Special Collections’ Woody Guthrie Manuscript on Exhibit

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The University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives is proud to be collaborating with the Woody Guthrie Center in the exhibit of the original typed manuscript of Woody Guthrie’s only novel House of Earth. The manuscript, on display from March to July 2014, is part of the Woody Guthrie Manuscript Collection (1976.017), was completed by the author in 1947.

House of Earth was published from a manuscript housed in McFarlin Library’s Special Collections, was edited and published by historian and author Douglas Brinkley and actor Johnny Depp. House of Earth is a semi-autobiographical novel, describing the lives of a young couple attempting to survive the Dust Bowl in an adobe house. Guthrie finished the novel in 1947, and while it was never published, he did try to get it made into a film, directed by Irving Lerner.  It is probable that the University of Tulsa acquired the text from Lerner’s estate sometime between 1976, when the filmmaker died, and 1984 when Special Collections made a copy of the manuscript was made for Harold Leventhal, Guthrie’s agent and manager.  This copy is likely what formed the basis for the published novel.

Guthrie, better known for his profound impact in the folk music scene and whose artistic influence permeates the works of singers and songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and, of course, his son Arlo Guthrie, wrote House of Earth as a reflection on his experiences in late-1930’s Dust Bowl America. The novel follows two farmers in tune with their land, Tike and Ella May Hamlin, espousing the benefits of adobe houses against the brutal West Texas weather to great resistance from the lumber companies in town, establishing the novel as both a slice-of-life narrative of Dust Bowl United States and a political allegory of Guthrie’s views. Brinkley’s and Depp’s mission to publish Gurthrie’s only novel led them to our very own McFarlin Library’s Special Collections in order to begin the process of editing the work for its eventual publication and distribution.

Along with the novel, the Woody Guthrie Center will also exhibit original artwork created by Woody Guthrie in the late 1940s (featured in the published novel) and the original 1934 government pamphlet on building adobe structures.

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Rare Vintage Cameras at Special Collections

The University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives is much more than just a place where rare books and manuscripts are stored. In our mission to be the most effective and efficient research tool we can be for our users which include students, faculty, the local community, and scholars from around the world, our department collects thousands of artifacts of great cultural and historical importance. For example, our department holds a number of collections that deal with photography and within these collections there are many rare cameras, most in working condition.
The Maxine Zarrow camera collection (2012.066) contains a number of vintage cameras. For example, this collection has a rare Polaroid Land Camera, Model 95A (below).

In addition, this collection also has (from the left): a Leica CL, a Agfa PO16 Clipper, a Kodak Six-20 Brownie Jr., a Rollei 35, a Filmo Auto Load movie camera, and Sears Flip-flash 110. All of these are precursors to modern digital cameras.

However, some of our oldest cameras come from the Bob McCormack camera collection (2008.027). Two of the most prominent examples of this collection are view cameras, circa 1920 and 1950. These cameras are characterized by a flexible bellows that forms a light-tight seal between two adjustable standards, one of which holds a lens, and the other a viewfinder or a photographic film holder.


The University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives is proud to serve as the repository of these valuable pieces of history and contemporary culture.

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Banned Books: Young Adult Novels

So far this blog series has covered banned children’s books, however we at Special Collections thought it was important to note the many other genres of books that are censored and banned every year, including young adult novels. Our exhibit features a case of young adult novels, from our collections, that have faced harsh criticisms since their publications. This case houses Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and The Outsiders by Tulsa’s own S.E. Hinton.

Harriet the Spy, like many of the other books showcased in this exhibit, is so popular that in 1996 it was adapted into a film under the same title. Young girls growing up in the 90s would have read the book and seen the movie and therefore known the character very well. And young readers loved Harriet when her book first hit the shelves in 1964. “In the 1960s and 70s young girls formed Harriet the Spy clubs where they dressed liked the character and would spy on their parents and friends” (npr.org). Yet regardless of the novel’s and movie’s popularity the book was banned and challenged by many parents and teachers who thought  Harriet served as a poor role model for young girls. According to an NPR story titled “Unapologetically Harriet, The Misfit Spy”, critics of the novel argued that Harriet “exhibited delinquent tendencies” and furthermore the critics stated “Harriet didn’t spy, but rather gossiped, slandered, and hurt other people without feeling sorry about her actions”. In fact in the 1980s in Ohio the book was banned from public school systems based on the argument that Harriet taught young children to lie, spy, back-talk, and curse. All of these behaviors and character attributes were considered unsavory for young readers. Unlike Nancy Drew, Harriet symbolized a young girl taking independent action to achieve her goals and “tomboy” behavior which was deemed vulgar in the minds of mid-twentieth century parents. It seems that these parents had their own standards of childhood femininity, and Harriet was breaking those social norms and received backlash because of it.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, published in 1868, came almost 100 years before Harriet the Spy and also received harsh criticisms on how Alcott chose to represent her lead character Jo March. “Alcott was both an abolitionist and a feminist. She was a supporter of women’s suffrage and the first woman to register to vote in Concord Massachusetts” (bannedbooks.world.edu). Alcott’s  feminist ideals play heavily in the representation of Jo March. Jo is considered one of the sassiest and smartest female characters in American literature. It should come as no surprise that immediately following the book’s publication it received backlash from Alcott’s male colleagues. However, what is more shocking is the fact that “modern-day feminists have challenged the novel for its portrayal of traditional gender roles- specifically, the role of women in the home” (bannedbooks.world.edu). Feminist groups argue that Little Women “diminishes young women, panders to the ‘weaker sex’ mentality, and fails to empower girls to succeed”. The point of argument focuses on the conclusion of the novel where our heroine ends up married to an older man. The challenges against Little Women create a paradox for in its own time it was considered too radical for insinuating that women could freely choose what they wanted out of life, yet today critics argue that the radicalism did not go far enough.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury “presents a future American society where books are outlawed and ‘firemen’ burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury understood to be the ignition point of paper” (Wikipedia). It is very ironic that a book about banning books has been challenged and banned so many times since its publication in 1953. In fact, the novel has been banned so frequently that it maintains a steady spot on the American Library Association’s top 100 banned books list. For example, in 1998 Bradbury’s novel was removed from the required reading list of a High School in Mississippi. A parent complained that the book should be removed because its use of the words “God Damn”. After the complaint was filed the superintendent of the public school system forced the teachers at West Marion High School to remove the book from the reading list and any future reading assignments.  The book has also been cited for portraying “questionable themes” that aren’t suitable for young readers. The main theme in the story is opposition to any government which tries to suppress freedom of expression. When the book was originally published, advocacy for opposition against the government was seen as evil. Therefore, many parents and school administrators forced the removal of the novel from reading list and library shelves. To this day Fahrenheit 451 is viewed as controversial and is still banned in many rural school systems in the United States.

S.E. Hinton’s book The Outsiders has also been challenged and banned for its alleged depiction of controversial and “ungodly” themes. Hinton wrote the novel, set in Tulsa Oklahoma in the 1960s, when she was only 16 years old and it was published when Hinton reached the young age of 18. The novel follows two rival groups, the Greasers and the Socs, who are divided by their socioeconomic status. The novel was adapted into a film version in 1983 and into a short lived television series in 1990. Unfortunately the novel’s popularity could not shield it from the criticisms of religious groups. Churches throughout the United States have made public statements arguing that the novel should be kept away from young readers. The religious officials argued that the novel depicts drugs, violence, sex, and the results of falling from the Christian path. In 1986 the book was challenged in Milwaukee Wisconsin for its inclusion on an eighth grade reading list. The parents involved in the complaint against the book argued that the book should be removed because “drug and alcohol abuse was common and virtually all the characters are from broken homes”. Hinton’s novel currently sits at #43 on the American Library Association’s banned list; the book is most commonly banned for its depiction of gangs and gang violence. The most recent challenge against the book took place in 2001 at a middle school in West Virginia due to objections against the gang violence depicted in the story. “The book was written about teenagers by a teenager, and parents generally objected, claiming that their children are being exposed to things they aren’t prepared for and insist schools pull it from their curriculums” (bannedbooks.world.edu). Parents have also argued that the book does not include enough positive role models.

All the works featured in this exhibit have faced harsh criticisms. However, book censorship should always be questioned. It is up to the reader and the parent to choose if a novel is suitable to be read. Yet books teach us many things, they introduce us to real world scenarios that we might not approach in our day to day lives. Because of this it is important for the world of literature to be easily accessible to all people.

Due to popular demand the exhibit Banned Children’s Books will remain on display until the second week of April. Don’t miss your chance to visit and learn more about our favorite childhood stories that have been banned and challenged throughout their literary lives. You can visit the exhibit at Special Collection located on the 5th floor of McFarlin library. The department is open Monday-Friday 8-5.

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Banned Books: Publications by Roald Dahl

So far in this blog series we have examined the censorship of individual works; instead this post will focus on one author and the many books he published that faced criticism. Roald Dahl was a British novelist famous for his children’s stories. Dahl’s most famous works include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach. All three of these publications have been adapted to plays and have been major hits at the box office. Despite their fame, Dahl’s works have faced constant criticism from libraries, school boards, and radical religious groups.

Evil adult characters are common throughout Dahl’s narratives. This theme is most apparent in Matilda. In the novel Matilda is abused by her parents and Miss Trunchball, the school principle. Through independent learning and self-motivation Matilda learns magical skills to fight back against those who wish to bring her down. Some might view Matilda’s story as a lesson in personal triumph and an example of the eternal fight for good against evil. However, library and school administrators have pushed for the censorship of the book on the grounds that the presentation of neglectful abusive parents can be harmful to young children. And the idea that children should not use tricks for personal gain. Many parents have distaste for the story because it exalts the genius child over the irrational and idiotic parents. This criticism is common of any children’s story that promotes childhood independence. Luckily for Dahl, although Matilda has been criticized and avoided by parents, the book has never been officially banned or listed on the American Library Association’s banned books list. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for the other two of Dahl’s most famous children’s stories.

James and the Giant Peach is a children’s adventure story where an abused young boy magically travels with a group of talking insects inside a giant peach to New York City. Like Matilda, James is characterized as a smart, independent, good boy. Also like Matilda, James is abused by his aunts Spike and Sponge, who serve as his legal guardians, after his parents are tragically killed by a Rhinoceros. The narrative is resolved with James and his arthropod friends successfully landing in the big apple where the peach pit is turned into a house located in Central Park. James and the Giant Peach has been censored many times since its publication in 1961. “It has been banned for being too scary for the targeted age groups, mysticism, sexual inferences, profanity, racism, references to tobacco and alcohol, and claims that it promotes disobedience, drugs, and communism” (bannedbooksweeks.com). In the early 1990s a public school system In Texas banned James and the Giant Peach from the primary school classrooms, library, and syllabi because the school district’s superintendent argued that the books were inappropriate for young children based off the use of curse words in the book such as “ass”. In 1986 a small Wisconsin town banned the book because of a scene featuring the spider licking her lips. Religious groups in the town argued that this scene could be “taken in two ways, including sexual” (The Times of London).  A year after this incident, a woman in Hernando County Florida took issue with the Grasshopper’s statement, “I’d rather be fried alive and eaten by a Mexican”, arguing that the book promoted racist ideals. This woman also was bothered by the books depiction of snuff, tobacco, and whiskey. Her complaints to the local school districts led to a review by the Florida school board ending in the book being temporarily banned from the schools reading list.

Like James and the Giant Peach, the world famous children’s tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has faced multiple challenges since its publication in 1964. This classic was originally challenged for its depictions of the Oompa Loompas, arguing that citing the characters as small black pygmies was racist. To curb this attack Dahl changed the description of the Oompa Loompas in the revised edition, published in 1988. In this second edition Dahl describes the intriguing factory workers as “knee-high dwarves with rosy white skin and funny long golden-brown hair who came from Loompaland”. This description avoids accusations of racism by depicting them as obviously white. However Dahl’s edits did not appease all critics. In 1990 one Colorado librarian appealed to the American Library Association to censor Dahl’s story. She argued that the book promoted a poor philosophy on life and that Charlie, the main character, had no redeeming positive traits, only the absence of negative ones.

To see our exhibit featuring the works of Roald Dahl please visit the Department of Special Collections located on the 5th floor of McFarlin library. We are open to the public Monday-Friday 8-5.

Also, be sure to check back next week to discover why some of our favorite young adult novels have faced criticisms, censorship, and banning in the final post in this series on banned children’s books.

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Special Announcement: Extension of Banned Books Exhibit

Due to popular demand the current exhibit titled Banned Children’s Books will remain on display throughout the month of March and into the second week of April. You can visit this exhibit at the Department of Special Collections located on the 5th floor of McFarlin library. We are open to the public Monday-Friday 8-5. We would like to give a special thanks to those who have visited this exhibit so far and encourage others to follow their lead. You can also read about this exhibit through a series of posts on this blog.

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Dean Alexander Featured in Studio Tulsa Interview

In a previous post, we mentioned that Special Collections had recently acquired a rare and beautiful copy of Eric Gill’s The Four Gospels. On March 4, Studio Tulsa’s Rich Fisher interviewed Adrian Alexander, Robert M. and Ida McFarlin Dean of the Library, about the book. Click here for a link to the full interview on the KWGS website.

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Banned Books: The Wizard of Oz

Tornadoes, flying monkeys, and ruby slippers. When you mention these three things together audiences everywhere immediately think of Dorothy Gale’s adventures in Oz. L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, the novel was then followed by a series of books capturing the multiple adventures of Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Witches of Oz. The stories have been popularized through modern derivative works like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West which was famously adapted into the well know Broadway musical Wicked. Although the books have become popular in recent years they won iconic fame through MGM’s 1939 film adaptation The Wizard of Oz starring the now well known Judy Garland.

Although the story is well known and loved by children of all ages the book has faced harsh criticism since its publication. The novels are commonly accused of portraying unwholesome and ungodly ideals. In 1928 all public libraries banned the book arguing that the story was ungodly for “depicting women in strong leadership roles”. This argument remained the common defense against the novels from ministers and educators through the 1950s and 60s. In 1952 a Florida librarian named Dorothy Dodd publicly denounced the books stating that they were unwholesome for young readers. Then in 1957 the Detroit Public Library banned Baum’s tales by stating the novels had “no value for children of today”, arguing the stories and characters supported “negativism and brought children’s minds to a cowardly level”. Luckily, Dr. Russel B. Nye of Michigan State University publically responded to this accusation by stating “if the message of the Oz books- that love, kindness, and unselfishness make the world a better place- has no value today, then maybe the time is ripe to reassess a good many of other things beside the Detroit Library’s approval list of children’s books”. (bannedbooks.world.edu).

The most publicized banning case against The Wizard of Oz took place in 1986 when a group of seven Fundamentalist Christian families from Tennessee pushed for the novel’s removal from the public school syllabus. They filed a lawsuit against the schools arguing that “the novel’s depiction of benevolent witches and promoting the belief that essential human attributes were ‘individually developed rather than God given’”. They argued that all witches are bad, therefore it is “theologically impossible” for good witches to exist. So, in summary, they were opposed to the character Glinda the GOOD witch. One of the parents stated, “I do not want my children seduced into godless supernaturalism”, arguing that the books promoted self-reliance rather than dependency on God to provide salvation. The judge presiding over the case ruled that the children, whose families opposed the works, should be excused from lesson plans centered on the novel. The families then appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, SCOTUS refused to hear the case. (Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1986)

Throughout the years the books have been opposed for their positive portrayals of femininity. Groups have opposed the ideal of savior female figures and the portrayal of powerful women on the same level as their male counterparts.

To read more about the banning of The Wizard of Oz visit this website. And to see our exhibit detailing the censored history of Baum’s books visit Special Collections on the 5th floor of McFarlin library open to the public Monday-Friday 8-5. 

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McFarlin Fellows Event

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The University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives, and McFarlin Fellows is holding and eventon Thursday, February 20th in honor of TU’s very own Professor Joseph Kestner. Dr. Kestner serves as McFarlin Professor of English and Professor of Film Studies at The University of Tulsa. He is the author of eight books including three on detective fiction — Sherlock’s Men, The Edwardian Detective, and Sherlock’s Sisters. He has authored over 100 academic essays and has delivered many scholarly addresses throughout North America, England and Australia.

A cocktail reception will be held in the Ann and Jack Graves Faculty Study at McFarlin Library, beginning at 6:30PM, with dinner to follow in the Pat and Arnold Brown Reading Room. Following dinner will present his talk. “Sherlock Holmes in Film: The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

Since joining The University of Tulsa, Professor Kestner has received three major teaching awards. In 1984, he received and Outstanding Teacher Award from The University of Tulsa; he was Mortarboard Professor of the Year in 1989; and he was selected Oklahoma Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support for Education in 1993. Kestner was named “Friend of the Arts” by the Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity in 2000. He received the Excellence in Research Award from the Harry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences in 2011.

Professor Kestner earned his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University, where he was President’s Fellow and Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellow.

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Banned Books: The Brothers Grimm

Thanks to Disney, every child in America knows the stories of Snow White, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. Disney portrays these stories as romantic tales that warm the heart of every young girl who one day wishes to find her own “Prince Charming”. However, these tales have much darker beginnings. The fairytales listed above, and many other well known stories, were published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in 1812. The collection of these stories is commonly known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales but was originally published under the title Children’s and Household Tales. The fairy tales’ popularity does not stop at Disney; “So far the collection has been translated into more than 160 languages, from Inupiat in the Arctic to Swahili in Africa. In the United States book buyers have their choice of 120 editions. As a publishing phenomenon the Grimms’ opus competes with the Bible. And the stories and their star characters continue to leap from the pages into virtually every media: theater, opera, comic books, movies, paintings, rock music, advertising, and even fashion. The Japanese, perhaps the most ravenous of all the Grimms’ fans, have built two theme parks devoted to the tales” (nationalgeographic.com).

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

As stated before, the brothers’ tales are far grimmer than Disney animators would have us believe. The dark and often violent scenes in the stories have led to the challenging, and even banning, of the tales and the collection.

In 1989 California school districts banned Little Red Riding Hood, one of the many tales from the Brothers Grimm, from the shelves of the elementary schools in that district. The superintendent for the district argued that the story sent mixed messages regarding the consumption of alcohol. In the story “little red” carries a bottle of wine, among other items, to her grandmother’s house where she eventually confronts the big bad wolf. At this point in the tale the reader knows that the wolf attacked and ate the grandmother and disguised itself as her to trick the young girl. Ignoring the tales more violent scenes, the district banned the book in order to protect its readers from the adverse effects of alcohol. It should be noted that none of these adverse effects are depicted in the story.

Again in 1994 an Arizona school district banned the entire Brothers Grimm collection from all classrooms below the 6th grade.  The Arizona superintendent argued the books should be banned due to “excessive violence, negative portrayals of female characters, and anti-Semitic references common throughout the fairy tale narratives” (bannedbooksweek.com). Unfortunately he did not cite which specific tales promoted these negative ideals.

Graphic violence is the most commonly cited reason for challenging the Grimms’ tales. For example, Little Snow White, commonly known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, portrays a very violent scene in which the wicked queen orders her huntsman to hunt down the runaway Snow White and cut out her heart. Feeling compassion towards the young girl, the huntsman deceives the wicked queen by offering her a boar’s heart in place of the human heart. The evil queen then proceeds to eat the heart that she believes belonged to Snow White. This graphic scene, among others, led parents to challenge the use of the tale in a Florida elementary school. Since 1992, students at that school are required to show parental permission slips to even view the collection. The story is no longer used as an educational tool to teach folklore as literature.

“The stories and moral lessons contained in fairy tales are often anything but—children are devoured, thrown into ovens, imprisoned unjustly, and seduced by wolves. Murder, violence and abuse by adults appears commonplace throughout the tales of Brothers Grimm” (New York Public Library). However, that does not mean that children cannot learn valuable moral lessons from the stories. To this day the fairy tale collection faces fierce backlash from parents, teachers, legislators, and religious groups. Should these fairy tales be banned? The answer depends on many things, you should decide for yourself if the stories are appropriate for your children or students. This case stands as an enigma, most readers of this blog would be shocked by the banning of our beloved children’s books like Winnie-the-Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, and I believe that the Grimm’s tales should be examined closely before we argue for or against banning.

To examine these tales for yourself please visit the Department of Special Collections and University Archives located on the 5th floor of McFarlin library. We are open from 8-5 Monday-Friday.

Remember to check back next week to read why The Wizard of Oz and other stories of Oz have been banned and challenged throughout history.

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Posting on behalf of KWGS 89.5 FM

At The University of Tulsa’s KWGS 89.5, we are researching and producing a radio documentary on old-fashioned soda pop or soft drinks.

Are there any flavors that you recall, perhaps as a child, that are no longer being made?  Do you have fond memories attached to drinking carbonated beverages growing up?   Did you ever pick up empty pop bottles and cash them in for money?   If you answered “yes”, we’d like for you to tell us about it.

We are also looking to uncover the Tulsa area’s pop bottling history.  We seek to find someone with expertise in this area, or someone with family ties to the bottling business in the Tulsa area in years past. 

Communicate with us at sodapop@publicradiotulsa.org.

Steve Clem, Operations Director
Frank Christel, Director of Broadcast Services

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