Playing Indian, Playing White

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

Last week’s blog post described an important collection about the Carlisle Indian School, a boarding school that was part of a federal educational program that opened many similar institutions and lasted through the twentieth century. Thanksgiving often evokes a benign story of starving New England Pilgrims saved by generous Native Americans. Records from the Carlisle Indian School, however, highlight a dark colonialist story of Pilgrims and Indians that the school asked its students to portray on stage.

By 1909 Carlisle students had begun performing a theatrical version Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” as part of the school’s week-long commencement celebrations. The school staged the play for large public audiences at the school and in nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.[1] Adapted as The Captain of Plymouth, it was a comic opera by Seymour S. Tibbals and Henry C. Eldridge, published in 1904.[2]

While the soldier Miles Standish and the Pilgrim John Alden are both interested in a young Pilgrim, Priscilla, Standish is captured by a band of Pequot Indians. The Pequot princess, Katonko, frees Standish on his promise to marry her. Standish quickly reneges on Katonko and takes bloody revenge on the Pequots. The story ends when the Pilgrim leader, Elder Brewster, discovers Standish’s breach of promise to Katonko and insists that Standish marry her, which allows Priscilla and Alden to wed.

The play is both silly (anachronistically, Standish refers to the Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller, and the anti-alcohol icon Carrie Nation) and deeply and openly racist. Katonko and Indians in general are characterized as “the very beginning, as it were, of the race problem” and the play advocates for racial segregation, a position seemingly at odds with the educational and social goals of Indian boarding schools like Carlisle, which worked to assimilate Native Americans into white America.[3]

The play capitalized on popular demand during the first decades of the twentieth century for entertainment featuring Indians. Presumably Tibbals and Eldridge intended whites to be cast in both the European American and Indian parts. Carlisle students, however, were required to play both roles: the young people cast as settlers had to act white, while those cast as Native Americans had to play white-constructed versions of savage Indians.[4]

Carlisle’s founder, Richard Henry Pratt, understood the promotional powers of photography and he used manipulated images to argue for the success of his program to “civilize” Indians. Using before-and-after photographs, Pratt contrasted the traditional clothing and hair styles of newly arrived children with the cropped hair, neat uniforms, and photographically lightened skin of new students.[5] When The Captain of Plymouth was staged, school officials continued to use Pratt’s methods to promote the school. As seen here, the carefully organized studio photographs of cast members enhanced the whiteness of Pilgrim cast members in contrast to their fellow actors who played Indians.

The Alfred W. Ramsey papers document a dark part of United States history and uncover what must have been bewildering experiences for young Native boarding students, far from their homes and families.

 

Notes:

[1] Louellyn White, “White Power and the Performance of Assimilation: Lincoln Institute and Carlisle School,” in Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamation, Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose, eds., (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Pr, 2016), 111.

[2] Seymour S. Tibbals and Harry C. Eldridge, The Captain of Plymouth, a Comic Opera in Three Acts. [Franklin, Ohio: Eldridge Entertainment House], 1904. Accessed on November 16, 2017: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/iau.31858047202639.

[3] Quotation from Tibbals and Eldridge, The Captain of Plymouth, 21. White, “White Power and the Performance of Assimilation,” 114-15.

[4] White, “White Power and the Performance of Assimilation,” 111-12.

[5] Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose, “Introduction,” in Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamation, Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose, eds., (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Pr, 2016), 8-9.


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National Native American Heritage Month 2017

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in recognizing the rich histories and traditions of Native Americans during this National Native American Heritage Month.


Alfred W. Ramsey and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School
by George Rugg, Curator, Special Collections

In January 1909 Alfred W. Ramsey (1883-1955) accepted a provisional appointment as business teacher at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was formally hired in March following a satisfactory result on his Civil Service examination. Ramsey was charged with organizing a business department at the school, to complement its trade and academic programs. He resigned his position effective 1 November 1910, apparently disillusioned with the Indian Service and the school.

Panorama of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School campus, 1909. (MSN/MN 0503-110-F2)

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, as part of a government project designed to “kill the Indian, save the man.” In Ramsey’s day it was overseen by the Office of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior. Carlisle became the model for 25 government Indian schools, founded on the premise that Native Americans could be equal to European Americans, provided they assimilate into European American society and culture. While the school removed Native American children from poverty and provided them with a free education, it also encouraged children to abandon their native cultures.

The Alfred W. Ramsey Papers, acquired by RBSC in 2014, include a wealth of material from Ramsey’s time at Carlisle. Among the manuscripts are examples of student writing and typing exercises; copies of addresses by Carlisle administrators (especially superintendent Moses Friedman) and commencement speakers; school mission and policy statements; and essays on character and behavior with a bearing on Indian education. Some of this material would have been generated as a consequence of Ramsey’s teaching (including instruction in typing), but much of it was the result of his de facto status as clerical assistant to Friedman. There are also two memory books preserved by Ramsey, with questionnaires filled out in manuscript by 79 different Carlisle students.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School student memory book, 1910 February-November. (MSN/MN 0503-65)
The Red Man, 1910 February. (MSN/MN 0503-89)

The printed matter includes a broad selection of items from the Carlisle Indian Press; printing was one of the trades taught at the school, and Edgar Miller, the program’s superintendent, was a particular friend of Ramsey’s. Included are runs of school periodicals like the weekly The Carlisle Arrow and the monthly The Indian Craftsman (later titled The Red Man). There are also pamphlets, programs, broadsides, dance cards, and other ephemera.

Photographs include panoramas of the Carlisle campus and a number of group portraits of the student cast of the comic opera “The Captain of Plymouth”—the subject of next week’s blog.

Upcoming Events: November and early December

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, November 16 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Alberti and Poetry” by Maria Sole Costanzo (PhD candidate, Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Thanksgiving Break (November 23-24, 2017). In addition, RBSC will be closed December 5, 11:00am to 2:00pm due to the Hesburgh Libraries Christmas lunch.

 

The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, continues to be on display through December 15, 2017. Public tours of the exhibit are offered Tuesdays at noon and Wednesdays at 3pm, and are also available by request for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences. If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.

The monthly spotlight exhibit for November and December is Building A Colonial Mexican Tavern: Archive of the Pulquería El Tepozán, curated by Erika Hosselkus. This exhibit features a manuscript archive which includes real estate, licensing, and planning documents for the pulquería El Tepozán. It was one of four such establishments built by nobleman don Pedro Romero de Terreros, the Count of Regla, in Mexico City, beginning in the final years of the 1770s.

The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America remains open for one more week. The winter spotlight exhibit, Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, will open in mid-November and highlights the department’s collection of approximately 400 pieces of baseball related sheet music.

Upcoming Events: September and early October

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Tuesday, September 5 at 4:00pm | Opening reception for the fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture. This exhibit is curated by Tracy Bergstrom (Curator, Italian Imprints and Dante Collection) and opens on August 21.

Friday, September 15 at 4:00pm | Dedication program for Emily Young’s sculpture Lethos, to be followed by a reception in the Carey Courtyard View Area (Second Floor – Hesburgh Library). Sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries and the Alumni Committee for Poetry and Sculpture.

Thursday, September 21 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Titian’s Icons” by Christopher J. Nygren (Pittsburgh). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

The monthly spotlight exhibit for September is The Art of Botanical Illustration: Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary.

The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, continues to be on display through September and features seven volumes from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Recent Acquisition: American Foreign Aid during the Great Famine in Ireland

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

… on Sunday, the 29th March, at 8½ A.M., we cast off from the Yard, with a fine breeze at the N. W., and clear cold weather, the steam Tug, “R. B. Forbes,” in company, with some of the members of the Committee, on board. In about one hour we parted from them, with hearty cheers, and made sail on our course.

A remarkable voyage to bring relief to the Irish in the Great Famine is the subject of Captain R. B. Forbes’ report, The Voyage of the Jamestown on Her Errand of Mercy, published in Boston in 1847. His report for the “Committee of Distribution” combines his account with a substantial appendix of correspondence and other documentation.

A lithograph by Massachusetts artist Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865) depicting the USS Jamestown leaving Boston Harbor. The lithograph is listed in the catalog of Lane’s works.

After the Irish potato crop failed due to blight in 1845 and again in 1846, knowing that the potato provided most of the subsistence for a large part of the Irish population, concern for this famine grew throughout the world, but especially in places such as Boston where there was a considerable population of Irish birth or descent. Those who provided assistance in early 1847 expected that the harvest later that year would bring an end to famine, but in fact the blight persisted and the Great Irish Famine lasted until 1852. [i]

Continue reading Recent Acquisition: American Foreign Aid during the Great Famine in Ireland

A Ga-lorious 4th of July

by Sara Quashnie, M.L.I.S. Candidate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

In this print, “Ye two Ga-lorious 4ths,” a Civil War soldier playfully and ironically compared Independence Day observations in 1861 and 1862. Drawing upon his own military experience, the artist compared the way he (and perhaps how he believed his family and friends) idealized military service with the grim realities of army life.

Henry Bacon, the young soldier who created the sketches in this lithograph, enlisted in the 13th Massachusetts Regiment of the United States Army a few weeks after July 4, 1861. Severely wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run, he was discharged on December 19, 1862.

While in the army Bacon sold drawings to Frank Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated Newspaper, a popular publication in the North that fed the public’s voracious appetite for war news including, for the first time, images.

In seven paired images, Bacon mocked his own (and others’) illusions about wartime military service and perhaps also the experience of peacetime service. In “Ye Escort” and “Ye Patriot,” Bacon poked gentle fun at the toy-soldier appearance of a peacetime soldier on escort duty in contrast to the practical, informal, and even patchwork attire of an active soldier “Patriot.”

In a pairing that evoked Independence Day by mentioning “Fire Works,” Bacon contrasted the lofty ideals of “Liberty and Union” (references to ending slavery and secession) with a prosaic military camp fire. He also included an ironic note comparing viewing fireworks with the experience of facing artillery fire.  Another pairing, between “Ye Bewildering Vision” and “Ye ‘Rational’ Reality,” compared a copy of the Declaration of Independence placed upon a richly laden table, with torn and battered “Marching Orders” on the ground beside spartan military rations of “hard bread,” and a canteen of water. Noble rhetoric about saving the Union complemented Independence Day celebrations, but it contrasted starkly with the hardships of military life.

After his discharge Bacon moved to France to study painting and remained in Europe for the rest of his life.

 


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Summer 2017 Exhibits

Detail of the Great Lakes region of the map on display (MAN 1719-01-F3).

The June spotlight exhibit, on display through the end of the month, is J. P. Homann’s “Buffalo Map,” ca. 1720.

On display is a map of North America by the important German cartographer J. P. Homann, emphasizing French claims in the Mississippi River Valley in the early eighteenth century. The map is one of several hundred items making up the Edward and Sheila Scanlan Collection of Maps of the Great Lakes Region, donated by the Scanlans to the Hesburgh Libraries in 2003-04. The exhibit is curated by George Rugg (Curator, Special Collections).

The July spotlight exhibit will feature German children’s literature from the two World Wars, and will be co-curated by Sara Quashnie (MLIS Candidate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, ND ’15) and Julie Tanaka (Curator, Special Collections).


The Summer spotlight exhibit, on display now through September, is “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America. On display are seven manuscripts from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Among the characteristic manuscript forms of antebellum America are albums filled with poetry, prose, drawings, and other content created for the book’s owner by family and acquaintances. Such friendship albums, as they are called, have a long history, but they were especially prevalent in the Romantic era, with its new ideology of sentimental friendship. In the United States friendship albums begin to appear in number in the 1820s, and while contributors were often male, the albums themselves were usually maintained by young women.

The exhibit is curated by George Rugg (Curator, Special Collections).


The current main exhibit, “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic, continues through the summer and will close August 11, 2017.

“‘Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith’: Catholics in the Early American Republic” digital exhibit

This digital exhibit expands on the current exhibit on display in Special Collections. It displays examples of American Catholicism expressed through (mostly) printed texts from 1783 through the early 1840s. They include the earliest Catholic bibles published by Mathew Carey, and editions of Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ used and produced in the United States; polemical pamphlets with sexual and political subtexts that flew back and forth across the Atlantic; no-holds-barred dueling sectarian newspapers; books and pamphlets created in reaction to mob violence against the Ursuline convent school near Boston; and official reports that mapped the Church’s growth and growing pains.

Questions and comments may be directed to Rachel Bohlmann and Jean McManus. The physical exhibition continues to be open to the public through August 11, 2017.


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Memorial Day

To honor all who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Memorial Day, originally celebrated as Decoration Day, began after the Civil War. John A. Logan, a general in the Union Army and Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans, issued General Orders No. 11. Logan designated that the graves of those who died fighting to defend their country be decorated on May 30, 1868. Almost 100 years to the day later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law, Public Law 90-363, the Uniform Holiday Bill, establishing the official observance of Memorial Day as the last Monday in May.

Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), an American journalist and poet from New Brunswick, New Jersey, served in the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard during the First World War. He fell victim to a sniper’s bullet during the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918. His poem, “Memorial Day,” appeared in his second volume of poetry, Trees and Other Poems, published in 1914 by George H. Doran and Company.

Upcoming Events: May and through the summer

Please join us for the following events being hosted this summer in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, June 1 at 2:00pm | Exhibit Talk“21st Century Digital Approaches to Rethinking 19th Century Catholic Print” – Kyle Roberts (Loyola University Chicago).

Monday through Friday, June 12-16 at 9:00am to noon | RBSC Nuts & Bolts — ARCHIVES! Intensive Workshop for Conducting Archival Research – Rachel Bohlmann, Ph.D. (Notre Dame, American History Librarian) and Julie Tanaka, Ph.D. (Notre Dame, Curator in Special Collections).

 

The current exhibit, “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic, will run through the summer and close on August 11, 2017.

The current spotlight exhibit, “Exhibition of Artifacts from Mother Cabrini’s Archive”, will close May 19. The summer spotlight exhibit will highlight North American Antebellum friendship albums and will open the following week.

Rare Books and Special Collections is open
regular hours during the summer —
9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

RBSC will be closed for Memorial Day, May 29th,
and the Fourth of July.