It’s a little late for the July 4th celebrations, but here are a few images from an item in our World War II propaganda collection. This is a coloring book produced for children and including its own two-sided pencil that fits into a sleeve in the spine (it colors in red or blue, naturally). We have four copies (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese).
The image above is a sketch from a letter written by George Turner, a Rhode Island Civil War soldier whose correspondence has recently been scanned and transcribed by URI student Michaela Keating. The online collection (available here) includes nearly 200 letters, mostly sent by Turner to his parents at home in Rhode Island, dating from 1861 to 1864. Taken together they offer an evolving portrait of one soldier’s daily life over the years of the war and his developing attitudes toward race, the South and the purpose of the war.
Turner wrote the letter from which the image above was taken in December of 1861, not long after the Union capture of Fort Wells in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where Turner spent the majority of his time during the war. In the letter, Turner describes his entry into the fort and the circumstances of his drawing:
Soon after entering the Fort we were allowed to stroll around and look about. And during my stroll I cam across a gun carriage that was completely smashed up and while I was looking at it I picked up picked up part of a man’s ear and some teeth and while looking at it come to conclusion that this man had changed his southern views and gone to another land. And now that I think of it of will give you another drawing [sketch of two figures in a tent with “Traveller’s Rest” written on the side of the tent] The picture which I bring before your view this time represents your humble servant writing a letter to his Rhode Island friends while one of his mess mates lays on the ground smoking. The name which you see marked on the tent is marked with a led pencil. But I pity the poor fellow who comes there for rest if he does not belong there. Now I have lived in just such a house as you see just four months on the 20th this month, and during that that time I have not taken off my pants olny when I change my under clothes or to wash all over. And I am just as tuff as a birch I am fat rugged and saucy. I can swallow a roast turkey at one gullup. Yesterday we had the first white bread we have had since the 23 day of Oct and when we got our loaf we went about looking at it like so many boys with a new year’s present. But after a while we came to the conclusion to eat it and the way it went down my illustrious gullet was a caution to lookers on.
The letter is typical in its attention to the daily details of camp life. Also typical is the discussion that takes place just prior to this excerpt in which Turner displays antagonism toward the “contraband” freed slaves present at the fort. It’s a theme that develops throughout the course of Turner’s letters, as he grows to despise the former slaves he feels are being better treated than the soldiers.
For more information about the George Turner correspondence, visit our online exhibition, which provides background information about Turner and some of the major themes of his letters. And visit the digital collection to read the letters yourself. As of now over 100 letters have been transcribed, with more to come. And if you’d like to take part and try transcribing some of the letters yourself, just click the “Transcribe this item” link at the bottom of an item and then click the “edit” button.
(If you’re interested in Turner you might also want to check out the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Rhode Island History (vol. 70.2), which features an article by Kirsten Hammerstrom on Turner titled “Souvenirs of War” (pp. 74-86).
237 years ago today James Macpherson wrote this letter to Gen. Philip Schuyler of the relatively new Continental Army. The purpose of the letter is to request that Shuyler remove him from what was essentially a desk job and let him join the soldiers on their way to Canada:
The Happiness I experienced while I was in yours & since I have been of General Montgomery’s family is lessened, when I reflect that I am but half a soldier, as being at Headquarters exempts me from many Fatigues which others undergo — This, a natural desire of Rising, which is I believe common to every one lead me to request the favor of your recommendation for such a Commission as you think I deserve.
If this takes Place, I should not desire on that account to quit the present service till the Reduction of Quebec (an event I imagine at no great Distance) till when I think the service of all here indispensibly necessary — After that many of us may be spared.
Macpherson was granted his request, but he wasn’t spared. He died in battle only a few weeks after the letter was penned, together with Gen. Richard Montgomery during the assault on Quebec.
The regular portrait series takes the week off today. In it’s place, the first of an occasional series that highlights an item from the collection created on this day in the past.
The first post celebrates the completion of our project to re-house the Updike Autograph Collection. (Mentioned previously here.) As you might recall, this collection of fascinating manuscript items was previously difficult to access and stored in acidic folders and boxes. Thanks to volunteer Ramon Cartwright, a finding aid for the collection is now available online; and thanks to funds provided by subscribers to our Occasional Nuggets publication and the efforts of volunteer Pat Loan, the entire collection is now rehoused in archival folders and boxes.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting a few items from the collection on the day of the year they were created, starting with this letter from Raymond Perry to his mother Sarah, dated 28 November 1812. In the letter Raymond describes the public response to his brother Oliver’s heroic actions at the Battle of Lake Erie.
The following transcription accompanied the letter:
Off Bristol Harbor
28th Nov. 
My dear Mother –
I have not written
your for some days, owing to being
to much engaged getting down the
River this far – Alex. left me
day before yesterd in Providence
he recd. the attention due [to his?]
gallantry. every one was anxious to
be introduced to the young Hero
of Erie – his mind is much improved
so much so, that, it was a subject
of remark at our mess Table. he
supported a conversation for some
time – my Father was on b[oar]d this
Eveng. on his way to New Port
where he says it will be necessary to
visit often – I cannot express how much
my satisfaction is, to see him so
much pleased with his appointment
he is in excellent spirits, every one in
Bristol seems anxious to know him. the
De Wolfs are raped up in his interest
The Female part of‘the Family talk
much of the pleasure of your society as
soon as you can join them – The House
is a very good one, and stands in the
best part of the Town – Mary An
De Wolf is a charming girl, and I have
reason to believe very much my Friend
[They were married in 1814]
We were to a pleasant Ball two evengs
since in honor of Oliver – the House
was brilliantly illuminated, and over
the entrance was the appropriate motto
“Dont give up the ship”. I was recd
with more politeness than all my
vanity could flater me I deserved
but, I was next Brother to the greatest
man in our Country -. Of Comd Rodgers
[I?] have but little to say, only that
[he?] is wonderfully polite to [?]
and on duty, he is extremely
careful how he acts. I think
our cruise will be pleasant – our
mess is cheerfull – The wind is now
from the northw[ard] nd a probabilty
of a snow storm & fear we shall get
out – I will write the girls if we
do not get out – but this letter is for them too. Your affect Son
Christopher R. Perry Esq
If you’re interested in finding out what else happened today in history, check out our RI Collection Blog, where Tracy Connolly has begun a series called “100 Years Ago Today,” which draws on items from the Providence Journal of a century past.
(The following post is contributed by Ramon Cartwright, a RISD graduate and one of our fantastic volunteers. Ramon recently finished processing a collection of over 800 important and wide-ranging manuscript items. Items from the collection have been mentioned on this blog before (here, here, here and here, for instance) but this is the first time the collection has been fully listed online. Upcoming posts will highlight other items from the collection and conservation efforts to preserve it.)
The processing of the Daniel Berkeley Updike Autograph Collection has been completed. Although there is evidence that the collection was initially comprised of New England names, the collection has now grown to reflect a more diverse grouping. A selection of the material, much of which had been culled from the correspondence and papers of Wilkins Updike, includes the names of men involved in politics. Eleven presidential signatures are included in the collection. Also included within the miscellany is a letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs, a poetic excerpt from Sarah Helen Whitman, and a series of fervid letters from a Union soldier to his parents.
During the processing of the Daniel Berkeley Updike Autograph Collection I encountered a 12 page manuscript by Agnes Repplier (1855-1950), titled “What Pessimism Is.” Repplier was a Philadelphia born essayist, biographer and occasional poet published regularly within the pages of The Atlantic Monthly. Her numerous essays were also published in Life, Harper’s, Monthly Magazine, The New Republic, McClure’s, and The Yale Review. “What Pessimism Is” expands upon and clarifies Repplier’s criticism of the poetry of Robert Browning. In an earlier analysis, also published in The Atlantic Monthly, Repplier had classified Browning’s poetry as “of the pessimistic order.” A controversy ensued. Browning enthusiasts found fault with the criticism and surmised that Repplier had failed to grasp Browning’s meaning. “What Pessimism Is,” offers her defense of the initial appraisal using examples of the poet’s works. The essay was published in The Atlantic Monthly Vol. LXII, 1888. Below the reader will find the first four pages of the manuscript. The pages illuminate the background to the article’s origin. Her wit and erudition, for which she had been known, are evinced in these first few pages.
Also included in the Updike Autograph Collection is a leaf from Henry David Thoreau’s essay “October, or Autumnal Tints.” Originally published in the October 1862 Atlantic Monthly, the essay offers Thoreau’s extended meditation on the changing color of New England autumnal foliage. Among the tints that Thoreau focuses upon, the reader will find poetic descriptions of Sarsaparilla, Pokeweed, Red Maple, the Elm, Scarlet Oak, and more. The brief explication on each tint is presented in the order in which the brightest colors are displayed. The manuscript focuses on ripeness, as it is evinced in the brighter hue flowers assume prior to falling. The extract includes passages that were later revised prior to publication. The leaf is float mounted on an 8 3/4 x 10 1/4 sheet of paper.
We had a visit from some terrific RISD Intro to Graphic Arts students yesterday. They came to look at typographical broadsides and World War I and II posters from our collections. Here are some of the favorites from the WWI and II posters:
You can use the following links to download jumbo, make-your-own-poster-sized versions of the files. Keep in mind that they’ll probably take a while to download, though.
It’s not surprising that an event as significant as World War II would have found it’s way into every crevice of daily life. Here’s a piece of ephemera that documents at first hand how even the printing houses became a part of the war effort.
This is the 1939 Safety Manual compiled by the Oxford University Press:
It offered useful wartime advice, for instance, how to evacuate the building:
Our copy is accompanied by a letter to Daniel Berkeley Updike from John Johnson, Printer to the University. Johnson is apparently responding to a typographical question from Updike, and as explanation for his delay in writing he offers the following justification:
I have been leading two lives, the life of a very busy printer (it has been the busiest year I ever remember) and the life of a busy organizer in defence of the Press and this quarter of the town. You people may live to realize that danger to your own dearest ideals is on your doorstep. It is certain that men living and working here only a few years ago would have called it fantastic if they had been told that their old wetting cellar, where they used to hang their damped paper, would become a veritable armoury in defence of ourselves.
(Click thumbnails to read the entire letter.)
Johnson later commends the “quite confidence born of careful preparation” of the employees of the press as they too balance daily tasks and wartime preparations. The wetting cellar turned armory is a vivid symbol for the transformation of the peacetime realm of the printer into an element of the war effort, the plowshares-into-swords of the book trade.