldwide. The Ghost Scroll was hand-painted in the late 17th or early 18th century, and it depicts 35 supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore (you may know the kappa, shown here, from the world of Harry Potter). The scroll has been studied both in the U.S. and Japan. BYU students recently created a Wikipedia entry for the Ghost Scroll — check it out to view and learn about each creepy creature!


Hester Telle Richards diary

Hester and Amelia Cannon

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Hester Telle Richards diary (MSS SC 2008).  The diary was started in 1886 when Hester was eighteen and apparently living in Monroe, Utah. She kept the diary in August and September of that year. Also included are miscellaneous notes and observations including class notes from a geography course in 1901.

Hester Telle Cannon was born on February 16, 1872, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to George Quayle Cannon and Martha Telle. She had a twin sister, Amelia. She was the second wife of Daniel Brigham Hill Richards, whom she married on September 3, 1902. They had one son together. Hester Telle Richards died on October 26, 1936, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Queen Victoria’s Coronation

Victoria’s coronation on June 28, 1838 was a grand occasion. Spectators from all over the country flocked to London to see the huge coronation procession as the young queen was carried in a gilded coach from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. The ceremony itself was a five-hour affair marked by several mishaps: the Archbishop of Canterbury jammed the coronation ring made for Victoria’s pinky on the wrong finger, and the elderly Lord Rolle fell down the steps as he tried to pay homage to the new monarch. Lord Rolle was unhurt, but Victoria noted in her diary, “I had the greatest difficulty in taking [the ring] off again, which I at last succeeded in doing, but not without great pain.” After the ceremony, festivities continued with a state dinner and fireworks.

Special Collections preserves a number of items and memorabilia from Victoria’s coronation, including this original ticket to the ceremony and commemorative souvenirs like the one below, which shows the coronation ring, crown, and other regalia used in the ceremony. The top image is from an 18-foot lithographed panorama of the coronation procession published by W. Soffe. The coach is still used for state occasions by the British royal family!


Isaac Brockbank, Jr. papers

Isaac Brockbank, Jr. (1837-1927)

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Isaac Brockbank, Jr. papers (MSS 8837).  This collection contains Isaac Brockbank Jr.’s personal diaries between 1900-1925, an autobiography which he began to write during the time he spent in a Utah prison for Unlawful Cohabitation, and a typed forward of Brockbank’s diaries which includes a personal history of Brockbank’s life alongside summaries of each of his diary entries found in the included diaries. Materials dated between 1884-2016.

Isaac Brockbank Jr. was born on July 13, 1837 in Liverpool, England to Isaac Brockbank and Elizabeth Mainwaring. His parents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1851, emigrating to New Orleans on the Ellen Maria in Feburary 1852. In the course of the family’s journey to the Salt Lake Valley, Isaac’s mother disappeared and was never heard from again. Within a month of their arrival, his father married a Sarah Brown. The family eventually settled in Spanish Fork, Utah, where Isaac, Jr. opened his own dry goods/grocery store, with a partnership contracted to carry U.S. mail south of Salt Lake. On June 25, 1860, he married Katherine Howard and they had seven children together, all of whom survived to adulthood.

In January 1865, being asked to support another family, he married Mary Ann Park; she bore twelve children, losing two in infancy.

In 1867, Isaac helped to build a section of the Transcontinental Railroad. He served in the bishopric of the Eighth Ward from 1871-1891, and was also called in 1871 as a clerk in the Tithing Office. In 1878, he served on the Salt Lake City Council. Isaac was charged in September 1886 with unlawful cohabitation, fined $300, and sentenced to six months in the Utah State Prison. After his release, he worked by contract on what would become the Saltair Railroad, did excavations for various Salt Lake City buildings, and served as Salt Lake County Bailiff and Deputy Sheriff. He died in Holladay, Utah, on March 4, 1927 at the age of 89.

Treasures from the Johnny Maddox performing arts collection: MSS 23


World-renowned ragtime pianist Johnny Maddox died at the age of 91 on November 27, 2018.

In 1970, Mr. Maddox deposited much of his vintage performing arts collection to BYU. Centering on ephemera from the first half of the 20th century, this included collections on American theatre, motion pictures, circus life, vaudeville and magic.

All of the following images are scans from collections that came to BYU through Mr. Maddox. From his records we found that he collected others’ collections as well, and have named those after the original collectors.

This is a cue sheet for cinema in the silent era. It suggests what type of accompaniment would be most appropriate for each scene. This is for the 1918 Paramount film Resurrection starring Pauline Frederick. -Johnny Maddox collection MSS 23.

These two images come from a circus program for the 1935-season tour of the Seils-Stirling Circus. -Verne L. Slout papers MSS 1860.

These pages are from a publication called The Bat, a regular publication for magician’s to learn new tricks and hone their craft. -Ben R. Badley papers MSS 1904.

A highly-interesting portion of the Maddox collection is a number of interviews and reminiscences with residents at the Edwin Forrest Home for retired actors, founded in 1873.

Not only were his collections exotic, but his life was fascinating as well.

Born Aug. 4, 1927, in Gallatin, Tennessee (about 30 miles northeast of Nashville), Johnny Maddox had started to learn the piano from his great-aunt Zula when he was only three years old. Maddox came from a musical family that included his father and others as well. Under Zula’s tutelage he would begin performing at age 5, and began a career as a professional pianist at age 12.

During World War II, Maddox entertained the troops with his music, although after the war, he would join the military on his own. He came into his own when the recording industry was beginning to boom itself. His first single in 1950 was Crazy Bone Rag with St. Louis Tickle on the B-side. This single, distributed on 45 rpm discs sold 22,000 copies in just five weeks. Ragtime was a popular music style in the late 1800s, but had seen a great resurrection in popularity in the postwar era. It was a social music style, and his songs were hits in a burgeoning new medium: the jukebox. In 1951, the MOA (Music Operators of America) declared Maddox’s music was officially found in more jukeboxes than any other artist’s in the U.S.

Maddox was a touring sensation, and in just a few years had traveled to 28 states, Canada and Europe, where he was enthusiastically received. His signature hit would be a cover of a German song, Crazy Otto Rag, which was brought to America by a returning GI rather than released here originally. This became the first all-piano recording to sell over a million copies. Due to the popularity of this recording, he would perform under the name ‘Crazy Otto’ for a number of years.

Maddox’s career would spawn 50 albums, 87 singles, and 9 gold records. In 1960, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was still in its infancy, and Maddox would be one in the first group of entertainers to be selected for a star on the sidewalk, certainly the only ragtime pianist to receive this honor.

After the height of his career, he sought to settle down into arrangements where he could play nightly in the same venue. One of his latest stints was with the Diamond Belle Saloon in Durango, Colorado where he performed regular summers from 1996 to 2012.

As Maddox was himself a revivalist, he was also a great student and collector of vaudeville, theatrical, and musical materials from the turn of the 20th century up to the 1950s. During his travels and tours he amassed some incredible collections of early ragtime sheet music, gramophone recordings, wax cylinders and piano rolls. He had a real interest and nose for the historical performing arts, and snatched up great materials documenting this era. He has willed much of his collection to the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University. As previously mentioned, however, some of his earlier collections came to BYU in 1970.

We are proud to have these collections that came through Johnny Maddox to our collections and invite you to come down and explore how the performing arts were perceived, promoted, and practiced over a century ago!


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