blog2a[Posted by Ashley Esposito, a graduate student in American Studies doing an internship in the Watkinson]

Leigh Couch Collection in progress…

I am beginning to see an emerging pattern of common imagery and themes. Imagery that persist within science fiction to this day. Isolation of stranded individuals. Most often this isolation seems to be geographic. Wide open spaces and what appears to be conventionally recognized waste land. Often it seems to be reminiscent of the wild west or dessert. With gigantic arching stone formations and a distinct lack of anything visible beyond the landscape.

Another common theme is the imbalance of technology. As seen in this August 1967 cover of The World of If Science Fiction, depicting the concepts from the novel The Age of Science and Sorcery. A bearded man that likely represents a Merlin type character is surrounded by technology. The argument of science versus science fiction has been made many times over the years. I doubt that either will win but the conversation is worth having.

The third common theme was the contrast of humans shown as uncivilized man in a stark contrast to the machines and technology that around them. Very often I found that the cover art pitted the native man against well evolved machines. The common static representation of a sword wielding man fighting against what appears to be far superior technology.

One of the best things about Science Fiction is its ability to move you past your own circumstances. Yet is maintains that same challenges we face in a different light. Escape and storytelling woven together.


[Posted by Ashley Esposito, a graduate student in American Studies doing an internship in the Watkinson]

AshleyLeigh Couch Collection in progress…

I have been a fan of contemporary science fiction and comic movies/series. Yet my love for written works and reading is relatively new in comparison. So when I was offered the opportunity to work on the Leigh Couch Collection of science fiction magazines at the Watkinson, I was a bit overwhelmed. As part of this project, I will clean, categorize, and inventory this collection while trying not to get too distracted by its content. That is likely to be easier said than done.

The collection is approximately twenty-five standard banker boxes with neatly stacked volumes that are grouped and wrapped in plastic. They were stored in a barn so have varying conditions. Although it is a work in progress and will continue to be for many weeks, I am already beginning to discover hidden treasures.


stargateThe work is slow and repetitive but seeing my first 120 volumes air drying was worth it. So far I have found at least three covers that remind me of favorite contemporary works, diverse images that speak to the duality of science fiction and their fans and even a cover that appears to be printed to be viewed with 3-D glasses. I will let you know how that works out once my newly purchased 3-D glasses arrive in the mail for me to view the cover again.

cleaned cartI have barely scratched the surface of this generous donated collection and have found more than a few ways to let my mind wander and enjoy. That is really what science fiction is about for me. As Robert Frost wrote; “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.”  Here is to the less traveled road.



Geeking out on typography

   Posted by: rring   in book history, Classes, students

Sofia1Sofia Safran ’18, the fabulous “Peer mentor” to the first-year students of my “World of Rare Books” seminar, shows off her typesetting and printing chops, displaying a poster she designed, type-set and printed herself! Sofia did a great 20-minute presentation on letterforms and typography, inspired by a summer study abroad program she took in the UK in Graphic Media & Design at the London College of Communication.


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

reynolds2As mentioned in a previous post, we received a rich set of material from Jon Reynolds last fall.  Mr.  Reynolds has sent us more material over the last year and we are integrating it into the collection.  Michelle Sigiel, an archives intern from Simmons College has come across a set of approximately 75 slides depicting Vietnam in 1963.  These images give us a fascinating look into the American war in Vietnam.

Montagnards, also known as “The Degar” are indigenous people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.  Many Degars worked with American Special Forces and were a critical part of the American military effort.

We are in the process of making this collection available for research and plan to complete this phase late this term.

The first two images picture Montagnards. Pic 3 is of a US plane flying over South Vietneam; pic 4 is of South Vietnamese troops; pic 5 is of army helicopters, and the final pic is of Vietnamese children.




Cool physics professor

   Posted by: rring   in College Archives, Trinitiana

Dadourian1Dadourian2A recent gift to the archives is what appears to be an early, self-published “edition” (ca. 1930s) of H. M. Dadourian’s Introduction to Analytic Geometry and the Calculus. We have a copy of a photo-reduced (“Lithoprinted”) typescript, slightly altered and dated 1947, as well as a copy of the 1949 edition published the Ronald Press (New York).

Dadourian, born in Turkish Armenia in 1878, emigrated to the United States in 1900, took three degrees at Yale and then taught physics there for 10 years, served as an aeronautical engineer at Princeton during WWI and a few years after (1917-23), and was appointed Seabury professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Trinity College from 1923–1949. He retired in 1949 but remained very active—supporting our intervention during WWII to prevent Germany from conquering Great Britain, and opposing nuclear testing, the development of nuclear weapons, and our involvement in Vietnam. He died in West Hartford in 1974.

“Among his most highly regarded courses at Trinity was one in advanced physics in which classical mechanics were studied by means of the mathematics of the 17th and 18th centuries. The mathematics were used as a tool to understand physical principles which in turn were reduced in large measure to a single principle called The Action Principle. Most of the course was devoted to furthering understanding of this principle by using it to solve problems. The course demonstrated that a great deal could be learned about nature from detailed and general examination of relatively simple problems, and that hypotheses could be proved wrong, although not right, without actual experiments. In his teaching, Dadourian emphasized the importance of stating a problem accurately in terms simple enough to permit mathematical translation.”

[From volume 58 of the National Cyclopedia of American Biography]

Roger ClarkeThe Watkinson is very pleased to announce the gift of the professional papers and working library of CT-based architect Roger Clarke (1936-2011). Clarke was born in England (Castleford, Yorkshire), studied at Liverpool University, apprenticed in Germany, worked in London for several firms, and in 1963 met Marjorie Donnelly, an American who was in England making her way back from the Peace Corps in the Philippines as part of the first wave of volunteers sent by JFK. They hit it off and wrote to each other but time and distance took its toll. In 1967 Clarke took a job in Philadelphia, and later moved to New York City, where he worked for two prestigious firms, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Edward Larabee Barnes. Marjorie was working as a book editor in New York where they reunited and were married. They moved to Collinsville, CT in 1972. He worked for Henry Shadler in West Hartford, then opened a firm in Collinsville in 1974 with architect Richard Swibold. They were at the forefront of the “green” movement in the 1970s, which was in its infancy, designing houses with passive solar heating systems and other efficiencies. Through his work on The Old State House, Clarke began to develop his deep interest and enthusiasm  for historic preservation.  He worked on properties such as the Charter Oak Temple (the state’s first synagogue), Gillette Castle, the mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park, the Butler-McCook House in Hartford, the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, and dozens of other projects.

The donor of the collection is Marjorie Clarke, and it will be processed for research as soon as possible.


Come away with me, Lucille

   Posted by: rring   in From the stacks!, Music, Sound recordings

[Posted by Henry Arneth, Special Collections Assistant]

victor_in my merry oldsmobile_foxtrot-2“Come away with me, Lucille, in my merry Oldsmobile, own the road of life we’ll fly / Automobubbling, you and I…”

First written and recorded early in the 20th century, one 1920s version of “In my Merry Oldsmobile” inadvertently became a scarce record highly sought after by both motoring enthusiasts and record collectors.  The recording is desirable because it was a special pressing, created for General Motors as a give-away at the 1927 auto show. [1]   Special pressings were not released to the general public and were not available in stores.  They were obtained as premiums, or incentives, for using certain products.  Adding to the allure of this record is that the same song is on both sides—another rarity in the industry—by the same group; one is a fox trot and the other a waltz.

The vocalist for this version, Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931), was known more as a cornetist, pianist, and composer than he was his for his singing.  He first joined Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra in 1924, left, then rejoined the group in time to sing on the recording.[2]  One of his bandmates in Godldkette’s Orchestra at the time of the recording was the trombonist and later bandleader Tommy Dorsey.  Beiderbecke would leave Goldkette’s band to join the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, where he would play coronet from 1928-1930 before branching out on his own.[3]

[1] Griswold, Wendy; American Guides: The Federal Writers’ Project and the Casting of American Culture; University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois; 2016

In-My-Merry-Oldsmobile-cover1927 auto show poster



audubon conserve

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

In June & July we hired one of our favorite conservators, Jean Baldwin, to work in the Watkinson one day a week to repair some damaged areas in John James Audubon’s Birds of America. It was the second time Jean had worked on the set–in 2012 she repaired volumes 1 & 2. The books have inherent structural issues due to their size and weight (plates were originally published unbound and shipped 5 at a time, rolled up in metal mailing tubes, to subscribers, and generally bound together at a later date). This summer Jean worked on the 3rd and 4th volumes. In volume 3 the first gathering of plates had pulled away from the binding. Jean trimmed the stiff linen stub at the front which was damaging the plate and resewed the plates into the binding. She also repaired tears with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste, switching back and forth between the 2 volumes to give the paste time to dry. Next summer she will be able to finish the work she started on volume 4.

Courant1A shout-out to Henry Arneth, our Special Collections Assistant, who spotted a great buy at a local auction house–five bound volumes of the Hartford Daily Courant dating from 1838-1843. Up to now we only had seven (7) individual issues dating from 1846-1887 in paper, but of course the main library has the entire run online–which comprise title changes: The Daily Courant (1837-1839) and the Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887). As anyone will tell you who has handled period newspapers, though, leafing through the real thing and using it online are two very different experiences.

Even Thoreau relates how “scraps of newspapers in which some party had wrapped their luncheon” was more evocative of the past than many a reasoned narrative in his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (first published in 1849).

Henry told me about the lot around 9am yesterday morning–and the sale was at 6:30pm. By 1:30pm I had struck an agreement with a local antiquarian book dealer who would bid for us at the auction (I had to teach at 6:30) and, if we were successful, deliver the set to us after the sale. We got the set for just over the high estimate, which was still a fabulous bargain for us–definitely what I would call a “wholesale” price. See below for some excerpts from 1838.




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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