Archive for July, 2016

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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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.