History of the Satin Rare Book Room

The Jack and Tybie Davis Satin Rare Book Room was originally, simply, the Rare Book Room when the 1967 east wing was built onto the McFarlin Library building.  During the planning stages for the new building, then president Ben Henneke questioned the need for a Rare Books Room, but acceded to the advice of friend to the University, Pauline Walter.  The appearance of the room has changed somewhat over the years.

The 1970s to the early 1980s

Satin Room StudyInitially, the Rare Book Room held the rare book collection, and offered scholars a place to study those materials in comfort. The alcove to the side was intended to be the librarian’s office. The rare books collections soon outgrew the room, and the manuscript collections pushed into the rest of the 5th floor. Eventually, the staff began to office in the current office area (although with a dramatically different configuration). The Rare Book Room was still used for readers at this time, although occasional events were scheduled in there as well.

satinroom_img2 Departments such as these functions are much like the laboratory required by the student of the physical sciences. Instead of test tubes, chemicals and sophisticated measuring devices, the student of literature and history can turn to those unique expressions found in manuscripts, correspondences, physical artifacts, or often to the transmission of text found in bound editions. In some cases these can be blended when a particular edition was owned by, and often annotated, by the individual or during the events being researched.


satinimg_4 It is therefore part of the role of the Department to place the user in contact with those materials that can reach their needs, while at the same time protecting and preserving those same materials for the future.



satinroom_img5 By the late 1970s, it was becoming obvious that the room, as it existed at that time, was inadequate as designed for a modern special collections department reading room.



1/23/2015 reading room

On 30 September 1980, the Department was renamed the Jack H. and Tybie Davis Satin Rare Book Room. It was about this time that the “fishbowl” reading rooms were built  elsewhere in the department, and the Satin Room was adapted for use as a classroom and event space. It is this configuration that most people tend to think of the room.

The 1980s and 1990s

satinroom_img7 In 1984, Joan Skelly Stuart donated $28,000 in antiques and artwork to the University, including the Waterford crystal chandelier, and the round rosewood table (shown here). Over the next fifteen years, this room became a major, beloved showpiece for the university.


By 20083_Spec0, however, the Satin Room was showing sufficient wear   and tear to deserve a face-lift. Also by this time, the “fishbowl” reading rooms were obsolete, and were taking up far more space than they really warranted, so the decision  was made to remove them. Through the generosity of the Chapman Trust, the room was reconfigured once again into a more modern reading room for the Department of Special Collections, and fixed reading tables (based on those in the British Library) and large display cases were installed.

In 2006, the r1/23/2015 reading room2oom was closed for a few weeks as the old asbestos ceiling was stripped away, and in 2007 a modern fire suppression system and more security was added.

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History of Special Collections and University Archives

The University of Tulsa, and Henry Kendall College before it, collected many of the materials that eventually would become the foundation of the department, decades before Special Collections and University Archives was created to manage them.

alice robertson_history pageThe earliest extant collection began with Alice Mary Robertson’s gift of her personal library in the late 1920s and in 1931, the bequest of her personal and family papers. Miss Robertson was a granddaughter of Samuel A. Worcester, a missionary to the Cherokee before the Trail of Tears. Her parents were missionaries to the Creek. Miss Robertson taught in mission schools, served as Postmistress of Muskogee, Oklahoma, and was the second woman elected to the United States Congress (1920-1922). Her personal and family papers provide important documentation of Cherokee,Creek, and Oklahoma history, and her bequest established a direction for collecting materials related to Native Americans that continues to this day.

In 1929-30, when the original part of McFarlin Library was built, the large room in the north end of the second floor (now the Student Study) was planned as a museum space to showcase Alice Robertson’s Native American artifacts. Other collections were also acquired to populate the museum. Among these were the Ellis Clark Soper Collection that included Civil War artifacts and western Americana, the Bright Roddy Collection made up of Navajo weaving and beadwork, and the James Wolfe Collection comprised of artifacts from Borneo.

The museum did not survive the 1930s, and while some of these materials have moved on to other collections elsewhere, many of the items have remained in Special Collections.

In 1975, former Tulsa businessman John W. Shleppey considerably enriched these holdings with his bequest of books and manuscripts by and about Native Americans which he had collected over his lifetime. The collection contained 6,000 books, including many rare volumes. In 1989, Special Collections’ Cherokee-related holdings were extended with the gift of the J. B. Milam Library of nearly 2,000 volumes. Milam served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee nation from 1941 to his death in 1949.


A second collecting direction began with a series of gifts in the early 1960s by members of the Tulsa Bibliophiles, a group of collectors active during the 1950s. As a group, the Bibliophiles set themselves the challenge of collecting Walt Whitman which they donated to the University in 1965. One Bibliophile, Rush Greenslade, gave his splendid collection of Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, and 17th and 18th century editions of English writers. These two gifts established a base for more intense collecting of American and British literature to support a doctoral program established in the 1960s. During this same period, several collections were purchased from bookseller and collector John Bennett Shaw.

Special Collections began adding manuscript collections in the 1970s with the library and personal papers of literary critic Cyril Connolly. The manuscripts now take up over 2000 linear feet.

Today Special Collections houses over 140,000 printed books, and over 14,000 linear feet of manuscripts, music, photographic collections, ancient Native American pottery, artwork, etc. many of which may be found on the Library Catalog.

While Special Collections materials must be used in department reading rooms, these rich resources are available to all students and staff of the University as well as, without charge, to members of the public who would like to consult them. Visitors not familiar with the city of Tulsa will find it useful to consult Advice to Visitors.

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University Web pages

The university is making some alterations to its web pages. In order to maintain some of our information we are moving some of the Special Collections pages to the Blog.

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New Exhibit at Special Collections

Exhibit Poster 6

The University of Tulsa and McFarlin Library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives are proud to announce their latest exhibit titled “Up, Up, and Away: A Historical Overview of American Comic Books.” Beginning on January 5th and extending through March 21st, 2015, the exhibit examines the role of comic books as staples of American popular culture, from its beginnings in the late 1930s to their modern prominence.

The exhibit consists of numerous comic books and comic book-related paraphernalia collected by the Department of Special Collections and University Archives as part of its popular culture-related collections. Visitors can see comic book cover facsimiles from what is known as the Golden Age of Comic Books, including Action Comics No. 1 (the first appearance of Superman), Detective Comics No. 33 (the first appearance of Batman) and Captain America No. 1 (the first appearance of Captain America), all from the Comic Books in Microfiche Collection (1991.006). The exhibit also has materials related to the actual making of comic books, displaying sketches, typescripts and color separations from a variety of comics from the E. Nelson Bridwell Collection (1981.001). Bridwell, a comic book writer and editor from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, worked for DC Comics from the 1960s until his death from lung cancer in 1987. Examples from his original work, some of his memorabilia, and a caricature of Bridwell drawn by comic book artist John Johns are also on display in the exhibit.
Action Comics 1Detective Comics 33

The undeniable cultural impact of comic books is also explored in the exhibit. Visitors can see examples of how the influence of comics extends to other fields like mainstream literature, such as comic book adaptations of Beowulf and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Additionally, the exhibit looks at how comics influence other storytelling media such as film and television, and how they are central to what is affectionately called “Nerd Culture.” Comic book influence extends to the science fiction, fantasy, toy, and gaming industries, creating a billion-dollar-a-year bonanza. The industry and its fans hold numerous annual conferences visited by thousands of people. On display are a number of comic book related ephemera such as promotional flyers, publishers’ advertisements, stickers, individual works, posters, convention programs, trading cards, bookmarks, postcards and figurines from the Science Fiction and Comics Ephemera Collection (2006.007).

Captain America 1

An overview of the history of comic books cannot be complete without a brief the examination of the controversy caused by comic books in the mid-1950s. With the publication of German-American psychiatrist Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent in 1954, comic books came under attack as contributors to juvenile delinquency. Wertham made a number of assertions in the book, such as accusing Superman of being a fascist, suggesting that Batman and Robin were a homosexual couple, and that Wonder Woman promoted lesbianism, feminism and sexual deviance. Citing testimony from interviewed juvenile delinquents, Wertham argued that comics were directly linked to criminal activity in children. Wertham’s arguments sparked a movement against comic books that led to hearings in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and culminating in the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. The CCA policed and censored the content of comic books and banned not only violent images, but also entire words and concepts like “terror” and “zombies.” It also dictated that criminals must always be punished—effectively banning most of the titles published by Entertaining Comics, and leaving a sanitized subset of superhero comics as the chief remaining genre. The exhibit contains cover facsimiles some of the titles that Wertham argued against including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Phantom Lady, Panic, and All True Crime. There is also a first edition of Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent from McFarlin Library.

The exhibit also looks at the contemporary status of comic books with the display of a number of modern comics that are relevant in today’s cultural context, belonging to the I. Marc Carlson Popular Culture Materials Collection (2013.007). The comic book medium is popular with both children and adults and has cemented its influence in popular culture both in print form and in new digital media. The film industry continues to borrow heavily from comic books and uses them as source material for blockbuster film franchises like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Marvel Films’ Iron Man, Avengers, Captain America, and Thor, and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Comic books are also behind a number of hit TV shows such as The Walking Dead, Arrow, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gotham, Constantine, and the upcoming Daredevil and Agent Carter.

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives cordially invites the TU community to visit this exciting exhibit, curated by Graduate Assistant of Special Collections Carlos D. Acosta-Ponce. The department is located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library and its hours of operation are Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

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Holiday Hours

McFarlin Library

The Special Collections department will be closing at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, December 23rd for the holiday break. We will reopen again at 8:00 AM on Monday, January 5th. Have a safe and happy holiday!

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Dime Novels: Potboilers in American History

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives at McFarlin Library is currently reliving the thrills of the sensational dime novels, staples of American popular culture. The Department boasts a collection of over 4000 dime novels, with the latest acquisition dating to the winter of 2013. This winter, we are in the pursuit of reclassification and re-cataloging our collection in order to make it available to our patrons.

Dime novels revolutionized popular culture and became a publication phenomenon, providing Americans with a wealth of popular fiction in a regular series at a fixed, inexpensive price. Dime Novels captured the American spirit starting late 19ththrough the early 20th century. They were popular paperback texts, and were the precursors of today’s mass-market paperbacks and comic books. The books grew to be exceptionally popular with young boys, with stories revolving around the dramatic exploits of a single character. Early dime novels, first printed in orange wrapper paper, were patriotic, often nationalistic tales of encounters between Native Americans and backwoods settlers. By the mid-1890s, bold color covers depicting scenes of bloodshed and courage appealed to a mostly adolescent audience.


It is interesting that the modern age uses “dime novel” as a term to describe any quickly written, lurid potboiler, generally used as a pejorative to describe a sensationalized yet superficial piece of written work. Critics of dime novels often denounced them as immoral, perhaps because of their violent content. But the books themselves actually tended to reinforce conventional values of the time such as patriotism, bravery, self-reliance, and American nationalism, and were integral in the early stages of American mass culture.

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives, recognizing the merits of the Library of Congress Classification, wishes to successfully re-catalog parts of the collections hoping to make them more accessible to our researchers and match what the dime novels themselves represented: easy accessibility. The heyday of the dime novel was between the 1860s and the 1890s, when their popularity was eclipsed by pulp magazines featuring similar tales of adventure. The series continued to attract the readers well into the 1920s. History also attributes a part of the popularity to the growing literacy rate in the country around that time. With our reclassification, we aim to reorganize the collection to make them available as individual units. Through this project, we also intend to accommodate more of our growing collections/collection in the future.


The bulk of our dime novels are constituted by the Beadle’s Dime Novels Collection, The Merriwell Series and The Buffalo Bill’s Series. These fragile books are handled with extreme care while reclassifying them. We take pride in conserving our collections and growing them with a steadfast vision to be a better resource for research for the community.

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127th Anniversary of A Study in Scarlet


This month we celebrate the 127th anniversary of the publication of the novel A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This novel presents the first appearance of beloved literary characters Sherlock Holmes and his friend and chronicler, John Watson. These two characters would subsequently appear in three other novels and five short story collections spanning four decades. The novel was published in the November 1887 issue of Beeton’s Christmas Annual.

A Study in Scarlet introduces the characters of the “consulting detective” Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Conan Doyle wrote the story in 1886, and it was published the following year. The book’s title derives from a speech given by Holmes to Doctor Watson on the nature of his work, in which he describes the story’s murder investigation as his “study in scarlet”: “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.” (A “study” is a preliminary drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece.)

Although Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories featuring Holmes, A Study in Scarlet is one of only four full-length novels in the original Holmesian canon. The novel was followed by The Sign of the Four, published in 1890. A Study in Scarlet was the first work of detective fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

The University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives holds a number of different editions of A Study in Scarlet, ranging from the 19th century to contemporary editions, as well as three collections that contain a wide variety of Sherlock Holmes paraphernalia. The most prominent of these, the Jack Powell Collection of Sherlock Holmes (1996.004) includes medallions, lapel pins, coffee mugs, and other resource material related to the great detective.


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Happy Birthday to Margaret Anderson!

Margaret AndersonNovember 26th marks the birth of one of the early supporters of modernism, Margaret Anderson. Anderson founded the Little Review in 1914, a publication notable for being a venue for the more experimental and risqué works by writers such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Amy Lowell. Pound also served as editor of the literary journal and the conflicts between him and Anderson were legendary. Though she was arguably disinterested in equal rights for blacks, Anderson and the Little Review published pieces by notable figures of the Harlem Renaissance as well.

Most famous of the journal’s contributors was James Joyce. The obscenity trial that marked its release resulted from Anderson’s decision to include excerpts from Joyce’s Ulysses. In spite of negative reactions from subscribers and the legal imbroglio, Anderson steadfastly supported the form and content of Ulysses. In spite of the fact that she lauded Joyce’s artistry in relating the experiences of Molly Bloom and Stephen Daedalus, Anderson made some edits to the text in order to avoid the worst charges of obscenity and allow the volumes of the Little Review containing episodes from Ulysses to be disseminated through the mail. Though Anderson had hoped to be a martyr for Modernism by going to jail, she was merely subjected to a fine and a criminal record.

Remembered as much for her contributions to modernist literature as for her eccentric tastes in fashion and her daring personal life (she was a far-left leaning lesbian), Margaret Anderson died at the age of 87 in 1973.

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Closed For Thanksgiving 2014

McFarlin Library Special Collections will be closed Thursday, November 27th, and Friday, November 28th, in observance of Thanksgiving. We will reopen at our normal time on Monday, December 1st. Have a safe and happy holiday.fall-birthday-clip-art-1

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New Acquisition: Report from the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen”

moravian coverThe “Report from the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen on three Moravian church missions to Native Americans including a brief section on their work among the Cherokee Indians in Arkansas, said evangelizing work begun as early as 1740, with teachers sent to live among the Cherokee by the early 1800s” is the newest addition to the Department of Special Collections’ materials related to 19th century European missionary work among the Native Americans. This twelve page pamphlet includes geographical descriptions of Canada, as well as living conditions in territories ranging from Leaven worth, Kansas and Beattie Prairie Arkansas.

This document is dated September 1842 and written in German. The Moravian Church is one of the oldest Protestant denominations, dating back to 1457 and Moravian missionaries were famous for their interest in educating the common man and their prolific hymn and sermon writing. The Moravians established missions among the Inuit in Greenland, Delaware, Cherokee, and a number of peoples in Africa and the Caribbean. The report provides a brief glimpse into the issues facing both missionaries and the people they were interesting in converting. For instance, there is a brief record of a visit from “our Indian Brother Nathan” and a measles epidemic the previous summer. Of interest to both the Moravians and researchers curious about their success is the statement “Finally there was an Indian congregation of 35 communicants, 35 converted and baptized adults, 57 baptized children, 22 partly converted…altogether 149 people , one fewer than in the previous year.”
The “Report from the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen…” is but one of the religious texts that provides insight into attempts to convert Native Americans to Christianity. Other, related texts in our collection include: The Moravian Indian mission on White River : diaries and letters, May 5, 1799 to November 12, 1806 / translated from the German of the original manuscript by Harry E. Stocker, Herman T. Frueauff, and Samuel C. Zeller, edited by Lawrence Henry Gipson, The Four Gospels of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Shawnee Indian Language by Thomas W. Alford from about 1929, Indian hymns in the Seneca language, and bibles translated into Cherokee, Delaware, Mohawk, and other Native American languages.

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