The Weird and Wonky: the stuff you didn’t know we had in the Special Collections and Archives

For the start of the 2017 semester the Graduate Assistants (Jennifer Murphy, Amanda Vestal, and Hannah Johnson), at the McFarlin Library Special Collections and Archives, have created an exhibit which features some of the stranger items in our collections. Over the years, many people have donated various books, documents, and works of art. Among these more conventional donations we have also received some rather remarkable and odd items. Many of these items were haphazardly thrown in with large donations without much explanation for their presence.

In the Anna Kavan Papers we discovered used hypodermic needles. After some basic research about this author we learned that Kavan was a heroin addict most of her adult life. When processing this collection, the librarians found the needles acting as staples holding papers together.


In the Vann family archive we found a trove of weird items, some were very personal objects. The Vann family were an important and prominent Cherokee family, originally from Georgia, who later settled in Indian Territory Oklahoma in the mid-1800s. In this collection we discovered shoelaces, a meat cleaver, handmade lace collars, baby shoes, and a pair of dentures made with human teeth.


For this exhibit we also included several items from the seemingly random John W. Shleppey collection. From this collection we have displayed a man’s wedding ring, a bag of rocks, miniature playing cards, and a mysterious object made from two walnut shells and two small wooden stakes. We have postulated that this mysterious item could be a child’s toy, a fishing bobber, or even a drop spindle. If anyone has any information or ideas about this item we would be most appreciative to hear from you.


The items mentioned in this post are only a taste of what we have displayed in our exhibit hall and these items are only a fraction of the interesting items we have in our many collections. This exhibit is free and open to the public Monday – Friday 8am-5pm and will be on display until March 26th

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Holiday Hours

Happy Holidays!

The Special Collections department will be closing at 5:00 PM on Thursday, December 22rd for the holiday break. We will reopen again at 8:00 AM on Tuesday, January 3th. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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Tulsa Municipal Airport Ledgers

McFarlin Special Collections and University Archives is home to many objects related to Tulsa and Oklahoma history.  Many of these are part of the Oklahoma Collection (Coll. 2006.012) and provide insight into the vibrant history of the state.  Part of this collection focuses on the Tulsa Municipal Airport and its interesting background.  Surprisingly, Tulsa is well-connected in the aviation industry with relationships with Boeing and American Airlines.  In fact, Tulsa is the global maintenance headquarters for American Airlines.  The airport is also able to boast that it was the busiest airport in the world in 1930.

One box of this collection contains three ledger books from the Tulsa Municipal Airport from July 1928 through May 1934.  The entries in the ledgers contain the pilot’s signature and information for the flight including the destination, departure times, type of aircraft, and the owner of the aircraft.  The first ledger contains a note from the airport’s acting manager about its official opening.  It was dedicated on July 5th, 1928 following the arrival of the National Air Tour at the airport two days before.  The first delivery of mail left the airport on July 5th at 6:30 PM and carried 186 pounds of mail.  The second ledger makes reference to the business of the airport during 1930.  It states that “[passenger] records have been repeatedly broken by this airport” and that for the last five months Tulsa has had more passengers and flights than the main airports in Berlin, London, and Paris.  This note also boasts that they have 40 flights in and out each day; for comparison, on the first date listed in the ledger (July 13th) in 2016 the Tulsa airport had 600 operations.  For me, the most intriguing part of the ledgers are the pilot entries.  Amelia Earhart’s name is listed three separate times, Charles Lindbergh is listed once, and Wiley Post is listed several times throughout the ledgers.  The entry for Lindbergh contains a note saying that it is his real signature.  The ledgers are available for any registered reader to see.

Amelia Earhart Wiley Post Charles Lindberg

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Hugo “Hap” Gruenberg Collection

Special Collections and University Archives is well-known for its World War I materials. The Hugo “Hap” Gruenberg (1991-008) collection consists of personal ephemera and photographs of Private 1st Class Hugo August “Hap” Gruenberg of Ambulance Company 167, 117th Sanitary Train, 42nd (Rainbow) Division, American Expeditionary Forces.


The “Rainbow” Division was established in August 1917. It was made up of volunteers from the regular army units scattered throughout the United States. Gruenberg’s section was formed from the Tulsa Ambulance Company into a unit of the National Guard. Their unit met up with the other sections at Camp Albert L. Mills on September 2nd.


On the morning of November 1st, six transports arrived at the French seaport in St. Nazaire. The unit spent about 2 years in France pulling wounded and transporting them for medical attention. They returned home on April 17, 1919 on the U.S.S. Mount Vernon.

“The record of 22,260 patients evacuated from the firing line during action by the 117th Sanitary Train is a record of which every officer and man of the organization may justly be proud.” –Iodine and Gasoline: History of the 117th Sanitary Train

This collection contains numerous personal ephemera, some of which includes Gruenberg’s diary (1917-1918), soldier’s pay record book, Gruenberg’s dog tags and brass key on a leather thong, and one pair of regulation leather leggings. Within the photographs, there is a group photo taken of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1927.


This collection was donated by Gruenberg’s son, Charles Gruenberg, in September 1991. The Victrola records have been converted into digital files and can be listened to as part of the collection.

Our collections are available during normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the University of Tulsa Special Collections and University Archives.

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Closed for Thanksgiving 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

McFarlin Library Special Collections will be closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday starting at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, November 23 through Friday, November 25. We will reopen at our normal time on Monday, November 28. Have a safe and happy holiday.

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A Civil War Romance: General George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth Clift Bacon

Elizabeth B. CusterGeneral George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth Clift Bacon had a devoted and passionate love affair that lasted their entire lives. Custer was a young cavalry officer in the Union Army at the start of the Civil War. He formally met his future wife Elizabeth, often called Libbie, in 1862. Due to her family’s objection they were not allowed to meet together or become engaged until 1963, after Custer had obtained a higher rank. Despite the opposition of her family, the couple began corresponding clandestinely through a mutual friend, until they were allowed to write to each other directly.  They were married in February of 1864. They sent many love letters to each other filled with endearments and innuendo. Special Collections has a first edition copy of The Custer Story: The life and intimate letter of General Custer and his wife Elizabeth by Marguerite Merington, published in 1950. This book also has many letters to and from other relatives and friends of the couple and provides glimpses into the intimate and daily life of the Custers.

A few of the more personal intimate passages are as follows: In June of 1864 Custer’s belongings were stolen by Confederate soldiers. Among these things were his letters from Libbie. In Custer’s next letter, June 21, 1864, to his wife, informing her of what had occurred, he chides Libbie to be “more careful hereafter in the use of double entendu.” Libbie replied,

“I suppose some rebel is devouring my epistles, but I am too grateful to feel badly about that. Let me unburden my mind about the matter, since you letter implies chiding, tho the slightest and kindliest. No Southerner could say, if they are a gentleman that I lacked refinement. There can be nothing low between man and wife if they love each other. What I wrote was holy and sacred. Only cruel people would not understand the spirit in which I wrote it.”

To this Custer responded on July 3, 1864:

“And so “Somebody” thought her boy intended to chide her at least little bit about her captured letters? Ha, ha, dear one, you do not know him if you suppose he intended to “chide” his heart’s idol. I only wished to impress on you the need for more prudence in writing—but the effect was not lasting, for the very next letter would afford equal amusement to my Southern acquaintances as those now in their hands. Now do not think me exacting or too particular.”

Elizabeth B. CusterGeneral George Armstrong Custer is most known for his last battle against the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Native American tribes in Montana territory, the Battle of Little Bighorn. This battle is considered one of the most controversial that occurred in the United States. After his death, Mrs. Custer began a campaign to exonerate Custer’s failure and immortalize him as a Civil War and Western frontier hero. She wrote three books about her life with Custer during the Civil War and in the Western territories; Boots and Saddles (1885), Tenting on the Plains (1887) and Following the Guidon (1890). Special Collections has first editions of each of these books. Libbie never remarried and spent the rest of her life writing, speaking about her life with Custer and ensuring the memory of her husband remained positive in American history. Due to her efforts the early to mid-20th century viewed Custer as an American icon.


Anderson, H. Allen. “Custer, Elizabeth Clift Bacon”;; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Fri Nov 18 2016 10:11:42 GMT-0600

“Battle of the Little Bighorn.” Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 Aug. 2014. Accessed 18 Nov. 2016.

“George Armstrong Custer.” Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 13 Feb. 2014. Accessed 18 Nov. 2016.

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McFarlin Fellows Dinner

Thursday night McFarlin Library held the first McFarlin Library Fellows Dinner of this school year. The night began with a book sale where the guest lecturer, Jane Smiley, had her novels for sale, which could then be signed by the author. The cocktail hour featured engaging conversation and I had the pleasure of meeting Smiley. During our short conversation, she discussed her childhood dream of becoming a jockey, which was later made impossible by her tall height. Following a delightful dinner, the gathered group were treated to a lecture by Smiley, a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Her talk, entitled “The Life of a Novelist,” revealed to the audience her process of approaching her novels and provided insights into the mind of an author.

The three main revelations Smiley made were related to the conception of the novel and its existence after it is created by the author. Smiley disclosed that some scenes from her works are inspired by her own experience and draw from her interests. For example, in Some Luck the youngest daughter, Claire, has to go to the eye doctor where she becomes bored and starts making up answers to the questions she is being asked. This scene was directly drawn from Smiley’s childhood when she had to go to the optometrist as a young girl. The author discussed the creation of a novel. She described it as an abstract thing that she pulls into herself and then makes concrete by writing it down. When the reader picks up the book and reads it, the book then becomes more abstract again as it now lives in the mind of the reader. Therefore, the novel is always slightly different for everyone. The one last observation Smiley shared with the audience was that every author has their own theory related to their writing or their book. This theory is written into their books and weaves its way throughout them so that to truly have an understanding of the author’s thoughts one must read many of their works and read them carefully.

Author Jane Smiley





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McFarlin Library

mcf6People at the University of Tulsa may have noticed over this last fall work being done on the McFarlin Library building. Most of this has been necessary maintenance and cosmetic repairs to the building. This began with repairing the slate roof tiles, and starting this morning, some scaffolding on the roof to snug up some minor masonry separation before it becomes an issue.

As we have discussed in the past, McFarlin Library was built beginning in 1929, and completed in 1930 along with Phillips Hall and Tyrell Hall. The architect was Henry C. Hibbs of Nashville, Tennessee. The original architectural plans are with the Henry C. Hibbs Papers, 1882- at the Nashville Public Library.

mcf3The library became a true heart of the university, and for many years graduation ceremonies were held on the west steps of the building facing the original “U”.  The student ROTC met and drilled on the “U”, and the homecoming Bonfire was held annually, just to name a few.  In our collections we have images of the bright Christmas lighting on the library that is reflected today in the holiday lighting on the Tucker Drive oval, the new “U”.

Over the years there have been three major alterations to the building. In 1967, the original tiny east wing was removed and replaced with a considerably larger structure that still remains.

mcf4In 1979, the library built the underground book stacks portion and leading to the dedication of the Albert Plaza on the west side.

mcf5In 2009, the Pauline M. Walter Technology Resources Center was dedicated on the north side of the 1967 wing, further propelling the library into the modern digital age.

As may be seen, the University strives to keep up with needs of the library and its care.


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New acquisition: Hard Times punk fanzine

Special Collections has newly acquired Hard Times, a punk fanzine that was published in Maywood, New Jersey. The magazine was focused on the punk rock scene of New York City that featured letters, interviews, pictorials, and cartoons. The original run of the magazine lasted for seven issues, from August 1984 to June/July 1985.

Hard Times, v.1, no. 3 (Oct. 1984)

Hard Times, v.1, no. 3 (Oct. 1984)

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The Charles King Library

General Charles King

General Charles King (1844-1933) was an American author who spent most of his life in the military. A graduate of West Point, he served in the Army until he was wounded at the Battle of Sunset Pass during the Yavapai War. Later in life he served as Brigadier General of Volunteers during the Spanish-American War where he helped out after the Spanish surrendered. During the Philippine-American War, he led a brigade during the Battle of Manila and the Battle of Pagsanjan. Once he returned Wisconsin, he stayed active in the Wisconsin National Guard and helped train troops during World War I.

Charles King published over 60 books and novels relating to military life, western adventure, and frontier and pioneer life. While he had published quite a bit before 1893, he lost much of his royalties when the bank he used failed. He then lost most of his books and papers in a warehouse fire. This pushed him to come out of his retirement back into the military, hence his involvement with the Volunteers from Wisconsin. He also began writing and publishing again in his non-military free-time.

In 1963, C. E. Dornbusch published a bibliography of Charles King’s books from the National Library of Australia. Many of the books in the McFarlin Library Special Collections can be found in the bibliography and have written markings to indicate if they are listed in the bibliography or if they are undocumented by Dornbusch. All of these books, including the C. E. Dornbusch bibliography can be found by searching the Charles King Library.

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