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.

Chinese Ministry of Information Pamphlets

by Yang Wu, Librarian in Residence

Published in succession from 1944 to 1946, this collection of 10 pamphlets was produced by the Republic of China’s Ministry of Information’s United Kingdom Office. Together they offer an interesting perspective on the Chinese Nationalist (Guomindang) government’s information campaign outside of China during the 1940s.

The pamphlets cover a wide range of topics on China and are intended for different audiences. The first, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth works in the collection discuss history, classics, art, education and philosophy and were designed for the general public. The second pamphlet, produced for British military and diplomatic personnel during World War II, gave them a general overview of the geography of China.

Remaining pamphlets introduce readers to the situation of China immediately following World War II. The third pamphlet, on the Guomindang, gives a general discussion of the history of China’s governing party at the time. It describes the party’s ideology, political agendas and brought readers up to date on the Guomindang’s conflicts with the Chinese Communist Party, which had led to civil war during the 1940s. Pamphlet four, discussing agriculture in China, assesses the reason behind the country’s poverty. It argues that China’s rural masses can only be uplifted from poverty through gradual measures such as tax reform, improved agricultural methods and industrialization. The sixth pamphlet gives an overview of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, a program that encouraged and provided assistance to small scale rural industrial enterprises in the country. Started by a group of Chinese and foreign benefactors in World War II, the program was supported by the Guomindang and was seen as a way to both economically sustain the country during wartime and offer employment for idle rural inhabitants and refugees.

The pamphlets in general were created for an educated audience, with good knowledge of western high culture, geography and economic issues. Due to this they were written with remarkable sophistication. The works were authored by a variety of experts on China, both within and outside of the country, including Neville Whymant, a well-known British oriental scholar at the time, Lu Guangmian (卢广绵), a founder of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives and Wu Yuanli (吴元黎), a respected Chinese economist. Works on Chinese history and philosophy, though brief, attempt to stimulate intellectual curiosity towards China. They introduce readers to sources on classical China and draw their conclusions on Chinese civilization from a variety of scholarly resources. Such works also contain useful guides for understanding China, such as charts on Chinese dynasties, reign dates of Chinese emperors since 1368 and diagrams of Buddhist and Daoist symbols (See photos). Pamphlets also compare important events in Chinese history with developments in the West and differences and similarities between classical Chinese and Greek philosophy.

Pamphlets on contemporary China were produced with propaganda purposes in mind. They promoted the Guomindang’s view that China’s problems must be resolved by gradual reforms as opposed to the Communist agenda of radically changing the country through class revolution and redistribution of property and encouraged foreign assistance with Guomindang programs. However, to appeal to their specific audience the pamphlets took an approach of explaining issues through selected facts rather than slogans and moral exhortation. They discuss matters such as poverty and industrial development in China to great length, often citing statistics and other information from independent studies.

Information campaigns between the Guomindang and Chinese Communists towards foreigners during the 1940s are an important part of the history Sino-western relations. To some degree the Chinese Communists successfully swayed foreign opinion to their side in 1949, and their seizure of the country that year led to many discussions among foreigners on whether they were deceived or “lost” China due to their poor knowledge of the situation of the country. Pamphlets in the collection are a small piece of the Guomindang’s foreign outreach, and they offer insights on the party’s approach towards foreigners during the period.

 


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