HairBrained Kickoff Party

In case you haven’t heard, tomorrow (Wednesday, February 28, 2018) is the kickoff party for our 2018 exhibition and program series, HairBrained! The event runs from 6:00-8:00 here at the library, and will feature curators’ tours of the exhibition, an interactive performance from our Creative Fellow Becci Davis, and a performance by Sussy Santana and Orlando Hernández. The opening is also a great chance to get a copy of our exhibition catalog, which features color photos of exhibition items alongside hair-themed poetry by Sussy Santana.


We’re excited that opening day is nearly here. We’ve spent months carefully selecting items, researching everything from ancient Egyptian wigs to the history of the hooded hair dryer, building a fleet of custom book supports, and printing labels.


These book supports are made of black, acid-free matboard that is cut to the measurements of each item in the exhibition.

Meanwhile, our Director of Programs and Exhibitions has been planning a fantastic series of hair-themed programs to take place at the library during the upcoming months. You can see a list of upcoming programs on the PPL website.


Historic Book Person of the Week #13: Thomas Gent

Who’s to say where hair ends and beard begins?

Thomas Gent, printer and author of the book depicted in his right hand, The Antient and Modern History of the Loyal Town of Rippon (published in 1733). In his early years Gent worked for the wonderfully-named printer “Edward Midwinter of Pie Corner.” According to the entry for Gent in the Dictionary of National Biography, he wasn’t particularly successful: “The last twenty years of Gent’s life was one long struggle against want and disease.” His skills as an author receive a mixed review as well: “His poetry is beneath criticism, but his topographical publications are still of value and in demand.”

I was curious to see how accurately the artist of the portrait had captured the title page and frontispiece of one such publication, Gent’s history of Rippon, and I assumed it would be possible to find a reproduction online. It was, sort of. Here is a screenshot of the copy available through, and if you look closely you might notice something amiss:

The Google Books copy? If anything, it’s worse:

Not only is the folding frontispiece still folded, for some reason the bottom of the title page is reprinted on the previous page.

Fortunately, an online copy in better condition is available, if you’re willing to pay for it. This is the image of the frontispiece from the subscription-only database Eighteenth Century Collections Online:

Now that we have an image of the actual frontispiece, we can do a side-by-side comparison (click the image for a larger version):

The artist has done a fine job matching the line breaks of the title page (and who wouldn’t want to turn the long, extended subtitle into squiggles?).

Civil Warrior of the Week #11: George McClellan

This portrait of McClellan appears in a scrapbook that sets Civil War officers beside a specimen of their handwriting. In this case the portrait is accompanied by a letter from McClellan, written many years after the war while he was Governor of New Jersey, in which he offers his support for what appears to be a widow’s pension request:

The soldier’s name appears to be “Doull,” and there was indeed a single Major Doull serving in the Union Army. Doull seemed to have performed some reconnaissance preserved in this map.

Civil Warrior of the Week #9: Irvin McDowell

"A General Whom Misfortune Pursued," says the NY Times.

Dickinson College’s House Divided site, which includes information about McDowell, is definitely worth a look.

Civil Warrior of the Week #8: ?

Who is this man?

Readers are encouraged to suggest who the subject of this portrait is (Civil War buffs are sure to know right away).

Also welcome are similar examples of jaunty deshabille in male portraiture.