Monthly Archives: September 2014

Haters gonna hate, but U2’s “innocence” resonates…

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I must begin this commentary with a caveat – I have been a fan of U2 for over half of my life and they remain, for me, an important musical group even as my own tastes and interests have evolved.  The band has produced some wonderful albums, some raw albums, and some clunky songs since their first full release, “Boy.”  What they have not done, in my opinion, with the exception of their 2009 release, is release music that people largely ignore.  “Songs of Innocence” should not be ignored for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its ability to make listeners feel something rather strongly.

About thirty-two years ago I walked into the store pictured at the top and made a choice between two albums based on very different criteria.  One, Men at Work’s “Business as Usual,” had familiar songs, catchy tunes, and extensive radio play.  The second, released in the United States about a month earlier, was U2’s “War.”  I knew nothing about U2 – I had not, to my knowledge, heard a single song of theirs in my entire life.  But that album cover.

 

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Of course, I chose the album I knew and happily listened to Colin Hay sing about fried out combies and men from Brussels.  As it turns out, the non “top 40” songs from that album?  Rather good actually – “I can see it in your eyes” is a catchy song about the lover that gets away and I enjoy “Touching the Untouchables” and “Down by the Sea” which are bit odd and almost dystopian in some respects.  But that album cover.

U2’s “War” cover art haunted me – I would think about it and the potential music that lay within.  “What’s up with that kid?”  “Is this related to Lord of the Flies somehow?”  “Should I have taken a chance on that album?” I didn’t know the answer to the question, I STILL hadn’t heard a single song from them, and yet I was somewhat obsessed.  The decision also caused me to rethink how I chose albums and made me ask questions like “what will the future me listen to? Will I grow as music evolves?”  This latter question was particularly important to me given that I had spent an inordinate amount of time in elementary gym class listening to disco (not by choice).

For the next several years, I often looked at compelling cover art as a potential deciding factor.  This strategy did not always go well.  But, around 1987 it netted me an interesting record by Canada’s Rock & Hyde and I got Public Image Ltd. “Album” that way as well.  ANYWAY – it would be nearly three years (and one more U2 release) before I finally could say with absolute certainty, “yes, I have heard their songs.”  My older classmates in high school were playing songs from “War” and “Unforgettable Fire” at a fund raising event for our school choir.  Hearing “War” for the first time, and recalling the debate with myself in 1982, I became pretty hard on myself for my decision to go with Men at Work.

“Songs of Innocence” comes to listeners five years after the previous full album release, “No Line on the Horizon.” The latter was, for me, a disappointment.  Last spring, I gave it a listen again at the recommendation of some folks from the venerable Facebook crowd – while it sat better with me this time around, it did not hit me on the second hearing the way “Pop” did.  I think I wanted more from “No Line.”  I had heard rumors about work in North Africa and a variety of producers that might reinvigorate the sound and the album simply felt flat on those first few listens, never quite recovering for me.

I had no expectations this time around – a friend told me the album was available and I thought them mistaken.  “It comes out in October, no?”  But, while futzing with my mother’s wi-fi hook up I discovered I already “owned” the album because of a deal U2 struck with Apple.  This part of the release has been discussed ad nauseam on the interwebs already and I think the hipsters of the world should shut the f$@* up already about this complete first world problem of “oh, my overpriced telephone/camera/music device automatically downloaded something I don’t want because I’m so over that group.”

Breathe.

Look – it’s a marketing ploy, I get it, but if “the Fly” has taught us something at least since “Rattle and Hum” it’s that branding and marketing can give you power to say something and do something maybe a little different.  If “Joshua Tree” doesn’t explode, do they get to make a vanity project like “Rattle and Hum?”  If “Achtung Baby” doesn’t resonate with an American audience largely unprepared for German discotheque inflected production qualities, does the sneaky “Zooropa” get made?  “Songs of Innocence,” for me, is not unlike the experience I had with “Joshua Tree,” with “Achtung Baby,” with “Zooropa,” and with “All that you can’t leave behind.”  I put it on the day it “released” and I haven’t turned it off.

Again, the caveat – I’m a fan.  I like the band, I like that they’re still together and have been friends for going on forty years, I like Bono’s sanctimonious nature, I like Larry Mullen Jr.’s predictable backbeat.  I like that the Edge has made a career as THE guitarist in the group but is basically a rhythm guitar guy who loves to manipulate sound using electronic tools.  I really like Adam Clayton’s consistently aggressive bass.  They’re not the greatest, most creative group necessarily – in a way, they are often, “straight pop” with many releases, but for me, that’s ok.  If I want fractious, perhaps edgier, and creative, I’ve got the Smiths (I mean, Johnny Marr is, to quote Noel Gallagher, a f$*@*ng wizard – “even Johnny Marr can’t play as well as Johnny Marr”), Bright Eyes, Radiohead, the The, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, the National, Band of Horses, Cults, the Antlers, the Decembrists, Broken Bells, and many more groups to channel.

This album though says some interesting things to me.  Maybe it’s a mid-life thing, maybe I have no taste in music, maybe I’m a sucker for the songs Bono sings that make me cry – in this case, “Iris” – who knows.  In many ways, “Songs of Innocence” explains U2 – where they’re from, “Cedarwood Road,” “Raised by Wolves,” “the Troubles,” – why they do what they do, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now,” – what happened to them early on, “California (There is No End to Love),” “Iris,” – pop ballads and grinders “Song for Someone,” “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight,” “Volcano,” – and a nod to the past in “Every Breaking Wave.”

Some people aren’t going to like aspects of this album or perhaps the method of its release, or the songs, or whatever.  Still, U2 are making music that, to me, is interesting even as they approach their mid-50s.  There are spots in the lyrics that mix well with the music and create powerful visuals (“Every Breaking Wave” – every sailor knows that the sea is a friend made enemy, and every ship-wrecked soul knows what it is to live without intimacy) and there are straight pop rockers like “Volcano” that gives Clayton a spotlight.  Then there are other, deeply personal revelations that break your heart if you’re at all human (“Iris” – I’ve got your life inside of me….Iris standing in the hall, she tells me I can do it all, Iris wakes to my nightmares, don’t fear the world it isn’t there).  Some people won’t appreciate what Bono is taking the time to tell us here – that even as a man of now 54, he can still channel the fourteen-year old boy who lost his mother too young.  May none of our children feel that kind of pain.

What makes a good pop album?  I would argue that you can listen to it and you don’t want to skip out or turn it off or get out of the car.  Another sure sign? My six year old knows the names of the songs already, sings along with some of them more than he does with songs from “Frozen” or even Minecraft parody songs (thank God), and my nine year old is curious about the choice of wolves as a lyric in the painful, yet still poppy song about living in a country tearing itself apart with sectarian violence.  “Songs of Innocence” resonates with them hipsters; give it a chance.

 

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Abstract for ASCH paper re-write

Today’s post is an exercise engaged with the writing process I am following this semester based on a campus writing group and Wendy Laura Belcher’s workbook on creating journal articles.  Submission of the full-length version of this paper is one of my projects for the semester.  Below is a draft of an abstract based on this paper (originally presented at the American Society for Church History conference in January 2014) .  Writing and revising the abstract was an exercise for this week.  What I am posting is abstract 8.0, and I’m  certain it needs some additional revision but hopefully readers can get the gist of the paper from this piece.

“‘Listen to the words of your Father above.’ Ministering the Natives of Nebraska in the early 19th Century”

Christian missionary efforts among Native Americans have both a long history and historiography.  Christian priests, ministers, and missionaries have attempted to convert native people in North America to Christianity for centuries and during the last 50 years or so, historians have increasingly attempted to understand the relationship between such missionary efforts and their impact on native life.  Nearly fifty years ago, Robert Berkhofer demonstrated that missionaries had a tremendous impact on native life and culture, arguably because the main goal of missionaries was to alter that very life and culture.  Thirty years later, pastor and historian George Tinker took this view to an extremely harsh interpretation, stating that missionaries were nothing less than partners in “cultural genocide.”

For native people as a whole, one must wonder, what was the appeal of Christianity or American civilization at all?  How might access to this new faith and/or new products enhance people’s lives in any way? Would, as historian Willard Rollings describes, “individualism” hold a torch of progress aloft for Native Americans and how might one define “progress” in the first place?  In the last thirty-five years, historians Michael Coleman, James Ronda, and James Axtell have all called for fresh examinations of mission history – the former encouraging critical case studies of individual missions and missionary societies.  The latter two, along with Tinker, see missions as culturally revolutionary and seek to focus attention on native responses to such intrusions.  This study seeks to ask questions  about the experience of specific missionaries in the period of the Early Republic and whether these particular missionary experiences fit the model of “cultural genocide” as enunciated by Tinker.

Around 1819 at Fort Atkinson, one of the first Christian sermons was delivered in what would become the territory, and later state of Nebraska. By the 1830s, missionaries such as Baptist Moses Merrill, and Presbyterian Samuel Allis were preaching their message among the Otoe-Missourias, Omahas, and Pawnees. In preparation for his journey, Merrill spoke of his desire to have the Lord’s help in preparing for service, “among these benighted Indians. May we be the honored instruments of turning many from darkness to light.”

Allis arrived in Bellevue after the Merrill family did in 1834 and then moved farther west and served as missionary to the Pawnees until 1845.  After 1845, Allis built and briefly ran a boarding school for natives before returning to the Bellevue area in 1851.  Also in the 1830s, the Belgian Catholic priest Father Pierre-Jean De Smet conducted services and baptisms in the area, chiefly among fur traders, those of French descent, and certain natives who had taken on the Catholic faith.

Men like Merrill, Allis, and De Smet thrust themselves into largely ‘foreign’ environments within the boundaries of property owned by the United States but contested by various native people.  These frontier missions were both probes into native space and extensions of white American culture that differed from trading posts and military encampments.  The missions, and those who ran them, sought to both build relations with native people and, in most instances, challenged and changed native culture. To that end, Allis went so far as to suggest that missionaries who committed to marrying into native tribes would have greater success.  Despite this somewhat ‘radical’ thought, Allis also subscribed to at least one traditional approach. Conversion for natives was more likely to be successful once people like the Pawnees shed aspects of their lifestyles and came to mimic white farmers.

Other missionaries believed that conversion had to come first in order to lead natives to civilization.  Ultimately, disagreements over conversion efforts (style, sect, speed, etc.) led to debates and discussion as to the purpose and intent of white men such as Allis living among the Pawnees and other native people.  In many ways, debates between some of the Christian missionaries and other Americans were more lively than any discussion between native people and missionaries in general.

This is not to suggest that there was not some level of respect for native culture. Allis in particular was an admirer of the Pawnees and their ways of life, even suggesting that native people like the Pawnees had a lot more positive to be said about them then the white settlers who displaced them. Allis pointed out after two winters and one summer among the Pawnees that he had learned aspects of their language and culture in his time living among these native people, but also much about their character as fellow human beings.

Allis and Merrill can be described as both sympathetic to their native neighbors and conversion targets, and still judging from their own world view.  My reading of the experience of these two particular missionaries in Nebraska does not reveal a concerted effort at “cultural genocide” as Tinker might conclude.  To successfully judge the Pawnees, Otoe-Missourias, and New England missionaries by their own standards, as should be done according to James Axtell, is difficult because we are examining a clash of two societies.  This study focuses on the perspective of Allis and Merrill – the views of Otoe-Missourias and Pawnees living near the missionaries are only presented through the lens of their American neighbors.  Here is where Tinker has a point – Allis and Merrill may have been well-intentioned, but their actions still, in the end, could be viewed as causing harm and perhaps, due to conversion efforts and cultural interchange, limit our ability to achieve Axtell’s vision of interpreting native society by its own standards.

I would like to thank a number of people who have aided this project – panel chair Lindford F., panelists Joshua R., Brian F., and the audience at the ASCH session who all provided valuable resources and feedback to the original paper; writing group members Chalet S., Brian C., Cindy G., and Stephanie G. who all pointed out that the “lede” was buried!  Thanks to writing group members Hillary S. and Joe C. as well for help with another matter on the native imagery project!

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Sabbatical research continued

For the second time in one week I was fortunate to spend several hours at the New-York Historical Society working in the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library.  On this visit I was chiefly concerned with utilizing a digital camera to document a number of the images I had discovered on the previous Tuesday.  I had enough time to take over 170 pictures, while also working my way through four books and three additional boxes of archival material before the doors closed.

While most of the pictures covered images from the Bella C. Landauer collection, I was also able to snap a few from the Gosman family papers.  These two collections offered me a broad spectrum of materials that presented a variety of views of Native Americans from the 1840s through the early 1940s.  Landauer was chiefly concerned with the advertising world and as a result, the bulk of images I’ll be analyzing from her group included pamphlets and broadsides related to so-called Indian patent medicines.  The Gosman collection, as I mentioned the other day, was a completely unexpected piece.

The Gosman family’s papers reach back to the eighteenth century but the contributions from a teenaged Richard Gosman are thus far the only pertinent pieces.  Gosman was heavily influenced by publications like Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.  Below, a comparison between an actual Leslie’s publication and a cover for Gosman should give readers a sense of what I am seeing when working with the material.

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Gosman clearly consumed and understood the manner in which these papers operated as well as their intended audience.  Much of his written text as well as the general content for his versions of the press contain stories that mirror the style one would see in the time period in question.  Gosman’s pieces were brought to my attention largely because of the large number of Native Americans included throughout his newspapers.  Gosman’s images reflect a general nineteenth century American sensibility about what Native Americans “should” look like.  Despite the fact that the young boy grew up in a state with a strong Native American presence, (the Iroquois Confederacy), Gosman only seemed to envision natives as ensconced in fringed leggings, eagle feather headdresses, and, typically, involved in conflict with white Americans.  If indeed Gosman had seen Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show at Madison Square Garden (as is implied in one edition), it is no wonder that his understanding of Native Americans would prove so limited.  Another comparison is apt so I’ll include another sample from a Leslie publication (one aimed at younger boys and girls) and a piece from Gosman.

 

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There is much more to be done with Gosman’s pieces and I have a number of examples to more thoroughly analyze.  I’m also convinced that if similar collections to Gosman can be discovered, there will be value in pursuing a separate project that explores how children and young people co-opt elements of the adult world in creative ways.  Between Gosman and the Landauer collection though, I believe I have extended the possibilities of the study.  The day before I returned to the archives, I determined that a database would prove necessary in terms of keeping track of the types of images, region of origin, purported Native American tribes represented, scenes depicted, media, etc.  I’m hopeful that building a catalog of the examples I find will allow myself and other researchers to more thoroughly understand the choices made by individuals in representing native people as well perhaps shed some light on why this problem continues.

Although I will explore Landauer in more detail separately, a few brief words and an example of this collection is worth remark.  The bulk of the collection I examined focused on medicine companies from the late nineteenth-century, many of which were located in the northeastern United States, yet that laid claim to close connections with Native American medicines and “spiritual” solutions to physical ailments.  In particular, the Kickapoo Medicine Company of New Haven, CT took great liberties with the history of the Kickapoos in general, presenting an invented “sagwa” liquid as a cure all for many an ailment.  In large, lavishly illustrated pamphlets, the company presented the “history” of the Kickapoos and the arguments for why their medicines were of great benefit to the general public.  A cursory level of research on my part reveals zero connection between the founders of this company and the Kickapoos themselves.  Like Gosman, the founders of the company chose to illustrate native life on their own terms.  While I’m not surprised by my initial findings, I am curious to see where the pursuit of additional ephemera takes me.

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*Gosman and Landauer Collection images from the NY-Historical Society

 

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Even the children might critique Stalin

Eugene Yelchin, Breaking Stalin’s Nose. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2011.

A friend suggested this text, especially in light of my reading Bloodlands, and it was, in a word, perfect. Yelchin’s protagonist is ten-year old Sasha Zaichik, a young boy living in the Soviet Union in what may be the post-World War Two era. Written and illustrated by Yelchin, the book is dedicated to the author/illustrator’s father who “survived the Great Terror.” Readers of my review of Tim Snyder’s book will understand what such survival is a remarkable feat.

Young Sasha is a great fan of Joseph Stalin at the outset of this remarkable little book, writing a touching letter about why he wants to join the Young Pioneers and how he is “fortunate to live in the Soviet Union, the most democratic and progressive country in the world.”(2-4) Yelchin describes life in a komunalka (communal apartment), the joys of carrots, eternal hunger, and the fear of a life in which the State Security is an omnipresent force “purging the vermin from our midst.”

Sasha has a problem however and Yelchin brilliantly unveils the complex and uncertain nature of life in the Soviet Union. Sasha’s father is an important officer in the State Security, yet that doesn’t protect him from arrest. The fate of Sasha’s mother is revealed as the story evolves as well, and in general, what we see is an increasingly cynical world system that depends upon blind obedience, even in the face of personal uncertainty.

The book poses interesting questions about life in a totalitarian state, speculates as to how a young person might engage with such an environment, and carries it off with a blend of humor and almost Kafka-like bizarreness at times. Breaking Stalin’s Nose would be highly appropriate for history courses exploring totalitarianism and perhaps even as a humorous foil to either the entirety of Bloodlands, or excerpts from that book. Yelchin succeeds in his aim to portray how fear had become an integral part of people’s lives. In addition, he hopes that the text can serve as a model for people to understand the problem of living in fear. “To this day,” writes Yelchin, “there are places in the world where innocent people face persecution and death for making a choice about what they believe to be right.” (Author’s Note)

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Sabbatical synopsis

This fall, I am embarking on the first sabbatical of my academic career. I began teaching twenty years ago in January 1994 as an adjunct at Northeastern University; other than a brief break when I was a non-teaching assistant in graduate school, I have been working. Part of my sabbatical plan for this fall is to engage with historical research and writing in a more regular manner than I have since about 2009. I have been fortunate in engaging with teaching a subject I truly enjoy – the methodology of teaching history – but that coursework, and advising future secondary school history/social studies teachers, has occupied the majority of my time over the past five years.

My application was relatively simple: “I am requesting a sabbatical in Fall 2014 in order to complete research and begin analysis of the ways in which visual culture represent Native Americans in the nineteenth century.” In addition I pointed out that this particular project stemmed from some rudimentary work I did in relation to the National Endowment for the Humanities program in summer 2012 (see blog posts from July 2012).

I have had the great fortune of finding a campus-sponsored writing group this semester as well. A group of fellow faculty and myself are all working through Wendy Belcher’s text on writing articles for publication. I have set the goals of editing a paper I presented in January 2014 on missionaries in Nebraska in the early nineteenth century as well as completing a book proposal based on my research into frontier community development in Nebraska. In addition, I hope to get a draft worked through of this research on how Native Americans are represented in visual culture.

This past Tuesday I re-visited the NY-Historical Society and was delighted to discover a number of sources that will aid me in research and perhaps even inspire a few additional avenues of writing. The bulk of today’s post is focused on writing up what I found on Tuesday, with a few thoughts on the steps I might take from here.

Several pieces from the manuscript side struck me as useful for courses I teach such as Native American History or the United States history surveys.  I quickly made notes on a few items referenced below that would likely require return visits and perhaps photographs.  In some instances, I wrote down quotes that I believe might prove useful as exercises with students in future classes – perhaps providing the students with the quote and some historical context and then working through quick analysis schemes.

American Indian Collection, box 1, folder 1

  • 22 August 1710 – brother we are told that the great queen of great brittain had sent a considerable Number of People with your excellency..to Setle upon the Land Called Skokere?, which wasa great Surprise to us and we were much Dissatisfied at the news, in regard the land belongs to us as your excellency has seen yesterday by the instructions which were given by the late Lieutenant Governor John Nansan to Hendrick…dated the 19th of May 1699…
  • June 21 1842 – letter from Quakers referring to Indians invoking the “present evil and destroyer of the human race is whiskey” you cannot prosper in any undertaking without refusing to taste, touch, or handle this unclean thing.  Your white brethren are so well convinced of this truth that a great change has come over them in this respect.  It is considered among them to be unmanly and disgraceful to use firewater…

Years ago I completed a long bit of research on factionalism in the Cherokee Nation from the 1830s through the Civil War period.  I had originally intended to return to this field for my Ph.D. research and then I wrote on other topics but I am always interested in finding new materials – in this case I was able to hold in my hand an original letter written by Principal Chief John Ross!

American Indian Collection, box 1, folder 2

  • February 15 1864 letter from John Ross regarding the suffering Cherokees
  • September 26, 1871, office of US Agent for the Cherokees

I was curious about these comptroller records that seemed to indicate how land sales were conducted in lieu of the residents (natives) paying some form of tax.  It’s not a project in which I’m engaged, but it interested me from the perspective of providing some different types of documents for students to work with in class.  The second item had a number of “animal totems” for signatures to represent assent on a treaty agreement by Delawares.  The particular images fell outside the purview of my study in both chronology and type (I’m trying to discern why people outside native culture choose to portray natives in a certain way) but I found the animals intriguing and discovered them on another document.

American Indian Collection, box 1, folder 3

  • Comptroller, New York State lands sold in 1843 includes reference to Buffalo Creek Reservation for paying of tax? Total is $26.24
  • Reduced facsimile removed from Charles Heartman auction catalog book? June 11, 1932; treaty from 13 July 1765 featuring animal signatures for a variety of Delawares – deer female?, turkey, porcupine, wolf?, turtle?, possom, buck, fox or wolf?, beaver

American Indian Collection, box 1, folder 4

  • Treaty/petition to the legislature of New York 12 January 1788 mixture of names and animal signatures, turtle, fox?, bear? Hendrick Onaghtoron…

My first find in the manuscripts side of the NY-Historical Society came only five folders into the process and immediately at the front of said folder.  It was the type of image I was not surprised to find, being an ad for tobacco products and featuring an image that uses regalia as well as a pose reminiscent of late 16th and early 17th century European perceptions of native people.

American Indian Collection, box 1, folder 5

  • West Jersey Press, Wednesday June 23, 1869 ad for JP Grant manufacturer and dealer in cigars, tobacco, wholesale and retail, no 3 market street Camden NJ, ALL goods sold at Philadelphia prices native male leans on barrel and sack, loin cloth and breech clouts, leggings, tobacco Clay pipe on left hand smoking, musket in right, roach atop scalp, necklace of some type with shells?, plug of tobacco at his feet
  • Very interesting translation of Indian interpreter extract from book of town records Salem county New Jersey

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The translations of certain dialects I found fascinating as well and certainly the material from folder 6 I plan on revisiting for a separate project related to missionaries among native people.

American Indian Collection, box 1, folder 6

  • Translations of prayers Abenaki, Penobscot

The alleged portrait of Black Hawk was one of the few items I expected to find in this collection and for awhile I thought it might have gone missing from the box.  The sketch is purported to be the work of Dr. Samuel DeCamp, a military surgeon who served in the U.S. Army from at least the 1830s through his retirement in 1862.  The portrait is different from others of Black Hawk (a Sauk chief) I have seen, including a famous George Catlin piece.  The side profile is one such notable issue as is the pronounced nose – whether the work is therefore that of an untrained artist and any less “accurate” a portrayal I can’t say.  I’m curious to dig into this piece more and DeCamp’s background to see whether the claim in the file can be supported.

American Indian Collection, box 1, folder 7

  • Sketch supposedly of Black Hawk by Dr. Samuel DeCamp

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The following collection was a great example of the kind of unexpected stuff that happens when you walk into an archive.  As soon as I explained my project to Tammy K. she immediately suggested I look at the Gosman papers.  It’s the kind of collection I never would have stumbled on with my own efforts, yet because she was paying attention at some point to these documents, they came to my attention.  Young Richard Gosman was between the ages of 11 and 13 when he produced what, in Tammy’s words, were in effect ‘zines of the nineteenth century.  He wrote articles, created the names of the papers, illustrated them, and drew up his own ads for each as well as kept track of volume numbers, etc.  If you peruse my rough notes below, you can see some of the cool observations one can make out of this type of primary source.  As my artist/actor friend Tony W. pointed out – something must be done about these papers!

What’s fascinating to me is the level of work and creativity Gosman placed into his creations – the recipes are likely from his own family kitchen in Long Island City, the most common add is for eggs from the RHG company (him), and there are great stories about seeing a variety of shows at Madison Square Garden.  The images Gosman creates of natives are exclusively those representing native people from the Great Plains, and, arguably, are largely Lakotas.  The young boys and older men are almost exclusively in fringed leggings and shirts and on horseback, often adorned with complex feather headdresses.  As some of Gosman’s drawings appear to be real people, one has to wonder whether he saw their images in programs from Wild West shows or in actual newspapers, etc.  Regardless, this particular collection opens up a lot of possibilities – there is ample material with which to work on the question of visually interpreting native people, but there is also much to consider in terms of the entire project.  Are there other such examples?  I feel as though there are multiple directions for this particular resource.

MS 257, Gosman papers 1747-1932

  • Richard Gosman school composition books
  • Gosman has created these interesting newspaper/club journals that reflect some interests of his (stories, fables, graphic representation) and he also populates his journals with ads, often for an egg producer who bears his own initials!
  • People’s paper January 1887 – article on how to get to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show from Blissville Long Island City to Madison Square Garden: gleasons car for three that would five cents, then the 34th street boat for 8 cents, then the 4th avenue cars for 38 cents if it is two persons and a child
  • Image in back “the Wild West soon to be managed by RHG – two plains Indians on horseback riding in saddles with reins, war paint is applied, fringed leggings and shirts, one native holds aloft a spear and has a long eagle headdress; the other no discernible weapon but feathers in hair;
  • March has recipe for queen muffins – quart of. Milk, 3/4 cup yeast, 2tbs white sugar, 1 tbs butter or lard, 1 tsp salt, flour to make a batter, 2 eggs; set batter leaving eggs out, to rise overnight, beat eggs very light stir into batter, bake on muffin rings on a quick oven twenty minutes; natives on back named Cut Meat, Rocky Bear, Sun Eagle; Rocky is “chief of the souixs” hand drawing a bow, Indian horseback saddle blanket and reins, spear, fringed leggings and shirt, one feather; natives on bottom have necklace, earring, two feathers minimum except rocky bear who has larger eagle feather headdress
  • Reference to PT Barnum show and John L. Sullivan, the boxing elephant? (from a rival circus show run by Adam Forepaugh?), as well as the skeleton of Jumbo
  • July 1887 Sioux boys breaking ponies image no saddles but reins; leggings with fringe at least one feather
  • April 1887 Flies Above and Red Bear; scene at bottom with trooper getting shot by native with pistol; one native down, several on horseback
  • August 1887 Indian fight ad in reference to circus
  • September 1887 how we brought the mail to Cisco features tale told by older man and illustrated with natives firing arrows at stage
  • December 1887 includes Father Christmas modeled after Nast? Long wolf with eagle headdress and earring; Indians running with fringe etc
  • January 1888 – Tim Tooley dying as struck by an arrow; native shot with pistol  one feather fringed sleeves, arrow, “fell like a log from his horse”
  • February 1888 native running no shirt, two feathers fringed leggings
  • Illustrated monthly no date native with eagle headdress on horseback no saddle, reins, fringed leggings, fringed shirt; hunting scene natives watching white hunter they are in background and have larger headdresses; native on back rides away from pistol bearing other
  • Harpers young people 1885 – several illustrations some native people with dogs, etc

Much of the Patriotic Envelope collection has been digitized and you can see some of that collection via a Library of Congress digital exhibit that the NY-Historical Society put together with funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

PR 117 Patriotic Envelope Collection Box 7

  • AJ89017 – the school of The Indiana zouve – union soldier zouve but in buckskins, fringed, moccasin, musket, powder horn, dead deer at feet
  • AJ90010 – USA published by car bell hartford, ct – Indian bare chested, breech clout, gun, blanket, necklace with bear claws, feathers overlooking waterfall and pine trees
  • Death to traitors envelope
  • AJ92004 – interesting sunny south our country babe (Hercules?) strangling snake of abolition and holding confederate flag
  • Admiral William T. Sampson image and native above him holding the American flag,  native has necklace and blanket, etc

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PR 117 Patriotic Envelope Collection Album 4

  • Sailor next to native dressed in red blanket leggings, moccasins, holding hatchet, gold arm band, feathers in headband, background has natives in dugout canoes but they are spearing a deer????
  • America? Reclining against shield and with eagle roman type toga and headdress with feathers
  • Wigfall on his promised descent to Washington breech clout, leggings, fringe, tomahawk in hand (reference to Texan secessionist Louis T. Wigfall)
  • Envelope featuring Washington holding a musket and looking on a portrait of himself dressed as roman, Columbia or liberty is with him and there are two natives  one with scalp lock feathersm blanket, breech clout, and other with longer hair, feathers, spear and blanket

PR 117 Patriotic Envelope Collection Box 8

  • Maybe in the future look at folder five as it has some interesting language choices in terms of calling for a “greater” United States Spanish American war era

PR 301 Decorative Envelope Collection Box 1

  • Nothing really in here though there are a few firsts that could be interesting to some people with Olympics envelopes and a series from the White House that lists presidential dates?

As in manuscripts, I was aided in the print collection by some folks who, once they heard what I was looking for, made some suggestions.  The Bella Landauer collection was something I had a vague recollection of from my visit in 2012, but I hadn’t read the finding aid online as yet.  This collection clearly exhibits characteristics of a needed deep read because in two folders alone from one box I found quite a few examples that will prove useful.

PR 031 Bella C. Landauer Collection Series II, Ephemera Box 37

  • Folder miscellaneous – need to examine some dates but this one is worth a deep return visit as it includes numerous illustrations as well as a fantastic pamphlet from Edwin Eastman “captured and branded by the Camanche Indians in the year 1860” which includes a long listing of medicines Eastman learned about while captured; several pieces in German which is useful, and a Cherokee medicines and rejuvenating elixir pamphlet from Dr. Merwin and Company
  • Folder Kickapoo – “the Indians as a race, represent the embodiment of perfect health.  From the time the pilgrim fathers…”

All in all, it was a profitable visit and one I am likely to soon repeat so I can take more time with the collection.  Along with looking at these objects directly, I’ve been reading a variety of secondary sources to help contextualize the images I’m looking at in this archive and others I hope to visit this fall.  Meantime, you can find me on occasion near 79th and Central Park West, hanging with Frederick Douglass or perhaps Abe Lincoln.

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Philip Kerr takes up Prayer

Philip Kerr, Prayer. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

I have written on Kerr in the past, chiefly focused on his Bernie Gunther character, though I’ve read a few of his other works as well.  Prayer is unlike any other text I’ve read of his writings, and I’m uncertain still as to whether this is a good thing or not.  As I worked my way through the novel, I commented to a friend that I found the book creepy and more than a little frightening at times.  In the end, I lean more on the idea that the story is a bit messy, the main character thoroughly unlikeable, and some of the resolutions left me wondering – is it over? Was it real?  What was real?

FBI agent Gil Martins is a Scottish immigrant who spent formative teenaged years in Boston, MA, worked as a lawyer, and quit in the post 9-11 malaise to become an agent for the Federal Bureau.  He’s on the backside of a failing marriage, drinks too much, and has lost his faith in God, if not also humanity.  When the story opens up, we learn that Martins, raised Catholic in divided Glasgow, has converted to evangelical Christian but is really more of a burgeoning, if not fully committed, atheist.  The personal religious struggles of Martins are somewhat interesting, but as other reviewers have noted, Kerr has not created the most sympathetic protagonist.  Martins, as written, simply cannot pull off the sardonic, self-aware witticisms that come so easily to Kerr’s Bernie Gunther.

Perhaps this is unfair – making comparisons between the creations of an author, but arguably it is also the fate of a writer who largely works in the serial of the Gunther cosmology (or at least as done so for roughly ten years).  Despite what I perceive as a misstep in character design, there are elements of the story that certainly worked to keep me intrigued.

Ultimately however, I ended up disappointed in the novel.  I am still unclear, five days or so removed from finishing, exactly how the string of murders that were under investigation by Martins are resolved, or perhaps they aren’t?  I wrote earlier that the book was both creepy and frightening.  I will stand by that judgement and it is in this particular element that I see success in Kerr’s writing.  He effectively creates an unsure, unsafe, and bizarre environment with a touch of the paranormal.  My personal problem was, I did not care what happened to Martins, I was not certain I cared about the main antagonists, and I found the seeming abandonment of some characters, like Martins’ FBI partner, odd.

Does Martins, and Kerr by proxy, ask some interesting questions about the nature of God and prayer in general?  Perhaps, but I still found that in spots, the story was “flabby.”  Prayer is worth investigating, but if you leave off halfway through the novena? I won’t judge.

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