19
Jul

Lady sings the Blues, Two

   Posted by: rring   in Music, Sound recordings

[Posted by Henry Arneth, Special Collections Assistant. Henry is creating an inventory of our 78-rpm record collection, which numbers over 10,000 items!]

hegamin label 1In August of 1920 Mamie Smith entered OKeh Records’ New York recording studio with Perry Bradford & his Jazz Hounds.  She recorded a composition by Bradford called “Crazy Blues” and started a revolution in music.  With that song, she became the first African American woman to record a blues song.  Before her, any blues material written by African American composers would be performed by white musicians and singers—filtering the music during a time of legal segregation to make it acceptable for a white audience.  This song also launched the “Race Music” era that ended with World War II.

Blues was always a popular music form; it had been published and recorded since 1914, with “St. Louis Blues” by W. C. Handy amid the earliest recordings.  One of the most popular versions of the song features a young, pre-Decca Records Bing Crosby being backed up by Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra (Columbia #5503, 1932).  What made Smith’s recording so groundbreaking is that she was a black woman, singing a black song, in a black style.  And the song sold—well—to both black and white audiences.  Furthermore, the recording also opened up a market previously ignored by the recording industry.

“Crazy Blues” did so well that a small label, Arto, decided to take a chance on an African American artist as well—Lucille Hegamin.  Lucille Nelson Hegamin was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1894.  She moved to Chicago, where she was known as the Georgia Peach.  She married her pianist husband, Bill Hegamin, in 1914 and eventually moved to New York City where by 1919 she was performing in Harlem.[1] In the fall of 1920, she was in the recording studio.[2]  Her first two sessions with Arto turned out two hits, making her not only the second black female blues singer, but also the second black pop music artist.  Her hits were “The Jazzy Me Blues” & “Arkansas Blues” featured on Arto 9045 and Arto 9053, respectively.

Hegamin’s recordings sold so well that the matrices, the molds created from wax tablets—the original substance the music is etched into during a recording session—that the record companies would use to press records can be found on other labels, some associated with Arto and some not.  The reason for using the matrices is that the same sound could be heard on a variety of labels marketed in different ways, from a high end shop or a dime store, and priced accordingly.

The way matrices can be traced is through an alpha-numeric code etched into the wax that is specific to the take.  Each recording studio had its own code associated with it that can be used to identify each take and each pressing.  This code is found in the area by the label called the runoff—it is the part of the record where the needle ends after the song is played.  It is through these numbers that the various takes can be traced.  The specific pressing of “Arkansas Blues” (Arto matrix number 18016) heard here (on Puritan 11053) can also be found on Banner Records (1014-A), Bell Records (P-53-A), Black Swan (2032-A), Claxtonola (40053-A), Famous (3045-A), Globe (7053-A), Hy-Tone (K-53-A), Paramount (20053-A), and Triangle (11052-A).[3]  All the above records were pressed between 1920 and 1922.  “Arkansas Blues” was one of the most popular recordings of 1921.

[1] Roke, Elizabeth; Lucille Hegamin Papers 1894-1969, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, 2010

[2] Komara, Ed & Peter Lee, eds; The Blues Encyclopedia; New York & Oxon, UK, Routledge, 2006; I:813

[3] Rust, Brian; Jazz and Ragtime Records (1897-1942) Volume 1: A-K; Denver, Colorado, Mainspring Press, 2002; 764

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BarberOn June 30th Peter Rawson and I drove down to Potomac, MD to pick up a great gift to the Archives–several decades of the professional papers of Ben Bernard Barber ’65, who last year received the Alumni Achievement Award for his book Groundtruth: Work, Play and Conflict in the Third World (2014).

Ben came to Trinity from New York City, joining the fraternity QED, serving as the College’s delegate to the Connecticut Intercollegiate Student Legislature and on the staff of The Trinity Tripod, and was also involved with Hillel and the Political Science Club. He majored in French, and following graduation, his “gap year” turned into 15 years of traveling, writing poetry, and occasionally working as a carpenter throughout India, Asia, Europe, and the United States. He earned a master’s degree in journalism at Boston University, a certificate in French studies from the Sorbonne in Paris, and a certificate in Asian studies as a Gannett Fellow at the University of Hawaii.

He found work as a foreign correspondent for The Observer, USA Today, the Washington Times, and The Christian Science Monitor, among other publications, and later served as State Department bureau chief for the Washington Times and then as a senior writer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, where he reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Egypt. He continues to write on foreign affairs today as a columnist for The Huffington Post and The American Legion Magazine.

Ben has also taught as an adjunct professor of foreign policy at Georgetown University and George Mason University, and has delivered lectures on foreign affairs at institutions such as the U.S. Naval Academy, the National Defense University, and Johns Hopkins University. For the U.S. Information Agency, he designed and taught seminars for journalists in 10 African countries, and has appeared as a foreign policy expert on several television networks, including CNN, Fox, and BBC.

img195In 2014 he published Groundtruth: Work, Play and Conflict in the Third Worlda collection of photographs and vignettes about the development of dozens of countries in the Third World, often portrayed in the media as a cliché for poverty, war, and injustice. “For every trouble-making gunman you find in the turbulent corners of the Third World,” he writes, “you find a million decent hardworking men and women raising their children with eyes full of sunshine and hope.”

The archive documents his career as a journalist, and comprises electronic files, correspondence, photos, notes and press clippings. It will be processed and available for use by students, faculty and outside researchers as soon as possible.

scifiThe Watkinson is pleased to announce the gift of the Leigh Couch Collection of science fiction magazines, consisting of several hundred magazines dating from the 1930s to the 1980s. It is particularly strong in the magazines from the 1950s and 1960s, when experimental, diverse and New Wave writers like Samuel R. “Chip” Delaney, Roger Zelazny, and Michael Moorcock were remaking the field into its modern form. Scores of issues feature the first appearances by many of the most important writers in contemporary science fiction, including Philip K. Dick, Connie Willis, Joe Haldeman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many others.

Science fiction fandom began in the United States in the 1920s when pulp fiction magazines like Amazing Stories (founded by Hugo Gernsbach, for whom the annual science fiction Hugo Awards are named) were the medium for the development of the science fiction genre, and attracted passionate followers who connected with each other through letters published in the pulps. They began to correspond, form groups, publish the first fanzines (or zines) and many sought to become professional writers. Early fans-turned-pros include Ray Bradbury, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (creators of Superman), and Isaac Asimov (I, Robot).

Leigh CouchLeigh Couch (1925-1998) was a fan of science fiction who began reading the genre in the pulp magazines as a child in the 1940s, so she was a pioneer as the fandom was predominantly male for decades. As a Catholic grade school teacher and young mother of three, she become very active in science fiction fandom from the 1960s through the 1980s, along with her whole family. She attended numerous world and regional science fiction conventions and was on the planning and organizing committee of the Saint Louiscon World Science Fiction Convetion in 1969, the year of the Moon landing. She and her husband Norbert C. Couch were popular fan guests of honor at regional conventions in the Midwest in the 1970s.

In a letter to a zine in the 1970s, she recalled, “I don’t think a young fan of today can realize how suspect we were for reading the pulps, and for a girl to read [SF], that was almost proof of perversion!” During her almost three decades of activity in science fiction fandom, she was a mentor to many younger fans, both personally encouraging of their publishing, writing, and art activities, and providing a role model as a mature and professional adult who also took popular culture seriously, publishing zines, writing letters and articles, running and attending science fiction conventions. She published the well-regarded zine Sirruish, which was included in Fredric Wertham’s The World of Fanzines: A Special Form of Communication.

The collection will be available for research in the fall.

 

24
Jun

Coffee for Chemists!

   Posted by: rring   in College Archives, Events, students

chem1Two days ago we held our second annual summer STEM event–this time focusing on the chemistry students and faculty who work in their labs all summer. On display were some of the 19thC prize essays in chemistry mentioned in the previous post, and half a dozen faculty and almost 30 students came by to delve into this collection, and see what was expected of a Trinity student studying chemistry more than a century ago. Those who broke free from their labs got a voucher for a free coffee at Peter B’s.

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[Posted by Peter Rawson, Associate Curator of Archives & Manuscripts]

chem paper1The Chemical Prize Essay collection in the Trinity College Archives contains 327 chemical essays submitted by students at Trinity between 1858 and 1905.

These essays were submitted as part of a competition among students in to win the first place prize of $30 and the second place prize of $20.

The prize began in 1858 as a contest for seniors and became a junior prize in the mid-1880’s.

Essays were submitted to the Professor of Chemistry.  These included Rev. Thomas R. Pynchon, Scoville Professor of Chemistry and Natural Science, 1854-1879; H. Carrington Bolton, Scoville Professor of Chemistry and Natural Science, 1880-1887; Robert B. Riggs (pictured here), Scoville Professor of Chemistry and Natural Science, 1888-1929.Riggs Robert B ca 1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

chem paper2The assigned essay topic each year was predetermined, with topics concerning chemicals, new technology, plants, light, or the metric system. The essays are organized in alphabetical order of the essayists’ last names, and they include both the winning essays and the other contestants’ essays.

Jarvis Laboratory interior undatedJarvis Lab (undated)

WellsWe are very happy to announce the gift of an archive of family papers related to early 19thC Hartford from former Trinity College President (1981-89) James F. English, Jr. (H ’89) of Noank, CT. Jim is also an emeritus member of the Watkinson Library Board of Trustees, which he served to our great benefit for 12 years, from 1997-2009.

The papers mostly relate to Charles Pitkin Welles (1811-1876), although other members of the Welles (or Wells) family are also represented. The archive includes correspondence, ephemera, objects, and other documents (like report cards from Hartford High School ca. 1850, insurance policies, invitations, bills, etc.), poetry, diaries, and printed chapbooks and newspapers.

 

img166According to his obituary in the Hartford Daily Times (March 4, 1876), “his peculiarly self-contained and reserved character, and his thoroughly domestic and retiring habits” made him almost a stranger in his own town. Born of Quaker parents, “the slow and unruffled Quaker calm not only asserted itself in his ever cool and even blood, but led him away from the stirring outward life” but rather, to the “quite and genial atmosphere of his books.”

“It is related of him that once, when word was brought to him, down town, at night, that his place of business (he kept a drug and medicine establishment, not far from the Main and Asylum street corner) was on fire, he deliberately arose, carefully dressed himself, and adjusted his necktie with his usual care. It did not suit him, and he took it off, and getting another, arranged that to suit him–and then walked up town to see what was going on at the fire.”

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19
May

Thanks and Good Luck!

   Posted by: rring   in Preservation & Conservation, students

[Posted by Sally Dickinson, Associate Curator & Preservation Librarian]

gaia cloutier blogGaia Cloutier ‘16 worked as a student assistant in the Watkinson Library this year. Gaia came to the job with some prior knowledge of books gained through taking Jonathan Elukin’s class on the Bible and History of the Book. She spent the year working on a special collection of books called the Cage collection. Gaia cleaned, inventoried, verified catalog records, and barcoded call flags which we place in the books (not on the book itself). This collection was originally the rare books collection of Trinity College. Because the books were enclosed within a metal gate, the area became known as “the Cage.” The books range from 17th century histories in multiple languages to books bound in parchment, to Japanese books with color woodblock prints. Some of the older tomes have issues that compromise their structure. Special boxes will be made for these volumes. Timing was perfect: Gaia finished the project the final week of classes at Trinity. Thank you, Gaia!

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27
Apr

Third Annual Writer’s Residency

   Posted by: rring   in News, Prizes and Awards, students

IMG_1361I am pleased to announce that May Collins P. Woollcott ’16 is this year’s awardee of the South Beach Writing Residency, offered by the family of Hyam Plutzik ’32.

Originally from Atlanta, GA, May is an English major with a focus on creative writing. This semester she is completing a poetry thesis under Professor Clare Rossini, poet and Artist-in-Residence at Trinity College. Upon graduation, May will be moving to Boston to work in publishing. She hopes to attend an MFA program in the coming years.

The family of Hyam Plutzik (Trinity ’32) provides an annual residency (for five years) in South Beach in the Betsy Writer’s Room to a graduating senior with outstanding talent in the literary arts.  The award is bestowed as part of the graduation program (Honors Day).  This residency comes with a $500 travel stipend, six days lodging, and a per diem of $50. During the residency, which can happen anytime during the award year, the recipient will be invited to participate in an Arts Salon to share her work with the community.

27
Apr

Hartford Medical Society Library

   Posted by: rring   in Connecticut history, Hartfordiana

HMS deskRecently I was given a tour of the Hartford Medical Society Library, a local cultural/historical gem which (admittedly) is a bit tough to get to, at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, but well worth it.

The HMS was founded in 1846. The Society’s rules, adopted September 15th of 1846, state: “The object of this Society, is to maintain the practice of Medicine and Surgery in this city upon a respectable footing; to expose the ignorance and resist the arts of quackery; and to adopt measures for the mutual improvement, pleasant intercourse, and common good of its members.”

HMS stuff2Aside from the historical collections of books and manuscript material, which are fascinating, there are a number of artifacts, many of which are described in a catalogue that the HMS published in 1979.

To learn more about the library and its collections, I urge Trinity students and faculty to contact the Librarian, Jennifer Miglus, who is both friendly and helpful!

HMS stacks

27
Apr

Hebrew Bible Printed in England

   Posted by: rring   in book history, From the stacks!

BibleThe Watkinson has a great Bible collection, including this, the first separate edition of the Hebrew Bible printed in England, preceded only by the printing of the text as part of the Walton Polyglot (which we also have!). Editor Nathaniel Forster (1718–57), an accomplished scholar of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, has included (in the style of the table of contents) “Pentateuchus, Prophetae priores, Prophetae posteriores, Hagiographa”; the leaves following “Prophetae posteriores” are separately signed and printed “Vol. 2.” Based on Van der Hoogh’s version, the text is in Hebrew, with titles and chapter heads also in Latin. Unlike most 18th-century books printed at Oxford, this is scarce. Of the eight reported copies in libraries four are in the Northeast, two in California, one at Duke, and one in Ohio.

Our first librarian, J. Hammond Trumbull, acquired our copy for the Watkinson in May of 1872 from the English firm of Bernard Quaritch, for 15 shillings.

[With thanks to PRB&M for their description]