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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Future is Today

Every day, as librarians, archivists, and museum professionals at the Smithsonian, we consider our presence in the virtual world. We digitize books and photographs, scan entire archival collections, and produce digital copies of artworks, all toward enhancing and increasing online content for the public. We are engaged with virtual visitors through many social media outlets, including this blog. But still, we never stop being challenged by these two questions—how do we meet the needs of today’s users? How do we anticipate the needs of tomorrow’s users?

Ten years ago, a single search for all collections at the Smithsonian was a mere pipe dream. Today it is a reality as more and more Smithsonian collections are added to this single search. Consider the Smithsonian Collections Search Center your own virtual library, archive and museum. Find related objects and artifacts that aren’t on display in the brick and mortar museum, share them with your friends on Facebook or tweet about them on Twitter (hint: use the share button to share a single record or a set of records). You can build your own virtual Smithsonian.

Do you want to know more about how libraries and museums envision the future? Check out this recent article in The New Republic.

Pictured is The Library (1960) by Jacob Lawrence in the collection of the American Art Museum.

Nicole Semenchuk, Research and Scholars Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Passover Greetings!

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library recently acquired The Children's Haggadah, pictured here, as a gift from Roma and David Korris. This book, which includes a selection of Seder melodies, was edited by A.M. Silbermann and illustrated by Erwin Singer, with a translation in prose and verse by Isidore Wartski and Arthur Saul Super. This is the English and Hebrew edition, published in London in 1933 by Shapiro, Vallentine & Co. and printed in Germany. A German and Hebrew edition, Die Haggadah des Kindes, was also issued in 1933.

This colorful Haggadah uses lively illustrations to recount the history of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, as described in the Torah, and explains the Jewish family ritual of the Passover feast, the Seder, from a child's point of view. How lively are these illustrations? --Very lively indeed! The book includes five interactive pictures with movable parts (turning wheels, flaps, and sliding panels), all in remarkably good condition, especially considering that this copy has seen over 75 years of loving use by generations of young readers.

Call number: qBM674.76 .S55 1933 CHMRB

Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's Cooking at the Archives?

Cookbooks can offer much more to a reader than just recipes. They can be time capsules, mini autobiographies, even works of art with their unique photos and illustrations. Mae Wadley Abbott’s Oklahoma Indian Cook Book: the Best Indian Recipes from the Best Indian State is an excellent example, compiling fifty-seven traditional recipes in anticipation of Oklahoma’s 1957 mid-centennial celebration. As part of the Acee Blue Eagle Papers, Abbott's cookbook finds a fitting home at the National Anthropological Archives. As stated in her foreword, “Food is: The most classifying of any one thing as to racial edification according to anthropologists.”

Highlighting the importance of cultural preservation, Abbot explains, “As an American Indian Woman, I have realized that Indian Foods, like the Mystic, Ceremonial, and Religious Phases of the Red Man is fast disappearing into the past….The older Indian Women are passing on; a few years hence and they will have taken to their graves the secrets that are valuable, both as history and aid to those of the future who desire the knowledge of how to cook Indian Food." Acee Blue Eagle, acclaimed Native American artist, contributes striking illustrations, a poem to the reader and even some of his grandmother's recipes to the book.

Dried cow hooves, hog jowls and water lily seeds, while called for, may not be readily available to the average cook today. However, many recipes like Sweet Potato Bread and Ah-Gee Chum-Buh-Gee, a snack popular with children, seem tasty and straightforward. With tradition as her focus, Abbott includes instructions for properly drying corn, fish, melons and pumpkins along with those for producing ash lye to make hominy and soap.

An added bonus to this collection is a set of Abbott's more contemporary hand-written and typescript recipes. Often the medium is as interesting as the contents. Some recipes fill up reverse sides of letters written on USO stationary with “IDLE GOSSIP SINKS SHIPS” printed boldly across the bottom. Others share space on the back of an agenda that promises fireworks, floats and a huge arts and crafts exposition at the “Two-Day Indian Centennial, honoring the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma.” Stacks of printed pages cover every course from soup to nuts….well, cake to be exact. Admittedly, some of these recipes read like dares (vinegar pie, chicken mousse), but others are rich and inviting as much for their names as the anticipated result (Lil from Amarillo’s Snow Cake, Mother’s Homemade Wedding Cake).

Here are a few of Abbott's recipes to enjoy. Note that the chicken mousse serves 30--be sure to invite some "friends"!

Ah-Gee Chum-Buh-Gee
(Oklahoma Indian Cook Book: the Best Indian Recipes from the Best Indian State)

1 pound dried fruit
2 cups corn meal, well sifted
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cook fruit about 1/2 done in enough water that it will be about 1 1/2 inches over fruit, pour fruit scalding hot over meal, soup and all. If meal is not soft enough to hold its shape with the fruit and fruit soup, add boiling water. Mould into round oblongs and wrap in corn shucks long-wise, tie each end and two or three sections of the middle, drop into boiling water and cook covered until done. These were made especially for Indian children to be used for between meals, like candy or cookies.

Chicken Mousse

4 cups chopped chicken breast
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons
8 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped celery
4 tablespoons plain gelatin
5 cups chicken broth
3 cups whipping cream, whipped

Dissolve gelatin in hot liquid, cool; and add chicken, salt, nuts, lemon juice, celery, and sugar. When it begins to set add whipped cream and let finish setting. Serves 30.

Lil From Amarillo’s Snow Cake

¾ cup butter
2 cups
fine sugar (beet or fruit)
2 ½ cups flour
¼ cup corn starch
3 tsp baking
½ tsp salt
1 cup
2 tsp vanilla
8 egg whites beaten stiff

Cream butter and sugar. Sift dry ingredients, add alternately with water and vanilla, and fold in egg whites last. Bake in 2 layers 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Fill with raspberry filling and any white icing on top.

Raspberry Filling:

2 tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup fresh red raspberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Blend butter and sugar. Mash and heat raspberries slightly. Add to butter and sugar. If too thin add more sugar until of the right consistency to spread

Ethel L. Payne: Trailblazing Journalist

In 2002, the U. S. Postal Service honored four women reporters for their contribution to American journalism by issuing commemorative postage stamps. Among the honorees was Ethel L. Payne (1911 – 1991), who earned the title “first Lady of the black press” due to her coverage of the White House through seven presidents and the civil rights movement. The award-winning journalist was known to ask difficult questions, especially pertaining to segregation, and combining advocacy with journalism. A trailblazer, Payne became the first African American woman commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her for their television series “Spectrum.” The journalist was also the first black female to focus on international news and one of the first female White House correspondents of African descent. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 - 1973) invited her to witness his signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she traveled with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during his tour of Africa in 1970s.
A small collection of Ethel Payne materials containing photographs, awards, passports, and artifacts were donated to the Anacostia Community Museum in 1991. You can view the collection record here. The bulk of Payne’s personal papers were donated to Howard University before the reporter’s death. To learn more about Ethel Payne and other accomplished female journalists click here.

Pictured: Ethel L. Payne greeting President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Jennifer Morris
Anacostia Community Museum

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alice Roosevelt the American Princess

Alice Roosevelt Longworth in a Rickshaw in China 1905Alice Roosevelt accompanied Secretary of War William Howard Taft’s diplomatic mission to Hawaii, the Philippines, China, Japan and Korea in 1905. While Alice was abroad she met important royal figures such as: Cixi, Empress Dowager of China, the Meiji Emperor, and the King and Crown Prince of Korea.

While abroad Alice, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, was viewed as royalty herself with several international newspaper accounts referring to her as the "American Princess."

By reputation Alice Roosevelt was a mover and shaker and enjoyed the adventure the trip abroad provided. The photographs taken by
Burr McIntosh beautifully illustrate her bold spirit enjoying a Sumo match, dressing up in kimono, and an spontaneous jump into water while fully clothed! We are currently working on imaging the albums and hope to brings these images to you online soon!

Rickshaw, Alice Roosevelt in China, 1905
Burr McIntosh, photographer
The Alice Roosevelt Longworth Collection of Photographs of the 1905 Taft Mission to Asia

Photographs collected by Alice Roosevelt from the 1905 trip. In addition to original photo albums, the collection includes extremely rare photographic portraits of royalty received personally by Alice.

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Birthday John Wesley Powell!

John Wesley Powell, an American explorer, teacher, soldier, ethnologist, founder and geologist, was born 176 years ago today, March 24, 1834. The Utes called Powell "Ka-pur-rats" meaning "arm off" in reference to Powell's Battle of Shiloh injury that resulted in the loss of his lower right arm. The "Indomitable Major" explored the Colorado and Green Rivers, established the Bureau of American Ethnology, led the United States Geological Survey and founded both the Cosmos Club in Washington and the Anthropological Society of Washington.

In honor of Powell's birthday, here are some lines from his poem "Immortality"

"Life's struggle won and all life's pleasure gained, A beatific vision fills his soul, Of self immersed in immortality; While through the wilderness he builds the ways, Transforming desert drear to Eden fair, But more himself transforms from brute to sage, In change from primal time to future age."

Powell's fieldwork and photographs are available at the National Anthropological Archives.

Leanda Gahegan, National Anthropological Archives

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Women in the frame

A newly wedded Ruth Davis wields a 16mm Bell and Howell Filmo in the jungles of French Guiana, 1948.

A photographer with the French Press and Information Service before her marriage to Hassoldt (Bill) Davis, Ruth shot most of the moving footage for her husband’s expedition films.
She, along with Pat Hitchcock, Judith MacDougall, Patsy Asch, Halle Linker and Mabel Preloran – all the “better half” of wife and husband filmmaker teams represented in the Human Studies Film Archives made valuable but often under-acknowledged contributions to their husbands’ productions. Not content with making sandwiches and massaging feet, these women were active both in the field and in post-production. They recorded sound, shot film, edited, wrote, narrated, co-hosted, and co-directed.

Daisy Njoku - Human Studies Film Archives

Image of the Day

On March 23, 1909, members of the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition set sail for Africa. Only three weeks after the inauguration of his successor William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt led a collecting expedition to British East Africa. He promised to bring back big game specimens for the New United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History and live specimens for the National Zoological Park. The Smithsonian sent three representatives on the expedition: Edmund Heller, a zoologist, J. Alden Loring, also a zoologist, and Major Edgar A. Mearns, a field naturalist and retired Army Surgeon. The party also included Theodore Roosevelt's son Kermit, who served as the group photographer. When the trip concluded in 1910, the expedition had sent back 5,000 mammals, 4,000 birds, 2,000 reptiles, frogs and toads, and 2,000 fish, miscellaneous insects, and crabs. In 1913, specimens from the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition were placed on display in the New United States National Museum Building. Many remained on exhibit until the 2003 renovation of the Mammals Hall. Currently, only the square-lipped rhinoceros remains on display in the National Museum of Natural History. The collections brought back by the expedition equipped the Museum with diverse specimens for an exhibit that took visitors to the African continent. Roosevelt, President and Naturalist said it best in the Washington Post, March 9, 1911, "These specimens were collected...and presented to the American people for their education, pleasure, and profit."

*Pictured: Theodore Roosevelt dressed in expedition attire, c. 1900, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Courtney Esposito, Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

100 Years at the Natural History Building

One hundred years ago today, the National Museum of Natural History, then called the United States National Museum, opened its doors to the public. As of December 2009, some 290,00,000 visitors have passed through its doors.

The building opened in 1910 and became the third Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall. The New United States National Museum, was designed by architects Hornblower and Marshall. they designed a museum based on the finest in Europe with abundant space for research and exhibition.

When visitors came to the Museum that Thursday, March 17, they discovered a one stop shop for exhibitions on art, history, and science. Paintings, sculptures, historic relics, cultural artifacts, and specimens shared the halls of the Museum. With new collections arriving every day, the US National Museum quickly exceeded capacity and the one large Museum split into several separate ones -- the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as the National Air and Space Museum, which came out of the collections from the Arts &Industries Building.

Today, artworks, artifacts, and specimens from many of the museums can be searched and viewed in the Collections Search Center, and in a way, this allows users to recreate the experience visitors had at the US National Museum. For example, in 1965 we might have visited the US National Museum to see the newly reopened George Catlin Paintings exhibit after we checked out the Birds Hall. Now with the ease of a click we can again see both in one stop, the Collections Search Center!

The National Museum of Natural History kicks off its 100th anniversary with the opening of the new David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Throughout the year, there will be more events including an exhibit on the history of the Museum, Celebrating 100 Years at the National Museum of Natural History, so keep your eyes open. Also, dig a little deeper and learn about the history of the Natural History Building in a variety of ways when you visit the Collections Search Center!

Pictured: The Natural History Building as Seen from the National Mall, May 3, 1917, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An American Sculptor: Evelyn Beatrice Longman

In a recent article in American Art, Ellen Wiley Todd identifies the artist of the formerly unattributed Triangle Fire Memorial to the Unknown in Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn, as Evelyn Beatrice Longman (1874-1954). The memorial honors seven unidentified women who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City in 1911. Todd notes that the memorial is neither mentioned in Longman's records nor was it mentioned in the press. One reason might be that Longman was a woman competing in a field dominated by men, and wanted to remain out of the controversy of the fire, which was considered a women's issue.

"We know from family members," writes Todd, "that Longman, in her desire to be recognized as a sculptor rather than as a woman sculptor, avoided all gender politics, maintaining an ideal of professionalism throughout her long career. She never publicly campaigned for suffrage or revealed her preferences even in private correspondence. She never affiliated herself with women-centered organizations or advocated for the many progressive-era causes related to social justice and immigration that surrounded her in New York."

She continues, "Longman found her way up a social and professional ladder precisely by exercising moderate, gracious, dignified behavior rather than by espousing any positions, such as the cause of working women, that would endanger her own status."

Evelyn Beatrice Longman was the first woman sculptor to be admited to the National Academy of Design and the only woman assistant to renowned sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), whom she assisted on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. During her career, Longman sculpted allegorical figures, commissioned portraits, medals, relief plaques, fountains, and large monuments, including Electricity (also titled: Genius of Electricity, Golden Boy, and Spirit of Communication), a 30-foot sculpture of a winged male standing on ball who holds three lighting bolts. The sculpture came to be known as the symbol for AT&T as it stood atop their 29 story building on Broadway in New York City, and later moved with the company to Madison Avenue, New Jersey, and then Dallas, Texas. The image of the scultpure was featured on their telephone directories for 20-30 years.

"What distinguished Longman," writes Margaret Samu, a Longman scholar, "was her commitment to monumental public sculpture, an arena usually occupied by men. Although some women of Longman's generation created large-scale works, she was the first who built her career on that basis."

Monuments by Longman can be found in Avon, CT; Hartford, CT; Windsor, CT; Wellesley, MA; Annapolis, MD; Middleburgh, NY; Des Moines, IA; and Chicago, IL. For more information, search the Inventory of American Sculpture.

The American Art Museum's Photograph Archives contain many photographs of Longman's sculptures. The Art Inventories list Longman's sculptures in private and public collections across the country.

For more information on Longman's Triangle Fire Memorial to the Unknown:
Todd, Ellen Wiley. "Remembering the Unknowns: The Longman Memorial and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire." American Art 23.3 (Fall 2009): pg. 60-80.

For more information on Longman:
Samu, Margaret. "Evelyn Beatrice Longman: Establishing a Career in Public Sculpture." Woman's Art Journal 25.2 (Autumn 2004-Winter 2005): pg. 8-15.

Pictured is Model for Electricity, photographed by A. B. Bogart. American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection, Photograph Archives, American Art Museum, S0001486.

Nicole Semenchuk, Research & Scholars Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reopening of the Dibner Library

The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, located in the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, in Washington, D.C., has reopened after a recent renovation. One of the Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries system, the Dibner Library was established in 1976 with a gift of thousands of rare books and manuscripts from the Burndy Library (the personal library of electrical engineer, inventor, and philanthropist Bern Dibner). The crown jewels of the Dibner Library are known as the Heralds of Science, a group of 200 landmark publications in the history of science and technology, including first editions by such renowned authors as Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Galileo.

The reopening of the Dibner Library was celebrated with a symposium, The Era of Experiments and the Age of Wonder: Scientific Expansion in the 17th-19th Centuries, held on March 4-5, 2010. During the Symposium, Richard Holmes, winner of the 2009 National Book Critics Circle award for best non-fiction work, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, delivered the seventeenth Dibner Library Lecture.

For more information about the Dibner Library (including its Resident Scholar Program), send an email to or call 202-633-3872.

Shown above is the revised (1980) edition of the
Heralds of Science, call number Z7405.H6D52 1980 SCDIRB

--Diane Shaw, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Woman’s Work: Photographs by Elizabeth C. Grinnell and Julia Tuell

This image (N13601, ca. 1902-1904) of a Northern Cheyenne (Northern Tsitsistas/ Suhati) woman erecting tipi poles caught my eye when I was researching photos in the National Museum of the American Indian’s Archive collection to highlight for Women’s History Month. The photograph, and the others in the George Bird Grinnell photograph collection, stood out because they capture women in roles often neglected by traditional depictions. The women are shown in the midst of their daily and often labor-intensive chores, such as carrying bundles of wood or tanning hides.

Upon further investigation, I found out that the image was photographed by Elizabeth Curtis Grinnell (b. 1876) or possibly by Julia Tuell (1886-1960). Grinnell was the official photographer for her husband Dr. George Bird Grinnell’s (1849-1938) fieldwork on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana in the early 1900s. She documented life on the reservation and specifically focused on women and their daily activities. Julia Tuell, the wife of a reservation school teacher, assisted Grinnell with taking the photographs. These images would eventually illustrate George Bird Grinnell’s 1923 book, The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Ways of Life.

Does it change our understanding of the photographs once we learn that they were taken not by George Bird Grinnell himself, but by his wife or Julia Tuell? As some photo historians point out, a photograph often reveals more about the person taking the photograph rather than the subject actually being photographed. What do these photographs reveal about Elizabeth Grinnell and Julia Tuell? What do you think Grinnell and Tuell were trying to communicate about early reservation life for Northern Cheyenne women? How do you interpret the photographs?

here to view additional images from the Grinnell photograph collection.

Emily Moazami, Photo Archives,
National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Photographing Social Justice: The Work of Diana Jo Davies

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives features the photography of Diana Jo Davies.

The grandchild of union organizers and Debs socialists, Davies is no stranger to activist politics. A prolific photographer and photojournalist during the socially tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, her particular passions have been photographing folk musicians, social justice and peace movements, and theater. Her photographs documenting the civil rights movement are amongst her most moving, and represent the struggle through the eyes of an active participant.

This photograph shows Coretta Scott King on May 1, 1968, a month after the assassination of her husband Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th. She addresses a rally in Memphis, Tennessee at the start of the Poor People’s Campaign, a multi-cultural, socio-economic movement which culminated in a protest in Washington, D.C. meant to urge lawmakers to pass an “economic bill of rights” dedicated to providing a job, income, and home to every American. In capturing the many faces she marched with demanding racial, social, and economic equality, Davies’ photographs show a diverse, culturally united civil rights movement.

To see more examples of Davies’ photographs of social justice movements, click here.

Learn more about the Diana Davies Photographs here.

Cecilia Peterson, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Landscape Architecture, A New Field for Women at the Turn of the Century

In the late nineteenth century, the relative newness of landscape architecture as profession offered some hope for women who wanted pursue it as a profession. It was not, however, without its road blocks. Marian Cruger Coffin, considered to be one of the first women to practice landscape design in America explained, “It is hard to get a start, as there is a prejudice in many offices against employing women…. A woman has to solve many problems and learn the ropes entirely by herself, while the man has the advantage of long office training and experience.” Despite the early challenges, women pioneers like Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand and Ellen Biddle Shipman pursued garden design through estate gardening. Coffin designed numerous estates on the East Coast, including the water gardens at Thornedale in New York. Her largest commission was at Winterthur for Harry F. du Pont.

Other women also found careers in garden photography including Frances Benjamin Johnston, Mattie Edwards Hewitt, Jessie Tarbox Beale, and (Mary) Marvin Breckinridge Patterson to name but a few.

--Kelly Crawford, Museum Specialist
Archives of American Gardens
Smithsonian Gardens

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Good Drinking Story

This week's photograph comes from the collection of Meiji Japan architecture taken by Dallas Finn. It is currently being scanned in at the archives to be added to the SIRIS catalog.

If you're out at the bar tonight and you order a bottle of fine Sapporo beer, you’ll notice the star emblazoned on the label is gold. That wasn’t always the case. As immortalized here, on the apex of this Meiji-era Sapporo Factory, the star used to be red. At that time, the red star was the symbol of the Kaitakushi (Hokkaido Development Agency), who “settled the wilderness” of Japan’s northern most island to make it more hospitable to Japanese settlers. These pioneers took on the North Star as their symbol, and affixed it to every beer and building they made. The Kaitokushi was abolished in the 1880s, but the brew and the logo remain. The star turned gold, however, much later, to avoid any affiliation with the Soviet Union. Now, that’s a good drinking story.

Enjoy your week!
-Allison Elliott
Freer+Sackler Gallery Archives Volunteer

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Women in Photography

One of the largest collections in the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History is the Scurlock Studio Records, containing photographs, business records, and related materials which represent the life work of two generations of African American photographers in Washington, D.C. The Scurlock Studio was a multi-faceted photographic business from its founding by Addison Scurlock in 1911 until the death of his son Robert in 1994. Another son, George, also worked for the studio for many years. It was a true family enterprise—although other photographers and technicians were employed by the studio over the years—because Addison’s wife, Mamie Estelle Fearing Scurlock, was a mainstay as receptionist, secretary, and accountant. Shown here in a 1955 photograph taken in the studio are Addison and Mamie, who was known in the family as “Essie.”

Mamie Scurlock’s function in the business was vital, but it was very traditional. Ever since the first photographic studios opened in the 19th century, many wives of photographers served as receptionists, photographic assistants, and darkroom technicians. When a photographer died, his wife often continued to operate the business, whether under his name or her own, perhaps hiring male photographers or serving as sole photographer herself. Nowadays women don't have to marry photographers in order to become one! In the late 20th century, an increasing number of female photographers were able to pursue rewarding careers as photographers on their own merits, and many women are renowned in all areas of photography.
David Haberstich

'Tis the season (again)

As I look around this office this week I notice a thinning of the ranks. The snow may be receding and the weather may more springlike but the virus season is back! In honor of fallen comrades - prostrate, prone, supine or just plain out of sorts, I'd like to present the following poem:

For Sis After A Rheumy Matutinal Conversation

Tell me, whence doth mucus come?

From the head or from the tum?

Damn it, must we pet the sinus,

Sluice it, pray and thus resign us?

Or does our gastric garbage wed,

Within the lung, the phlegmy head?

Decapitation or glottal mayhem

Perhaps might quell our sonic A.M.

- Dr. Billygoat

a.k.a. Hassoldt (Bill) Davis, adventurer, author, photographer and filmmaker.
Look for the finding aid to the Papers of Hassoldt Davis this summer!

Daisy Njoku, Human Studies Film Archives

The Fictitious and Exotic (Pets in the Archives Series: 3 of 3)

The Charles Lang Freer Papers, 1876-1931 contain the papers of the industrialist and art collector. The image to the right is part of a larger news clipping titled, "Charles L. Freer Teaches a Pet Crocodile to Play Golf" The Detroit News Tribune, November 24th, 1907. The article appears to be a satire piece on Detroit's elite business men whom make up the Yondotega Club. In the article they are referred to as the "Nature Fakers;" and although the article's true purpose is lost it still provides a humorous read on Freer's fictitious pet crocodile Hilmi Jr. Below is a transcription of the article recounting Freer's speech at the Nature Fakers gathering, as he explains the story of his crocodile.


There was expectancy in the air when the members of the Nature Fakers club settled down finally to the serious portion of the evening’s program. The chairman’s face fairly beamed and all present could see that something more than ordinary purport was certainly doing. They were not long in waiting for enlightenment.

“Fellow fakers”, began the chairman, “we have a rare treat in store for us tonight. In fact, I may say with too much of exaggeration that what we will listen to will be forever indelibly stamped on our memories. The gentleman whom I have induced to join our honorable club and become heart and soul one of us , is one of the most distinguished globe trotters in the first ward, a gentleman who knows the ins and out and every nook of the blue “ Mediterranean far better than he does the marshes of Grosse Pointe and the River Rouge; a gentleman who-----“

“Don’t keep us in suspense this way, Mr. Chairman,” said Herman A. Rolsnoven. “Trot out this gentleman and let him speak for himself.”

“Just be patient a moment,” Herman, replied the chairman. I cannot tell you the pleasure I experience in introducing this distinguished gentleman. I will do as you suggest. I now take extreme gratification in presenting to his honorable club our fellow-citizen, Charles L. Freer.”

The announcement was greeted with deafening applause. It was an unexpected treat to have Mr. Freer present and ready to regale the club with a few gems of thought. Members leaped to their feet, waved their glasses in the air and acted like a cloud of hurrah boys out for a lark. The noise and excitement lasted for a full minute.

“Three cheers for Charles L. Freer,” shouted Congressman Denby, mounting the table and shouting with a vim that completely faded all recollection on the days when he was the head push of the University of Michigan aggregation of foot ball players. The three cheers were given with a resounding vehemence.

And a Tiger, Too.

“And now a tiger!” shouted Karl R. Davies, bubbling over enthusiasm.

The rafters of the room fairly shook with the uproar. During all the hubbub, Mr. Freer stood modestly with bowed head, silent, yet grateful at the spontaneous tribute paid him by the members of the club. When all the noise had subsided he began to speak with a voice choking with emotion and just the suspicion of a tear in his eye.\

“Fellow-fakers,” said Mr. Freer, I am overwhelmed with the sincerity of this demonstration. It is a thousand more times than I deserve or expected, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I realize the great and valuable contributions this honorable club is making to the advancement of natural science and I earnestly feel it my duty to do, in my small way, what I can to help the good cause along.

“As you all are probably aware, I had a villa on the Island of Capri, in the Mediterranean, and the scene of my story is laid in the most delightful spot, that really resembles the Garden of the Gods. Some years since, while spending a few charming weeks with my good friend, Abbas Hilmi----

“Just what was that name again, Mr. Freer” inquired Frank Scott Clark.

“Why, I am surprised at your ignorance, Mr. Clark,” replied Mr. Freer, with visible manifestations of impatience. “I said Abbas Hilmi, son of Mohamed Tewfik, seventh ruler of the dynasty of Mehemet Ali. In other words, the khedive of Egypt.”


During my stay with Abbas,” continued Mr. Freer, “ he presented me with a cute little crocodile, which had been captured in the Nile. He was a bright young specimen and I took to him right away, just like a brother. I named him Hilmi, Jr., after the khedive.

Takes Hilmi to Capri.

“Well, when I returned to Capri I took Hilmi, Jr., with me and he had great fun sporting around the island, and he grew so rapidly and developed so finely along intelligent lines that he became one of the show features of the island. I trained him very carefully, fed him myself and even selected his food, which he would take from my hand.”

“A crocodile eat from your hand, Mr. Freer? Were you not afraid that he would make a little slip sometime and nip off your entire arm?” inquired James E. Kennedy.

“Not a bit of it,” replied Mr. Freer, “I tell you Hilmi, Jr., wasn’t that sort of a crocodile. He knew a great deal more than some human beings with whose acquaintance I have been inflicted at various times in my career.”

“I don’t doubt that at all,” interposed Dr. William H. Morley. The innocent manner in which Dr. Morley had injected this remark seemed to leave Mr. Freer in doubt as to whether or not there might be some subtle meaning attached to it, but he continued:

“Hilmi, Jr., used to follow me about my estate just like a puppy and wherever I went he went.”

“Something like Mary and her little lamb, eh?” suggested Malcom McIntyre.

“Well, you might put it that way, if you choose,” answered Mr. Freer, “for I can assure you his devotion was just as strong as that which report attributes to the famous lamb, I never went out for a little turn at the golf links that Hilmi, Jr., was not Johnny-on-the-spot, and he was not only there, but he seemed to thoroughly enjoy the game. He watched every stroke, followed the ball and was a peach on finding it, if it became lost.

“Finally, to my great surprise, I found Hilmi, Jr., on the links one day switching his tail around at a terrific rate and making the dirt fly in perfect clouds every time he hit the ground. I watched him closely for a time and was amazed to discover that he was trying to drive a ball.

Learns to Play Golf.

“And he was successful, too, for finally he landed right on the sphere and sent it flying through the air with a whirl that would have done credit to John D. Rockfeller or Willie Way. When Hilmi, Jr., saw that he made a successful stroke, his enthusiasm knew no bounds. He danced around, laughed in his crocodile fashion and cut up antics that were positively funny to witness.

“But it set me to thinking-why not teach him the game properly? With me to think is to act, and I began to give Hilmi, Jr., regular instruction. I soon came to the conclusion that if he were to become an expert he would have to learn to handle a stick instead of depending on that clumsy tail of his. This was a problem at first, because it was perfectly evident that he couldn’t hold a golf stick in his feet. But finally, I hit on the happy idea of attaching the sticks to his tail by means of hollow ends which fitted right over the tip and were securely fastened with steel bands. In this way, he could use any sort of a stick that the exigencies of the game demanded

“His progress from then on was simply wonderful, and I actually found myself in the rather unique position of acting as caddy to that crocodile. He learned all the ins and out of the game, too, and his stroke, after he acquired the knack of manipulating his tail properly with the added incumbrance, became perfect. All I had to do was to carry the bundle of sticks around and change them on the end of his tail as the progressed.”

“You don’t mean to say, Mr. Freer,” inquired Director A.H. Griffith, of the Museum of Art, “that Hilmi, Jr., knew when to use one stick and when another? Surely you must have made the selections for him.”

“No, Sir, I did nothing of the sort,” replied Mr. Freer, “If I happened to put the wrong stick on the end of his tail he raised a regular rough house until it was changed. You couldn’t fool him for a minute. Why, I tell you, he was an expert.

Used All The Sticks.

“He would start out with a driver; then would follow up with a brassey; and he always knew that a mashie was the proper caper with which to get out of a bunker.”

“Did he know enough to cut the ball out of rough ground with a niblick?” asked Victor F. Dewey, the gas man.

“Yes, sir, just as well as you or I,” replied Mr. Freer, “and he would always drive on a short hole with a cleek and hole in with a putter. Then we used to have great matches, Hilmi, Jr., and I, and he was so expert that it was not long before he could beat me to a frazzle. Of course, I know that it is rather humiliating to admit that a crocodile could whip you at golf, but it is actually so, and I would not for worlds misrepresent facts to Hilmi, Jr.’s discredit. Finally I used to enter him in all the tournaments around the Mediterranean, but eventually he was ruled out by jealous rivals who passed as human beings. They were jealous of his skill that is what they were, and hated to own that a crocodile could show them pointers on a game devised essentially for man.”

“What became of this wonder, Mr. Freer?” inquired Mr. Davies. “Why did you not bring him to Detroit and enter him against Jacob S. Farrand, Jr., at the Country club, or some of the other crack players around these woods?”

“Well, I thought some of that,” replied Mr. Freer, “but when I returned to America my trunk was so filled with paintings and other rare works of art, that there was no room for Himli, Jr.”

“But you wouldn’t have been able to put him in a trunk, would you?” inquired Congressman Denby.

“No, perhaps not,” replied Mr. Freer. “I spoke in a figurative sense only, meaning that I was so loaded down with other stuff that I did not believe I could give proper attention to the crocodile, and he was an animal that would not tolerate neglect, not Hilmi, Jr.”

“Gentlemen,” began the chairman, “I think that, with all due respect to Mr. Freer, he is open to a trifle of criticism in not bringing Hilmi, Jr., to Detroit. Why, if we had an educated crocodile in our midst, such a one as Hilmi, Jr., is, we would have Newport and its monkey parties backed off the edge of the precipice. It is certainly a distinct loss to the town and I intend to take the matter up with the Board of Commerce and see whether Hilmi, Jr. cannot be sent for; you would have no objection to that, would you, Mr. Freer?”

“Certainly not,” replied Mr. Freer. “I would be only too glad to co-operate in such a project. There is a good yard up at the Yondotega club where he could be kept when he was not playing golf.”

Here the meeting broke up in a riot of applause for Mr. Freer, and he was cheered again and again to the echo for his exhibition of public spirit.

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives