Stevie Smith Collection and Library

Stevie Smith, the English poet and novelist, passed away 50 years ago this week on March 7, 1951. Special Collections has a sizable collection of hers, with 30 document boxes containing manuscripts, drawings, and original poem drafts. We also have over 1,000 books from her personal library that includes her own books and novels by other authors.

Our collection also includes photographs and correspondence. We have photographs of her that span her whole life. These two are my favorite because she looks so happy in them, especially the one of young Stevie standing in a boat.

Black and white photograph of two women standing and smiling for the camera Black and white photograph of a woman standing in a row boat, holding an object, and smiling for the camera

Smith wrote three novels, all fiction based on her own life, however, she is most known for her poetry. Our collection comprises of over 800 sheets of poem drafts and her library has some annotated copies of her published poetry. She struggled with depression and nervousness for most of her life and it is evident in her writings, many with themes of death and separation. Her best known poem is “Not Waving but Drowning”, a poem about a dying man.

A poem and a hand-drawn illustration of a woman

This poem made me chuckle

Most of her poetry is accompanied by her own illustrations. These illustrations appear quite whimsical when viewed independently from the often dark subject matter of her poems. She was a big fan of cats and in her papers are many poems, stories, and illustrations of them. She even published a coffee table book dedicated to the inner lives of cats entitled “Cats in Colour” (1959), of which we have an original copy.

Pencil drawing of a cat on its back legs with front legs raised and an angry face

Galloping cat illustration

Pencil sketch of a cat sitting and yawning with eyes closed

Cute little doodle of a yawning cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I flip through Stevie Smith’s papers, I am struck by the quantity of writing, drawing, and editing that she must have done in her 69 years. Most margins are filled with handwritten poems and illustrations, there are typed drafts on the backs of manuscripts, and even small scraps of paper have content. Her mind seems like it never stopped creating. Stevie Smith won multiple awards for her writings and a play with a film adaptation was written about her life. She died of a brain tumor in 1971 and her legacy lives on.

If you would like to see anything from our Stevie Smith collection or any others, we are still open by appointment to TU students and affiliates. You can make requests or ask us questions by emailing speccoll@utulsa.edu.

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Women in War

March is Women’s History Month and Kelsey and I want to celebrate it like we did Black History Month. We hope you enjoy virtually exploring our collections featuring women over the coming weeks.

Our department has a well-known, thorough holding of World War I collections, so I thought I would look through them to see how many women appear and how they do so.

These first photos come from a scrapbook collection called “Remembrances of the Great War” from the Hounslow Aerodrome in London. There are 22 photos total, but shared these three to show the women specifically. The caption reads “Maud Mabel Maggie Phyllis Ms. Smith. Osterley Park Camp, 1917.” Looking at Google Maps, Hounslow and Osterley Park are directly east of London’s Heathrow airport.

scanned image of a scrapbook page with photo of five women in WWI uniforms and a caption of their names below scanned image of a scrapbook page with a photo of a woman in a WWI uniform seated on a bench with a caption of her name below scanned image of a scrapbook page with a photo of two women in WWI uniforms and caption with their names belowThis woman is named Isabelle Wynkoop Puffer Charde. She was from Newton, Massachusetts. This photo was taken in 1918, sometime between March and August. The book this picture comes from contains the war records of 26 people from Newton who all served in various capacities in World War I.

black and white photograph of a woman in a nurse uniform standing outside in front of trees

Jumping to World War II, these women were W.A.V.E.S. (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) who served in Hawaii. Kelsey featured this collection last year, in her post about Hawaii. She also shared a picture of the newspaper clipping.

scanned image of a scrapbook page with a newspaper clipping of a group of women beside an airplane and a post card

The post card is addressed “Dearest Dad” and I bet he was glad to hear from his daughter, even just a short post card.

scanned image of a scrapbook page with 8 photos of groups of women attached, none with captions

Looking at these pictures, it’s almost hard to remember these women were serving in a war. Life had to be difficult even if they weren’t on the front lines, but they still made what look like some wonderful memories. I wonder if they stayed in touch with each other after the war?

scanned image of a photograph of three women in uniform wearing leis, standing in front of an airplane

I love the Hawaiian lei tradition! I have similar pictures of my grandparents covered in leis before leaving the islands. It seems likely that they were happy to go home after the war’s end but maybe a little sad to leave such good friends and a beautiful place.

The women in the world wars were relegated to the sidelines, behind-the-scenes auxiliary work, but they paved the way for women today, who serve side by side with their male counterparts. Women have accomplishes so many incredible feats and continue to do so. We are excited to highlight the women of our collections in the coming weeks!

If you’d like to see the these collections or one of the many others we hold, please contact us at speccoll@utulsa.edu for arrangements. We are currently open only to TU students, faculty, and staff by appointments made at least 24 hours in advance. You are also welcome to browse our Catalog and Digital Collections and request photocopies or digital scans of materials through the same email. Kelsey and I fulfill requests as quickly as possible, but especially large requests or a high volume of requests may take us up to 4-6 weeks. We are happy to help you as best we can and we hope that you stay safe and healthy!

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Langston Hughes, Booker T. Washington, and Ada Lois Fisher

Today, for the final post of Black History Month, I chose to have a look through some of our books by Black authors. We have quite a few first editions by noteworthy Black authors that I thought I would share with you today.

A photo of the covers of three novels. The far left has pastel vertical stripes in yellow, blue, green, and peach. The middle has a leaf print, and the third is a lime green book with a small sailboat on it.

From left to right: “Fine Clothes to the Jew” (1927), “The Weary Blues” (1926), and Hughes’s autobiography, “The Big Sea” (1940)

Pictured above are first editions of novels by Langston Hughes (1901-1967), a political rights activist, poet, and novelist, among other things. He is known as the leader of the Harlem Renaissance and his works portray the lives of working-class Black Americans. The book to the far left is “Fine Clothes to the Jew”, a compilation of poems published early in his career that was not well received because many of the poems (including the titular poem) are honest about the poverty in Black communities. Regardless of its reception, it and his first novel, “The Weary Blues” (center), cemented his reputation.

A maroon novel with gold text: "Up From Slavery An Autobiography Booker T. Washington"

“Up From Slavery” (1901)

Also in our collection is this first edition autobiography “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington, published in 1901. This one is extra special because it has his signature in it! I did not know that when I picked the book up, it was a really cool surprise when I opened it up.

Written text: "H. L. Romig 44 Smith St. Auburn. with best wishes F Booker T. Washington Tuskegee, Alabama March 17 1911"

Booker T. Washington Inscription

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was a part of the last generation of Black leaders who was born into slavery and subsequently became a leading voice fighting for former slaves and their families. He advised multiple presidents and founded the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama and called for education and supported “racial uplift”, or the idea that educated members of a race should work to uplift others. I do not have enough space in my single blog post to write about all of the work that Washington did in his lifetime.

“A Matter of Black and White” (1996)

We also have a first edition of “A Matter of Black and White: The Autobiography of Ada Lois Fisher” (1996). Fisher (1924-1995) was a key civil rights leader right here in Oklahoma. Born in Chickasha, she applied for law school at the University of Oklahoma and challenged the state’s current segregation laws and become a lawyer. Her case, Sipuel v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Okla., was heard by the Supreme Court and she was eventually allowed to attend but required to sit and eat separately from her fellow students. Her case paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education, the court case that decided that segregated schools were unconstitutional.

These novels are such small pieces of a much larger history. If you would like to see any of them or something else in our collection, we are still open to TU students and affiliates with an appointment. Please email us at speccoll@utulsa.edu for more information about accessing anything in our archives.

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Portraits

This post is a few days late, because I couldn’t get into the office last week during the spectacular snowstorm we had! If you were affected by it, I hope you were as safe and warm as possible!

I contemplated writing about a lot of different things from the perspective of Black history (books or manuscripts, art, film, music, etc.) but I found more pictures, specifically portraits and knew that I wanted to share them here. We have almost no context for these portraits and again, I wish we did. Sitting for a portrait was quite a treat for most people in the past (and really, it still is today, even though it’s far, far easier to do so); whatever their reasons and paths to these portraits, I’m glad we have them these many years later and I hope you enjoy seeing them as well!

 

color photograph taken with a cell phone of a black and white mounted photograph of a woman with braided hear wearing a gingham dress

This portrait was taken circa 1865 (!) and is likely the oldest of the pictures I found. I read the description before I found the photo itself and was really excited to see it; seeing the beautiful frame was even more exciting.

black and white photograph of a young woman dressed up, leaning on a table while holding a rolled up newspaper

Isn’t she beautiful?

I love this photograph and I would have loved to have seen it taken. Honestly, she looks bored out of her mind and completely done with whatever was happening at the time. I’m curious how she would feel about taking selfies with a cell phone instead of bothering with a formal portrait.

black and white mounted photograph of a young boy in a suit and bow tie

This little boy is so handsome! I could speculate about this portrait’s creation all day. Seeing it reminds me that I should get my boys dressed up for portraits.

 

black and white photograph of a woman and five young children all dressed up, roughly ages 10 and under

We need to stop and take an extra moment to admire this portrait and the absolute feat of getting five children dressed up and standing completely still long enough for a clear portrait! Especially children this young! The little girl can’t be more than ten years old, but I bet she helped her momma with her younger siblings. Those boys look like they kept momma busy and the baby’s expression is priceless!  Momma looks tired, but she captured her beautiful family for posterity and I’m so glad she did.

black and white mounted photograph of a man in a white dress suit sitting on a bench

I’m glad that what looks like water damage didn’t ruin this man’s actual portrait, but the frame instead. I’ve stared at this portrait for a while and can’t decide what’s going on with the background. I even googled photo editing techniques from the 1940s, likely when this was taken and the jury is still out. If you want to read for yourself, check out this link and this link and let me know what you think.

 

black and white photograph of a man in a suit and hatblack and white mounted photograph of a man in a suit and tie black and white mounted photograph of a man in evening wear looking away from the camera Look at these dapper, handsome men! It seems unlikely that they knew each other in real life, but they sure make a fancy trio here. The man on the left looks like he’s ready for big business and the man on the right looks like he could be a preacher or minister or maybe even a really stern school teacher. It would be fun to know if my guesses were close or not. For all of these pictures, I wish we knew more about when they were taken or where so we could find their descendents and learn more about these people…can you tell that I really love genealogy? Stay tuned for Kelsey’s next post later this week!

 

If you’d like to see the these portraits or one of the many other collections we hold, please contact us at speccoll@utulsa.edu for arrangements. We are currently open only to TU students, faculty, and staff by appointments made at least 24 hours in advance. You are also welcome to browse our Catalog and Digital Collections and request photocopies or digital scans of materials through the same email. Kelsey and I fulfill requests as quickly as possible, but especially large requests or a high volume of requests may take us up to 4-6 weeks. We are happy to help you as best we can and we hope that you stay safe and healthy!

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William Pickett “The Bulldogger”

If you were to come into our office today, you would be immediately captivated by the large poster hanging on the wall in our lobby. Measuring over six feet tall and about three and a half feet wide, this movie poster is an exciting recent acquisition that is an advertisement for a movie called “The Bull-Dogger”, filmed in Oklahoma and starring William Pickett.

A large poster for a silent movie featuring three people and the movie title, The Bull Dogger, and a picture of a man wrestling a bull.

I apologize for the glare, the poster is framed behind archival glass to protect it from the damaging UV light

The movie was a silent film released in 1922 and is sadly lost, so we will never get to see it. Very little information about the film itself survives and we are fortunate to have this poster in such good condition as a part of our collection.

William Pickett (1870-1932) was a Black and Cherokee cowboy and was original steer wrestler from Texas. One of 13 children, Pickett became a ranch hand at 11 years old. He is known for creating the technique called “bulldogging”, or a method of wrestling a bull to the ground by the horns and biting it on the lip or nose and pulling it down onto its back. He taught this technique to many other ranch hands and cowboys and it eventually evolved into steer wrestling, which we can still see at rodeos today.

Black and white photo of a cowboy seated on a horse

Photo of Pickett from the Oklahoma Historical Society

In 1907, Pickett moved with his family to Oklahoma and performed with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. He became a famous rodeo performer, travelling in the summers through Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. He is credited as the first Black cowboy star and was the first Black honoree to be inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971.

The film also features Anita Bush (1883-1974), a Black actress who founded the Anita Bush All-Colored Dramatic Stock Company in 1915, a company that kickstarted the careers of other Black actors of the time.  Bush starred alongside Pickett in “The Crimson Skull” and “The Bull-Dogger”, both filmed in Oklahoma and directed by Richard Norman in the 1920’s.

Steve Reynolds, whose character is featured in the top center of the poster, was an actor also known as “Peg” because he was a stuntman without a right leg. If you look closely at the poster, you’ll see the peg leg. (I did not know that was what was being depicted in the image until I looked the actor up, I was wondering why we got a full-body shot of him but not of any of the other characters). I also think it’s interesting that the titular character, Bill Pickett himself, does not have a portrait but is instead pictured wrestling a bull at the bottom of the poster. There are other posters that only feature his face and name with none of the other actors listed.

Hopefully one day soon we will be open to the public again and you can come see the poster in-person. As always, if you need anything please email us at speccoll@utulsa.edu. Stay safe and warm!

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Black History Month is Here!

February is Black History Month! Melissa’s post about our new virtual exhibit unofficially kicks off our month of blog posts honoring such an important topic.  We will focus our posts on the materials in Special Collections that highlight African Americans and their experiences. Especially as we are approaching the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Black History Month is as important as ever so Kelsey and I want to support its celebration with you.

The legacy of African American history can easily be overwhelmed by the horrible stain of slavery, Jim Crow, and racism, but this extraordinary community also has a vibrant tradition of family, community, and resilience in the face of such unthinkable adversity. While acknowledging the difficult elements of this legacy, I want to showcase some of the happier elements and since Valentine’s Day (Hallmark holiday that it is) is coming up rather soon, I thought it might be fun to look at couples.  These photos are most of a century old and still they are so relatable, so let’s dive into the photos!

black and white photograph of an African American couple posing for a picture These two are my favorite, maybe because they remind me so much of what my husband I look like in photos. I just love her beautiful smile and his barely-there smirk. I wonder where they were going and why they stopped to have their photo taken. I bet they were a ton of fun to be around and wish I could go back in time to meet them.

black and white photograph of a couple posing as if dancing, outside in a field and wearing nice clothing black and white photograph of an African American couple in nice clothing posing outside beside a bridgeThese two were also probably loads of fun to be around. They are stylish and look like they could be celebrating something and it would be fun to know more about them and the occasion for their pictures.

black and white photograph of an African American couple sitting outside in nice clothingblack and white photograph of an African American couple standing outside in a field wearing nice clothing and posing for a picture

 

 

This is the same woman posed with two different men. It occurred to me while I was uploading the photos that one of them could her brother, cousin, or a friend; I decided to include them both since they all look so happy. I also really like her outfit and hairstyle; I could easily take some style lessons from all the couples! How cool would it be for men to wear three-piece suits and bow ties more often? I wish I could convince my husband to dress up and pose for pictures like these!


black and white photograph of an African American couple sitting outside on a blanket with a small dog

Maybe especially since today is cold and rainy, this photo makes me want to go on a picnic when the weather warms up (just a little, though; my husband doesn’t handle the heat very well). I like seeing the newspaper scattered across their blanket; I would take a book to read for a bit and then doze off in the shade if I had a picnic. Their dog is too cute! I need to get more photos of my dogs smiling like that but I’m so glad theirs is documented for us to see all these years later. If you needed a reason to take more pictures, remember that people a hundred years from now will want to see you together with your dog!

If you’d like to see the these photographs or one of the many other collections we hold, please contact us at speccoll@utulsa.edu for arrangements. We are currently open only to TU students, faculty, and staff by appointments made at least 24 hours in advance. You are also welcome to browse our Catalog and Digital Collections and request photocopies or digital scans of materials through the same email. Kelsey and I fulfill requests as quickly as possible, but especially large requests or a high volume of requests may take us up to 4-6 weeks. We are happy to help you as best we can and we hope that you stay safe and healthy!

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Greenwood 1921: Centenary

Special Collections and University Archives presents a new virtual exhibit, Greenwood 1921: Centenary.

This digital exhibit site focuses on the images of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that Special Collections has in our holdings. There is a full timeline description of each of the days’ events, and multiple galleries with full-scale reproductions of postcards and photographs taken during the event. Note that some images are graphic in nature.

Given the ongoing extent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Special Collections is unable to receive visitors to the TU campus, but we wanted to ensure that members of the public could view this collection and gain more understanding and context for the history of Greenwood and Tulsa.

Please click on the poster to visit the exhibit site.

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Robert J. Farris Slides

As a (fledgling) birder, hiker, and once-upon-a-time wildlife biologist, anytime I see anything on our shelves that says “bird”, my interest is piqued. I have been walking past this stack of boxes for almost two years now, but the slides they contain are so small that I had resigned myself to never writing about them. How was I ever going to write a blog post when the pictures are no bigger than a postage stamp? There are many objects in our archives that are preserved in outdated ways (you should see some of the tapes we have!), and it can sometimes be so frustrating when we can’t see them the way we’d like to.

Photo showing a hand holding up one slide in front of a box opened to show many more slides neatly organized

Tiny bird picture

Four metal boxes stacked on top of one another, each labeled "Robert J. Farris Collection Slides of North American Birds"

The boxes on the shelves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lamenting over this predicament when my counterpart, Jacalyn, reminded me that there are apps for everything. Within minutes I had the app downloaded and the subjects picked out, I was going to (finally!) get a better look at these slides I have been waiting to see.

My initial choice was probably a poor one. I decided that a hummingbird would be a cute one to show you guys, because who doesn’t love hummingbirds? Like many bird enthusiasts, Farris used good cameras. We know that the photographs on these slides were taken with a Nikon Nikormat camera with Zoom Nikor Automatic 200mm, 300mm Soligar, or Reflex Nikor 500mm lenses. But even with those fancy lenses, hummingbirds are just… really small birds.

Grain photograph of a few small tree branches with a barely discernible hummingbird perched on top

Can you see the tiny hummingbird?!

Robert J. Farris took these photographs between 1974-1983. Some of them are included in the “American Birding Association Checklist of North American Birds”, published in 1975. Our four boxes comprise of about 2,200 slides, a fraction of the total number of slides produced by Farris. In total, he made about 16,000 bird slides which are spread out throughout Tulsa. Some of them are at the Oxley Nature Center and the rest of them reside with the Tulsa Audubon Society.

A small owl head poking out of a hollowed out space in a tree with greenery in the background

A Common Screech Owl nestled in a hollow

The slides themselves are annotated with information about the species of bird and occasionally the location where they were photographed. Some of them say things like “Philbrook” or “North Tulsa”. They were not all photographed here, but as Farris was a Tulsa resident, he did much of his work here in the Tulsa area. I wonder if I have seen any of these birds great-great-great-great(a few more greats…) grandchildren flying around?

Photo of a grey bird with a peach belly and a very long skinny tail sits perched on barbed wire in a field

Oklahoma State Bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

This last photo is of a bird you haven’t seen around here for a while. The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher only spends the summer in Oklahoma, as they prefer to spend their winters somewhere warmer. When it starts to warm up outside, keep an eye out for these guys perched on barbed wire, road signs, or telephone wires.

We have many, many other treasures and outdated technologies here in the Special Collections Department. If you would like to see any of it, please send us an email at speccoll@utulsa.edu.

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Presidential Inaugurations

This gallery contains 8 photos.

A few days ago we witnessed the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, so I looked through our collections to see what kind of presidential material we have. I love basically all kinds of … Continue reading

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J. M. W. Turner Line Engravings

Happy New Year! This marks the beginning of my last semester as a graduate assistant at the University of Tulsa. I am excited for the next chapters of my life, but I know that I will enjoy writing new blog posts until then!

Amidst some of the turmoil going on in our world, today I decided to focus on one item in our collection that is far removed from the fray. The Josephine Walker collection of J.M.W. Turner line engravings consists of one very big, very heavy box containing line engravings and their accompanying descriptions. This collection was once bundled together in one big red leather-bound book, but its contents have since been neatly arranged in archival folders for safekeeping.

Red leather cover with black decoration with the words "Turner Gallery" in the center

Joseph Mallord William Turner (J. M. W. Turner) was an English artist who lived from 1775 to 1851. He was recognized for his talent from a young age and was known for big, colorful, sweeping landscapes that were often tumultuous in nature. Unfortunately, engravings are in black and white, so we do not get the complete effect that an original piece of his work would have. “Wreck Off Hastings” (1825) is a perfect example of his tumultuous depiction of nature. The sweeping, violent sea and the large cliffs make up the majority of the painting, with the shipwreck seeming so small and insignificant in comparison. Here is an example of the engraving from our collection next to a full color image of the original work so that you can compare.

A colorful painting of a small shipwreck with yellow cliffs in the background and a dark, turbulent sea in the foregroundBlack and white etching of a small shipwreck in a turbulent sea, with cliffs and sky in the background

Each component of the total 120 engravings would have been purchased separately, with each part consisting of a few engravings and detailed descriptions of the work. The front page of each installment was priced at fifty cents when these engravings were published back in 1880, which would be almost $13 today. The whole collection has forty components, which would have been a total of $20 at the time, or the equivalent of $540 today.

Highly decorated cover that reads "The Turner Gallery"

At the time, engraving was a fantastic way to mass-produce images or in this case create copies of artworks for publication. The MET has a really amazing post on their website that you can see if you are interested in how engravings like these were made. We have several engravings that can be found throughout our collections.

If you would like to see more of our treasures, feel free to contact us at speccoll@utulsa.edu. We remain closed to the public and only available in-person to TU students, faculty, and staff, but we are happy to help anybody access our collection digitally.

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