Archive for February, 2013

“I have always imagined, that in the plumage of the beautiful Ivory-billed Woodpecker, there is something very closely allied to the style of colouring of the great VANDYKE. The broad extent of its dark glossy body and tail, the large and well-defined white markings of its wings, neck, and bill, relieved by the rich carmine of the pendent crest of the male, and the brilliant yellow of its eye, have never failed to remind me of some of the boldest and noblest productions of that inimitable artist’s pencil. So strongly indeed have these thoughts become ingrafted in my mind, as I gradually obtained a more intimate acquaintance with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, that whenever I have observed one of these birds flying from one tree to another, I have mentally exclaimed, “There goes a Vandyke!” This notion may seem strange, perhaps ludicrous, to you, good reader, but I relate it as a fact, and whether or not it may be found in accordance with your own ideas, after you have inspected the plate in which is represented this splendid species of the Woodpecker tribe, is perhaps of little consequence.

… I wish, kind reader, it were in my power to present to your mind’s eye the favourite resort of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Would that I could describe the extent of those deep morasses, overshadowed by millions of gigantic dark cypresses, spreading their sturdy moss-covered branches, as if to admonish intruding man to pause and reflect on the many difficulties which he must encounter, should he persist in venturing farther into their almost inaccessible recesses, extending for miles before him, where he should be interrupted by huge projecting branches, here and there the mossy trunk of a fallen and decaying tree, and thousands of creeping and twining plants of numberless species! Would that I could represent to you the dangerous nature of the ground, its oozing, spongy, and miry disposition, although covered with a beautiful but treacherous carpeting, composed of the richest mosses, flags, and water-lilies, no sooner receiving the pressure of the foot than it yields and endangers the very life of the adventurer, whilst here and there, as he approaches an opening, that proves merely a lake of black muddy water, his ear is assailed by the dismal croaking of innumerable frogs, the hissing of serpents, or the bellowing of alligators! Would that I could give you an idea of the sultry pestiferous atmosphere that nearly suffocates the intruder during the meridian heat of our dog days, in those gloomy and horrible swamps! But the attempt to picture these scenes would be vain. Nothing short of ocular demonstration can impress any adequate idea of them.

…The Ivory-bill is never seen attacking the corn, or the fruit of the orchards, although it is sometimes observed working upon and chipping off the bark from the belted trees of the newly-cleared plantations. It seldom comes near the ground, but prefers at all times the tops of the tallest trees. Should it, however, discover the half-standing broken shaft of a large dead and rotten tree, it attacks it in such a manner as nearly to demolish it in the course of a few days. I have seen the remains of some of these ancient monarchs of our forests so excavated, and that so singularly, that the tottering fragments of the trunk appeared to be merely supported by the great pile of chips by which its base was surrounded. The strength of this Woodpecker is such, that I have seen it detach pieces of bark seven or eight inches in length at a single blow of its powerful bill, and by beginning at the top branch of a dead tree, tear off the bark, to an extent of twenty or thirty feet, in the course of a few hours, leaping downwards with its body in an upward position, tossing its head to the right and left, or leaning it against the bark to ascertain the precise spot where the grubs were concealed, and immediately after renewing its blows with fresh vigour, all the while sounding its loud notes, as if highly delighted.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 341-343 [excerpted].


Power to the People

   Posted by: rring    in New acquisition, Uncategorized

From another institution, we recently received the gift of a box of the papers of Trinity alumnus Steven H. Keeney ’71 (on the right in the photo), relating to the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and their activities at Trinity College between 1967-1969.  These activities are documented in primary source materials such as letters and memos, newspaper clippings, and “ditto” copies of documents such as Student Senate minutes, budgets, organizational structures, and flyers created by the SDS to publicize their activities.  Of these activities, the April 1968 sit-in was probably one of the most noteworthy of the SDS nation-wide movement.  There are also indications that the uprising at Columbia just a short time later was spurred by the SDS, who urged students to become active during their 10-day “Shake-up” in 1968.

Arising from a climate of frustration and miscommunication, SDS along with the Trinity Association of Negroes (TAN) rallied together a group of 168 students in April 1968 to hold the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and President Jacobs hostage.  In their manifesto, included in this collection of material, the agitators requested that President Jacobs and the Board consider increasing scholarship support for black students, additional classes focusing on urban studies, and community development amid other requests.  Unknown to the agitators, President Jacobs and the Board not only had the same mandate in mind but they were working at that time to achieve the same goal as the students.  Due to a series of miscommunications, this was undisclosed at the time of the sit-in.

This collection joins scores of others in the Archives which collectively document Trinity’s history and place in American society, and are rich sources for research.


Long may they wave…

   Posted by: rring    in Connecticut history, Gifts

We are delighted to welcome the research archive of Geraldine S. Caughman (1933-2012) of Wethersfield, CT–an amateur historian who served for decades as a docent at the Old State House and the Capitol building in Hartford.  She was affectionately known as “the Flag Lady” around the Capitol.  In 2006 (revised 2011) she produced a multi-volume work on the regimental battle flags of Connecticut from 1856-1920, and her research papers will be invaluable to students studying Connecticut’s role in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I.

From “About the Author”:

Geraldine (Gerry) Caughman joined the Connecticut Capitol tour guide program in 1979. With a passion for history, she immersed herself in research of the many stories of the Capitol, its history and its artifacts. Within a short while, she became one of the most knowledgeable guides about the Capitol’s history and of our system of government. Visitors thoroughly enjoyed her tours and wrote numerous letters expressing their appreciation.

While giving tours, Gerry was attracted to the Capitol’s 171-piece battle flag collection in the Hall of Flags. During the 1980s the Capitol building was undergoing a complete restoration. She feared for the safety of the flags during such an undertaking and volunteered to supervise their removal to storage. With the authorization of Legislative Management, she designed special crates to cradle the flags and had the Capitol’s carpenters build them. She then enlisted the help of Boy Scouts, civic clubs and other interested parties, and in one busy day, all of the flags were safely transported away to storage. A love affair had been kindled.

When the flags returned to the Capitol, she embarked on a four-year long, arduous task of evaluating each flag, photographing, cataloging, marking and writing condition reports for each one. With so much flag work going on, Gerry soon became affectionately known around the Capitol as “The Flag Lady.”

It was readily apparent to her that many flags in the collection required conservation. To that end, she diligently studied the various conservation methods and procedures, met with many conservators including the Smithsonian, the National Park Service and private companies. She also reviewed potential conservators and visited their labs in Washington, New Orleans, Indianapolis, New York, and Massachusetts. As funds became available for conservation, she wrote the specifications for each flag’s unique conservation needs and oversaw the work in progress.

During these years, owing to heightened interest in the Civil War, many outside requests for flag information and pictures were received at the Capitol, all of which were referred to Gerry for a response. She realized that many of the flags would never be seen by others since they were in such fragile condition and conservation was extremely expensive. Thus was conceived the idea of writing a book with pictures of all the flags with commentary about them and the men who carried them. The initial book was written as cut-and-paste, but was not a good final product. She decided to rewrite the book and expand its content. Gerry spent years in our State Library and countless other libraries doing extensive research. She traveled to most all of the battlefields that Connecticut men fought on during the Civil War. The result was Qui Transtulit Sustinet, a 328-page Volume I about our 110 Civil War flags and a 177-page Volume II about our 61 flags from the world wars and contemporary conflicts. Her wish was to print thirty sets of these books to donate to historical institutions and libraries, some state and some national. The books were copyrighted in the name of the Capitol as her gift to Connecticut and in honor of those who have risked their lives over the years to protect our nation and to preserve our freedom. Through all of this, she continued a very active tour guide schedule. Some years her tours numbered as many as 114.

The number of flags on display grew as conservation progressed during her tenure. There are currently 92 flags on display in the Capitol’s Hall of Flags with 79 in storage awaiting funding for conservation.

In March of 2011, Gerry was diagnosed with a health problem, which required that she retire from her beloved Capitol tours and the battle flag program. Gerry lost her loves, and the Capitol lost a dedicated and tireless volunteer.



Jazzing up the Watkinson

   Posted by: rring    in New acquisition

The Watkinson recently accepted and took possession of some 4,000 sound recordings, mostly 78-rpm records from the 1930s, 40s and 50s (ca. 3,500), but also 33-rpm (ca. 900) and 45-rpm (ca. 300) records from the 1950s and 60s.

These recordings were collected by Bennett “Bud” Rubenstein (1917-2000), who was a jazz/swing/pop enthusiast who began collecting music as a teen, and often performed as a dee-jay at dance parties.  He was also a jazz pianist who went to Julliard Music School, but dropped out after a year because he was more interested in improvising than in theory or disciplined study.  World War II took him overseas, where he served in Italy and France.  He was a forward observer in the Army Field Artillery, managed his unit’s radio communications, and saw action in the Battle of the Bulge.

Returning with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, he married and had children, settling in Norwich CT and joining his father’s woolen mills business in Yantic–abandoning his hopes for a Big Band career.  He was a passionate collector and a great piano improvisor in his own right, both at family events and as an accompanist to musical productions at the Beth Jacob Synagogue in Norwich, CT.

“Kind reader, you are now presented with a new and beautiful little species of Warbler, which I have honoured with the name of a family that must ever be dear to me.  Were I at liberty here to express the gratitude which swells my heart, when the remembrance of all the unmerited kindness and unlooked-for friendship which I have received from the Rathbones of Liverpool comes to my mind, I might produce a volume of thanks . . .

I met with the species now under consideration only once, when I procured both the male and the female represented in the plate.  They were actively engaged in searching for food amongst the blossoms and leaves of the Bignonia on which I have placed them.  All my endeavors to discover their nest, or to procure other individuals, having proved abortive, I am unable to say anything of their habits and history; but should I be more fortunate at some future period, I shall not fail to record the result of my observations respecting this delicate little Warbler.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 333 [excerpted].


How’d they do that??

   Posted by: rring    in book history, Classes

Prof. Alden Gordon & students from Art History 391, Prints and Printmaking, examine an etching in the 1st edition in Dutch of The new and strange world, or, Description of America … (1671). This is the second of 3 or 4 class visits to look at prints from the collection. The students are learning to identify printing techniques by studying examples of woodcuts, engravings, etchings and lithographs.

Associate Curator Sally Dickinson is shepherding these visits, which started with early printed books and woodcut illustrations in the profusely illustrated Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) and Albrecht Durer’s series the Life of the Virgin of 1511.



Thar she blows!

   Posted by: rring    in Classes

On Wednesday we hosted the students in professor Chris Hager’s class (ENGL 379) on Herman Melville, showing our early editions of Typeeand a few of the sources Melville used in writing that novel, as well as Moby Dick.

One of those sources we hold is David Porter’s 1815 Journal of a Cruise made to the Pacific Ocean, an account of the infamous wreck of the Essex, a whaling ship that was attacked by a mad sperm whale, which rammed it to pieces, and left the survivors out in three open boats in the Pacific.  A fabulous modern account of this voyage is Nathaniel Philbrick’s In The Heart of the Sea

The following is the course description:

“Though a superstar during his early career, Herman Melville watched his reputation decline as his literary ambitions escalated. One review of his seventh novel bore the headline, “Herman Melville Crazy.” Not until the 20th century did even his best-known work, Moby Dick, attract considerable attention, but it now stands at the center of the American literary pantheon. Melville’s work merits intensive, semester-long study not only because he is a canonical author of diverse narratives—from maritime adventures to tortured romances to philosophical allegories—but also because his career and legacy themselves constitute a narrative of central concern to literary studies and American culture. Through reading and discussion of several of his major works, we will explore Melville’s imagination, discover his work’s historical context, and think critically about literary form. For English majors, this course satisfies the requirement of a course emphasizing cultural context, or a course emphasizing literature written after 1800.”


What’s cooking?

   Posted by: rring    in Classes


Last Thursday we hosted professor Karen Miller’s American Studies course on “Food and American Culture,” featuring a few dozen cookbooks, recipe books, and other guides. From Miss Beecher’s Receipt Book (1856) to Thomas J. Murrey’s Valuable Cooking Receipts (1886) to The ABC of Wine Cookery (Peter Pauper Press, 1957),  there were lots of comments and questions, and much of interest.

Professor Miller’s course description will give our readers some idea of how these students are looking at these sources:

“What we eat and how we eat reflect more than basic physical needs, and food has long played influential roles in defining and representing American culture, identities, and nationalism. Our course will begin by examining the history of the Thanksgiving feast and conclude with contemporary movements in organic and farm-to-table eating. As we explore foods’ implications for Americanism, gender, class, and age, our topics of study will include defining edibles and non-edibles, immigrant influences, food and technology, American farming, diet fads, school lunches and gardens, hunger in America and food regulations. Our class will work with the nearby Billings Forge community to learn more about food’s roles in family life and social reforms, including urban renewal.”


“The shores and such flat sand-bars as are overgrown with grasses and rank weeds, along the Mississippi, from its mouth to a great height, as well as the swamps that occur in the woods, within a short distance from the margins of that river, are the resorts of the Swamp Sparrow, during autumn and winter.  Although these birds do not congregate in flocks, their numbers are immense.  They form the principal food of the many Sparrow Hawks, Pigeon Hawks, and Hen-harriers, which follow them as well as several other species, on their return from the Middle Districts, where they go towards spring, for the purpose of breeding.  In those districts they continue to prefer low swampy places, damp meadows, and the margins of creeks and rivers.

It is a timid species, destitute of song, and merely uttering a single cheep, which is now and then heard during the day, but more frequently towards evening.  They skulk along the weeds with activity, and feed principally upon the seeds of grasses, with a few insects, sometimes wading in shallow water.  When wounded and forced to fall in the stream, they swim off to the nearest tuft of grass and hide in it.  Their flight is short, low, and assisted by strong jerking motions of the body and tail, accompanied by a rustling of the wings.  They alight by dropping suddenly amongst the weeds, seldom making towards a high tree.  They are rarely if ever met with in dry woodlands.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 331 [excerpted].