Upcoming Events: October and early November

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

Thursday, October 3 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Reading the Medieval Mediterranean: Navigation, Maps, and Literary Geographies. Questions, Approaches, and Methods” by Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm | Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America” by Scott Gwara (University of South Carolina).

This lecture is co-sponsored by Rare Books & Special Collections and the Medieval Institute

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019) and Knute Rockne All American (October – November 2019). Both spotlight exhibits feature materials from the University Archives.

RBSC is open regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm)
during Notre Dame’s Fall Break (October 19 – 27)

Behind Juneteenth: Emancipation

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Rare Books

This Wednesday, June 19, 2019, marks the 153 celebration of Juneteenth, the name African Americans in Texas gave to emancipation day.

On June 19, 1865, Major-General Gordon Granger, Union commander of the Department of Texas, arrived in Galveston, where he issued General Orders, No. 3:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are tree.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

This order impacted approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas. Upon receipt of this news, newly freed slaves engaged in a variety of personal celebrations. In the following year, large public celebrations were held. These continue to today.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas and more generally those enslaved in the Confederate states. This day brings people together and is marked with picnics, family gatherings, parades, barbecues, and other events featuring guest speakers. But it is not merely a day of rejoicing and fun. Juneteenth also emphasizes education and reflection about achievements. It is a time of formal thanksgiving, often opened by the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), the American writer and civil rights activist.

Despite the welcome news that General Gordon’s order brought to slaves in Galveston in 1865, the freedom proclaimed for these slaves arrived two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln had already granted them freedom He promulgated the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…

Though the Proclamation applied only to slaves in states that had seceded from the Union and that had not yet come under the control of the North, it marked a significant shift in the long process to end slavery in the US. This process culminated, at least on paper, two years later on December 6, 1865 when Congress ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Three weeks after Lincoln’s promulgation, Harper’s Magazine published an unsigned article titled “Emancipation” on page 55 of the January 24, 1863 issue. In this article, the magazine announces that on the following two pages, it has published “another double-page drawing by Thomas Nast,” and offers its description of Nast’s work.

Lincoln’s action had attracted the attention of German immigrant and American editorial cartoonist, Thomas Nast (1840-1902). Nast allegorically rendered a freed African American family in the January 24, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, which the magazine captioned “Emancipation of the Negroes, January, 1863—the Past and The Future. Drawn by Mr. Thomas Nast.” Nast attracts his viewer’s attention in the central roundel. Several generations of this family—all happy and stylishly dressed—a family not ripped apart by slavery.

In the surrounding images, Nast presents the past and the future. Scenes depicting the history of slavery—the public sale of slaves, families being torn apart, the brutality of slaves held in bondage—fill out the left half, while the rest of the image points toward the future and improved living conditions. The transition begins in the smaller roundel. Father Time holds Baby New Year, who unlocks the shackle of the slave kneeling before him. Columbia stands atop the central roundel. Below her to the left Lincoln’s portrait hangs on the wall next to the highly symbolic banjo (a symbol, rooted in African religious traditions, of slave life), and below Columbia to the right stands Justice before a scene of a Union victory. An American flag waves proudly above a public school with two children waving to their mom who wears a southern-style head scarf and holds an infant as they happily run off to school. Another sign of improved life in America are African Americans standing before a cashier’s window engaged in a business transaction.

Two years later, the large, Philadelphia print shop of King and Baird issued a commemorative print based on Nast’s image. The main difference between the 1863 image and the reissue is found in the small roundel. Lincoln’s portrait replaces Father Time, Baby New Year, and the kneeling slave. Whether Thomas Nast had approved this change or the issuing of the commemorative print is uncertain, but his message remains clear: the ills of America’s past can be corrected and as the US moves forward, new opportunities await for these emancipated Americans.

 

References:

Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission, “Juneteenth.”

Texas State Historical Association, “Juneteenth.”

Fiona Deans Halloran, Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

‘Take Care of my Ghost, Ghost’: Ginsberg and Kerouac

by Amanda Gray, MLS Candidate, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, and Special Collections Intern, University of Notre Dame

The Spotlight exhibit for June and July, “Take Care of my Ghost, Ghost: The Friendship of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac,” focuses on three items from the Robert Creeley Collection: Take Care of my Ghost, Ghost: Allen Ginsberg & Jack Kerouac; Declaration of Independence For Dr. Timothy Leary: July 4, 1971; and San Francisco Blues.

The Beats formed in the wake of World War II, a literary counter-culture set on exploring in all senses of the word; physical exploration through travel, mental exploration through psychedelic drug usage and sexual awakening, spiritual exploration through Eastern religions. Kerouac coined the name “Beat Generation.” In his spoken word album Readings by Jack Kerouac on the Beat Generation, he reads the poem “San Francisco Scene,” where he describes a jazz club and all that he sees, “and everything is going to the beat. It’s the beat generation, it’s be-at, it’s the beat to keep, it’s the beat of the heart, it’s being beat and down in the world and like old time lowdown and like in ancient civilizations the slave boatmen rowing galleys to a beat and servants spinning pottery to a beat.”[i] (Listen to it here, the first track of the album.) To drill down on one word in particular, Kerouac calls it “be-at,” as in “beatific,” or blissfully happy or holy. Kerouac was Catholic, and maintained his Catholic faith while also supplementing it with Buddhism. Benedict Giamo, a University of Notre Dame American Studies professor who retired this year, once told me that Kerouac used Buddhism as a lens through which to view his Catholicism, and it shows in his writings. Kerouac saw what he and the other Beats were doing as holy, enlightened work that expanded human consciousness.

Kerouac and Ginsberg were in the epicenter of this movement, meeting at Columbia University in New York City when Kerouac was 22 and Ginsberg was 17. Around them gathered a host of people, and in subsequent travels across the U.S. (see On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and other works for journal-esque descriptions of their trips), they connected with the San Francisco Renaissance, a group of poets stationed in California with similar ideals. Robert Creeley from the Black Mountain Poets connected here, too, and became lifelong friends with Ginsberg. It’s his amazing collection from which these three works come, as well as the works in the pop-up exhibit, scheduled for June 10.

Turning to the objects in the exhibit, the goal was to highlight Kerouac and Ginsberg’s friendship while also showing their abilities outside of their “known” styles of writing. Kerouac, known mostly for his prose work, wrote poetry like a jazz musician, and San Francisco Blues is a great example of his abilities. Scraps of San Francisco Blues appear like breadcrumbs throughout other works and publications; bits of it in Heaven & Other Poems, another selection in Palantir, some lines in New Directions. Though he died in 1969, Kerouac’s full collection of the 79 choruses in San Francisco Blues were not published together until 1983. The cover shows a composite image of Kerouac, leaning against a brick wall while smoking, the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Kerouac called the completed work a “beautiful unity,” written while pondering the city of San Francisco from his room at the Cameo Hotel in 1954. He wrote about the dilapidated buildings, the people walking on the street, the feelings in his body as he pondered what he was doing with his life. The only limit to his poetry was the size of the page in the notebook in which he scrawled them — “like the form of a set number of bars in a jazz blues chorus,” he writes in the introduction  — creating poems that hit the consciousness like the music he listened to.

Kerouac had been writing for several years at the time he wrote these poems, with his first book The Town & the City published in 1950 He wasn’t published again until 1957 with On the Road, despite completing several novels and books of poetry. His journals from these years in between, including a few excerpts in Take Care of my Ghost, Ghost, show just how much the rejection he received impacted him as a writer and as a person. Rejection hurt him, but he also found elation once he was published.

Ginsberg, known for Howl and other fantastical, forceful works of poetry, is an electric prose writer with power and precision in every line. His defense of Dr. Timothy Leary is a masterful work of evocative but exact language. Ginsberg rallied the poetic troops with this piece, independently published in response to the arrest, charge, and conviction of Dr. Timothy Leary, who had a small amount of marijuana on his person when arrested in 1970, and who experienced a whole host of legal trouble in the years that followed. Leary had also published on drug usage, something which the federal prosecutors and judges “regarded as a menace,” according to Ginsberg.

Ginsberg made this piece a larger argument for freedom of speech, for a writer to write about whatever he or she wants to. It’s an engaging piece of prose from a man who’s most known for his manic approach and imagery in poetry. It’s rational, well-argued and had little to no impact on Leary’s legal troubles. Though his name is not listed on the piece as author, Ginsberg’s fingerprints are all over it. The evocative language, the subtle shift to near-poetry in the final lines, the intelligence carried in every line — it’s as apparently Ginsberg as Howl is. A flair for the dramatic, the group sent a contingent of poets to deliver it to the Swiss government on Bastille Day.

The two writers were constant influences on each other (for example, Ginsberg credits Kerouac for the title of Howl in the dedication page of the poem), but they were so much more than that. Take Care of my Ghost, Ghost shows scraps of communication from Ginsberg to Kerouac, as well as some excerpts from Kerouac’s journals. A humble item at first glance, the collection of correspondence between the two writers is printed simply; 34 sheets of 8.5×11 paper, three simple staples down the side. Within its pages, though, it shows a friendship fostered both in person and at a distance; while bumbling around Greenwich Village or from San Francisco; with friends, lovers, or within a mental institution.

Within their friendship they found a place to confide; their letters to each other reveal a rawness that only comes with the comfort of time. Scraps of poetry made their way into the letters, too; Ginsberg wrote to Kerouac on Oct. 6, 1959:

Leave the bones behind
They’re only bones
Leave the mind behind
It’s only thoughts
Leave the man behind
He cannot live
Save the soul!

According to one rare books seller, this was a “piracy edition” and was suppressed by Kerouac’s estate.[ii] In the back of the book, a page states that it was “published for friends in an edition of 200 copies.” A more extensive collection of their letters is part of our General Collection and able to be loaned.

Kerouac and Ginsberg were friends — sometimes with benefits, if Ginsberg’s Gay Sunshine Interview is any indication.[iii] They were companions. They were partners-in-crime. After Kerouac’s death in 1969 at the age of 47, Ginsberg mourned him, along with Neal Cassady, another Beat who died early in life.  In The Visions of the Great Rememberer, Ginsberg writes, “So I survived Neal and Jack — what for, all my temerity? This empty paradise? Nostalgia world?”[iv]

 

 

[i] Kerouac, J. 1960. “The San Francisco Scene.” Readings from Jack Kerouac on the Beat Generation. Retrieved from https://genius.com/Jack-kerouac-the-san-francisco-scene-annotated.

[ii] PBA Galleries. (2018). Lot 334 of 450: Kerouac Ginsberg Take Care of My Ghost, Ghost. Retrieved from https://www.pbagalleries.com/view-auctions/catalog/id/189/lot/54835/Take-Care-of-My-Ghost-Ghost-From-the-letters-of-Allen-Ginsberg-to-Jack-Kerouac-1945-1959.

[iii] Young, A. (1974). Gay Sunshine Interview. Bolinas: Grey Fox Press. Pp. 3-4. Ginsberg talks about specific sexual encounters he had with Kerouac and Neal Cassady.

[iv] Ginsberg, A. (1974). The Visions of the Great Rememberer. Amherst: Mulch Press. Pg. 1. The title itself is a nod to Kerouac’s autobiographical work Visions of Gerard, as well as the posthumously published Visions of Cody, which focuses on Neal Cassady (called Cody in the book). The Visions of the Great Rememberer now publishes as an introduction for Visions of Cody.

Myths and Memorials

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

Memorializing the Confederate States of America has been part of a national debate recently, as communities argue over public monuments that valorize a government and its soldiers who fought for slavery. This print, The Charge of the First Maryland Regiment at the Death of Ashby, was published in 1867, just two years after the end of the Civil War. It was an opening salvo in this debate.

Designed to be hung in the homes of Marylanders who identified with the Confederacy, it was commissioned to raise funds to erect a monument to the Maryland Line, a regiment of Marylanders who fought for the Confederacy. The monument was never built.

Although a slave state, Maryland remained in the Union during the war. After President Lincoln ensured that the legislature voted against secession in the spring of 1861, as many as 30,000 Maryland men fled to Virginia to enlist in the Confederate army. They made up about a third of all Marylanders (black and white) who fought in the Civil War. So many Marylanders joined the Army of Northern Virginia that they formed their own regiment, the Maryland Line. The print commemorated a victory of some of those Maryland Confederates near Harrisonburg, Virginia on June 6, 1862. Confederate troops, commanded by Stonewall Jackson, had engaged with Fremont’s Union forces north of Harrisonburg and were in retreat. Confederate Brigadier General Turner Ashby, in an effort to protect the rear of the retreating army, ambushed a detachment of Union soldiers with Maryland and Virginia troops. When the Union line was reinforced, Ashby was killed as he attempted to charge the Union position. The Marylanders then successfully repelled the Union attack and captured its commanding officer.[1]

The print’s image foregrounded Maryland soldiers poised to charge, including a dying Confederate soldier passing the regimental colors to another, a stock scene of nineteenth-century sacrifice and heroism. Ashby’s death is barely discernable in the background. The former Confederates who purchased this print would have already been familiar with Ashby, who had been widely hailed in the South as a hero both before and after his death. As one historian put it, “Ashby represents an early prototype of the Lost Cause hero.”[2] Even small and marginalized, Ashby’s image evoked a set of myths that many whites used to rewrite Southern history into a racialized story of plantation prosperity, contented slaves, and white manly honor.

Maryland raised many monuments honoring the Confederate cause in the century and a half following the war. Two years ago Baltimore removed four Confederate statues from public spaces because they valorized slavery and a government that defended it. The Maryland Historical Trust’s Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments updated its inventory to reflect these changes in public memory and memorialization. At the same time, however, the Daughters of the Confederacy and other groups rededicated a monument to Ashby outside of Harrisonburg. The debates over history and memorialization continue.

 

 

[1] Donald C. Pfanz, Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1998), 204-06.

[2] Peter S. Carmichael, “Turner Ashby’s Appeal,” Gary W. Gallagher, ed., Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003), p. 117, accessed May 22, 2019, ProQuest Ebook Central.

Upcoming Events: April and early May

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

Thursday, April 4, 5:00pm | Medieval Institute Byzantine Series Lecture: “The Gospel of John in the Byzantine Tradition” by Fr. John Behr (St. Vladimir’s Seminary)

Thursday, April 11, 4:00pm | The Work of Our Hands Exhibition Guided Walking Tour and Discussion

The tour will commence at 4:00 p.m. in the Hesburgh Library Lobby and will continue to three sites across campus where liturgical vestments are exhibited. Guests will be guided through the Sacristy Museum at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Rare Books and Special Collections at the Hesburgh Library, and the Scholz Family Gallery at the Snite Museum of Art.

A panel discussion will be held in the Annenberg Auditorium of the Snite Museum of Art (lower level) following the tour, and then a reception in the Atrium of the Snite.

Thursday, April 18 at 5:00pmThe Italian Research Seminar: “De Sica’s Genre Trouble: Rom-Coms against Fascism?” by Prof. Lorenzo Fabbri (Minnesota, Twin Cities).

Sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.


The spring exhibitAs Printers Printed Long Ago. The Saint Dominic’s Press 1916-1936, curated by Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture), opened in January and runs through the summer. The exhibition features different types of publications and posters produced by Saint Dominic’s Press, setting the story of the press within the larger history of the private press movement in England and examining its artistic as well as literary achievements.

The current spotlight exhibits are: Purchas his Pilgrimes and John Smith (March 2019), and The Work of Our Hands: A multi-venue exhibition of liturgical vestments organized in conjunction with the Notre Dame Forum 2018-19: “The Catholic Artistic Heritage: Bringing Forth Treasures New and Old” (March – early June 2019).

If you would like to bring a group to Special Collections or schedule a tour of any of our exhibits, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.


Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed April 19
in observance of Good Friday.

We will reopen at 9am on Monday, April 22, 2019.

Upcoming Events: March and early April

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

Tuesday, March 26 at 4:00pm | “An Enchanted Circle Surrounding Me Like Magic: Heidelburg & its literary heritage from the Middle Ages to today,” a talk with Dr. Gertrud Roesch (Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor of German Studies, Notre Dame).

Sponsored by The Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures.

Wednesday, March 27 at 4:00pm | A Conversation with Sandow Birk. Renowned illustrator Sandow Birk will be visiting Notre Dame on March 27 and 28. He will speak about his work, including his illustrations of the Divine Comedy and the Qur’an.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies , the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Devers Family Program in Dante Studies, and the Program in Liberal Studies.

Thursday, March 28 at 5:00pmThe Italian Research Seminar: “Pasolini Screenwriter for Fellini” by Prof. Claudia Romanelli (Alabama).

Sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, April 4, 5:00pm | Medieval Institute Byzantine Series Lecture: “The Gospel of John in the Byzantine Tradition” by Fr. John Behr (St. Vladimir’s Seminary)


The spring exhibitAs Printers Printed Long Ago. The Saint Dominic’s Press 1916-1936, curated by Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture), opened in January and runs through the summer. The exhibition features different types of publications and posters produced by Saint Dominic’s Press, setting the story of the press within the larger history of the private press movement in England and examining its artistic as well as literary achievements.

The current spotlight exhibits are: Theresienstadt (Terezín), in remembrance of all the victims of the Holocaust, and Creeley/Marisol: Presences (through March 6, 2019). Both spotlight exhibits will be changed in early March to Purchas his Pilgrimes and John Smith (March 2019), and The Work of Our Hands, a multi-venue exhibition organized in conjunction with the Notre Dame Forum 2018-19: “The Catholic Artistic Heritage: Bringing Forth Treasures New and Old” (March – early June 2019).

If you would like to bring a group to Special Collections or schedule a tour of any of our exhibits, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.


Rare Books and Special Collections will be open regular hours, 9am-5pm, during Notre Dame’s Spring Break (March 11-15).

Documenting Girls and Girlhood — Library Collections on Display

This week’s conference on Girls Studies, hosted by Notre Dame’s Gender Studies Program, prompted us to organize a related display of items from our collections.

Concentrating on particular strengths in our Irish and American collections, we decided to highlight fiction for and about girls, creative work by girls, books on girls in sport, advice literature, and works on girls’ culture.

On Thursday morning (February 28), visitors may tour this temporary exhibit and have an opportunity to examine, at close quarters, an album of art that belonged to the Edgeworth family of Ireland, a young girl’s sewing sampler from 1844, and the diary of a New England girl, describing her years as a mill-worker.

Selections from the Irish Fiction Collection will include examples of books from L. T. Meade and Rosa Mulholland, writers of the Victorian era, and contemporary fiction on girlhood.

L. T. Meade was one of the most prolific writer of stories for girls in her time, and she was also one of the first writers of girls’ school stories. In addition to her hundreds of books, she was for a time editor of Atalanta, a magazine for girls.

The display will feature at least one volume of the Atalanta magazine, which had a variety of serialized stories as well as articles on subjects such as careers for women, and also had a regular literary essay contest.

Also featured, from the Catholic Pamphlets collection, our display will include examples of the information and advice given to girls in the mid-twentieth century. This, and items from the American Sports Collection, will round out our display and provide a wide array of ideas for anyone considering research in this area.

The one-morning exhibit is curated by Rachel Bohlmann and Aedín Clements.

Upcoming Events: January and early February

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

Thursday, January 24 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “German Presences: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet and the Question of Authorship” by Prof. Alessia Ricciardi (Northwestern University).

Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Friday, January 25 at 1:30pm |Panel Presentations in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring William Collins Donahue (Director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies), Judy Shroyer (the Jewish Federation), and Kevin Cawley (University of Notre Dame Archives). After the panel discussion, all attendees are invited to the Scholars Lounge for a reception.

Sponsored by: The Nanovic Institute for European StudiesCushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, the Jewish Federation, and Hesburgh Libraries.

Wednesday, January 30 RESCHEDULED DUE TO WEATHER
Thursday, January 31 at 3:00pm
| Exhibit Lecture: The Saint Dominic’s Press 1916-1936 by curator Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture).


The spring exhibitAs Printers Printed Long Ago: The Saint Dominic’s Press 1916-1936, curated by Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture), opens in January and runs through the summer. The exhibition features different types of publications and posters produced by Saint Dominic’s Press, setting the story of the press within the larger history of the private press movement in England and examining its artistic as well as literary achievements.

The current spotlight exhibits are: Theresienstadt (Terezín), in remembrance of all the victims of the Holocaust (January – February 2019), and Creeley/Marisol: Presences, an exhibit occasioned by the 2018 publication of a critical edition of Presences, edited by Stephen Fredman, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Notre Dame (January – February 2019).

If you would like to bring a group to Special Collections or schedule a tour of any of our exhibits, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.

Some Satirical Musings for Christmas

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Special Collections

Vanity Fair, Saturday, Dec. 22, 1860—this was the first Christmas issue featuring a series of satirical columns and illustrations beginning with Richard Henry Stoddard’s account of poor, unemployed John Hardy thinking about “money, money, money” on Christmas Eve. Following this was some  “Christmas Cheer” in England  and a “Christmas Jingle.” Then Heine Heine’s lonely, shivering pine tree covered in snow dreaming about the palm tree in the warm southern lands. At center, a two-page spread of Virginia cavaliers celebrating the holiday.

“Christmas among the Cavaliers, in the Early Days of Virginia.” This satirical wood engraving drawn by E. Leutze and engraved by Andrew and Filmer was featured in the December 22, 1860 issue of Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair was a popular title used for three subsequent magazines and should not be confused with the current one published by Condé Nast. The issue featured was from the American satirical magazine published by Louis Henry Stephens and edited by his brothers William Allen Stephens and Henry Louis Stephens. Vanity Fair was published with interruptions caused by problems obtaining paper on which to print between December 31, 1859 and July 4, 1863. Noted for its cartoons and satire columns, this magazine was critical of the Civil War’s progress and Abraham Lincoln’s policies.


Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Notre Dame’s Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 24, 2018, through January 1, 2019). We are open our regular hours during Exams, and welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.

Road Trip! Long-distance Driving in 1920

by George Rugg, Curator, Special Collections

Long-distance driving in the early days of the automobile was no joke. This fact is conveyed in indelible fashion by the text of an unattributed diary acquired by the Libraries in 2012, whose entries describe a 1920 auto trip from Long Beach, California to Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Despite an exponential growth in car sales in the 1910s, and the annual publication of a route guide called The Official Automobile Blue Book, trips still proceeded from point to point on local, often unpaved and unidentified roads. Rain and mud limited travel, and snow precluded it.

The author of the diary is a young woman of perhaps 20, making the trip with her parents in the family Ford. The journey took almost seven weeks of near constant travel, across the southwestern desert to El Paso and thence to Cleveland by way of New Orleans, Memphis, and Louisville. Ideally, the family spent their nights in campgrounds, but this was not always possible. The journey across the desert was especially difficult:

Thursday [October] 14th … Got off road to Niland [California]. We went up a sandy mountain & thru revines on low mostly. About 50 miles bad road all up grade. We struck civilization just before dusk. We sure was glad to see some one. We went 100 miles and never saw a dwelling. Sand and more sand. We camped beside a well all alone near a store.

Nor was food always readily available; sometimes “Dad” went hunting for birds and rabbits. Frequent tire punctures and breakdowns came to a head in Hot Springs, New Mexico (“the worst city in the world I believe by a dam site”), where the family was forced to remain for a week. Sometimes they took a break to enjoy local sights, but mostly the schedule called for day after day on the road. Just like travelers on the Oregon Trail, cars welcomed the company of other vehicles, for companionship and safety and for help with the inevitable breakdowns. Expense accounts in the diary indicate that in their first month of travel the family spent around $150.00. Gas seems to have run about 40 cents per gallon. On one occasion the author notes progress of 185 miles in a day, but this was certainly exceptional.

Even the very end of the trip was eventful:

It has rained all day. About 12 miles from Cleveland the darned tire had another puncture. Just got out of the main part of Cleveland & the front left tire went down. Before we got to Lorain the front left tire blew out. Dad said let it go so we drove on it & the left hind tire punctured so we took it off & went on the rim. We got stuck in the mud in Chagrin Falls & walked a couple blocks to Aunt Eustella’s at 10:30 P.M.

In the 20s the government sought to rationalize long-distance auto travel with the introduction of the U.S. Highway System; by late 1926, our travelers might have followed Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago. The 50s saw the development of the Interstates. But in 1920, the amenities offered by modern highways were few and far between.