Richard Murphy, aged 90, has died

Portrait of Richard Murphy

It was with great sadness that we were informed about the death of the Irish poet Richard Murphy. He passed away on Tuesday January 30 in Sri Lanka, a country he clearly loved as he had spent part of his childhood and much of his later life there. Murphy studied under CS Lewis at Oxford where he received his Master’s Degree in 1955. His poetry was well-known for its historical accurateness and its ability to capture the essence of the small Irish fishing towns where he ran fishing and tourism businesses that helped revive the industry. His poetry often focused on the clashing of communication and cultures which he used to help settle his feeling of a divided self. Murphy was known for his exquisite reading voice and his dedication to his craft. His autobiography, The Kick: A Life Among Writers, came out in 2002 and details both events from his personal life and the legacies of Irish history that continue to affect the region. McFarlin Special Collections is fortunate to house the Richard Murphy archive containing the poet’s manuscripts and correspondence. Murphy’s contribution to Irish literature will live on in the new generation of artists that he influenced through his works, his time spent teaching at various universities, and his participation in many workshops.     

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The Unfortunates: a tale that you design yourself!


Books have always been one of our favorite things. They can be read for leisure, for education, to put a child to sleep, to escape reality, and to discover new worlds. And they can come in so many different forms, from chapter books, to picture books, to collections of other works, to even audio books. However, as different as they are, the majority of these books all have one thing in common: they are meant to be read from front to back, in a specific order. Even books that are collections of other works usually have a thought out order in which they are compiled. So are there books out there that don’t fall into this order category?

The book in the box!

The answer is yes. And we happen to have one of them in Special Collections. The Unfortunates is a book written and compiled by B. S. Johnson in 1969. It is often referred to as a “book in a box,” simply meaning it was sold in a box, an uncommon practice at the time. There are 27 chapters, ranging from one paragraph to 12 pages. The chapters are unbound, and the only two chapters labeled are the first and the last.

The plot is about a sportswriter who is sent to an unnamed city (likely Nottingham) on an assignment. While he is there, he reflects on memories from his past. The first chapter describes him arriving in the city and must be read first, and the final chapter describes him preparing to head home and must be read last. The other 25 chapters are reflections on memories. They can be read in virtually any order, and Johnson even encourages readers to rearrange the chapters in any way they wish.

So many possibilities!


This book offers a unique chance for readers to compile the story themselves, becoming somewhat of their own author. Each person can experience the book differently, with thousands of different possibilities. If you’re interested in creating your own combination to experience this rare book, come visit us in McFarlin Special Collections any time between 8:00-4:30, Monday-Friday.

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Historic Cookbooks in the TU Collections

Poster for Historic Cookbooks in the TU Collections

Cookbooks, receipt books, and household manuals are far more than just the gatherings of recipes that we usually think of them as. They offer a look into their culture’s means of nutrition, histories, manners, and morals often through fascinating commentaries on those cultures.

The oldest known recipes date from approximately 1750 BCE Akkad: Meat with Wild Licorice; a Wild Fowl Pie, a type of Bread; and a form of Roasted turnips.

The Romans, of course had their own recipes, many of which survive. Arabic recipes survive from the 10th-13th centuries. Hu Sihui’s “Yinshan Zhengyao” (Important Principles of Food and Drink), approximately 1330, is the earliest surviving Chinese recipe collection.

The first recipe books to be compiled in Europe since Late Antiquity started to appear in the late thirteenth century. About a hundred are known to have survived, some fragmentary, from the age before printing. The earliest genuinely medieval recipes have been found in a Danish manuscript dating from around 1300, which in turn are copies of older texts that date back to the early 13th century or perhaps earlier.

Low and High German manuscripts are among the most numerous. Among them is Daz buch von guter spise (“The Book of Good Food”) written c. 1350 in Würzberg and Kuchenmeysterey (“Kitchen Mastery”), the first printed German cookbook from 1485. Others began to appear later.

The books in the TU collections are predominantly in English.   Those on exhibit are a portion of our materials, and include a foretaste of the depth of materials in the Jennifer Carlson Library of Historical Cookery which is being donated to Special Collections after this exhibit concludes.

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives cordially invites the TU community and the public to visit this exciting exhibit, curated by Librarian of Special Collections I. Marc Carlson. 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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Images of the Circus

McFarlin Special Collections is well known for its collections on World War I, modernist writers, and Tulsa history but did you know that one of our other main areas of collecting is circus material? We have 9 collections that contain circus-related materials that range from ticket stubs, photographs, programs, advertisements, and various other ephemera. One of these collections, the Traveling Circuses Photo Album, 1930s-1940s (2016.048), consists of the original photo album covers and the 247 black and white photographs that were in the album originally.

Groups of performers ready for the show










The photos were removed from the original album pages due to preservation concerns and placed into archival photo sleeves but they were kept in their original order. The album was compiled by Bert Backstein and he, along with Roy Frietsch, took many of the photographs found in the album.

Circus employee living quarters

The photos show many scenes from circus life. These include the many animals that were used in circuses such as elephants, horses, goats, camels, llamas, and zebras. There are many images of performers like animal trainers, trapeze artists, and clowns; crowds waiting to get in to see the show; employees eating together in the mess area; employees setting up the tents and trailers for shows; performers sitting outside of their trailers that they lives in while on the road; trains with cargo containers that were used to transport the circuses’ materials from one town to the next; parades that were used as advertisements and sneak peeks of what visitors could expect to see at the shows; and walls covered in beautiful posters advertising the different performers and acts to be seen at the circus. These photos show scenes from different traveling circuses including the Russell Bros, the Cronn Bros, the Monroe Bros, and the Kelly & Miller Bros.







Elephant getting off of train


Flyers performing stunts


The circus has had an interesting history in the United States. The first one in the U.S. opened in April of 1793, nearly 225 years ago. This makes the tradition of the circus older than Coca-Cola. The circus has long provided a place for misfits and outsiders to belong and a place for children to dream about and threaten to run away to. The circus is a place that instilled wonder in its audiences and where the impossible and unthinkable can happen. Ringling Brother and Barnum & Bailey was by far the most popular circus and it was the longest running entertainment business. In May of last year, The Greatest Show on Earth held its final performance due to dwindling audiences and growing operation costs. Though there are other smaller circuses that still tour and perform, this was seen as the symbolic end of an era. Although the circus may not exist in all of its glory, or event at all, it will always be a place of imagination and daring feats that will continue to be explored in film (The Greatest Showman) and text.

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Harold Leventhal Proletarian Archive

Earlier this semester we switched to a new database for our collections that, among other things, allows researchers to search for specific items through our entire collection instead of individual collections. This new system inspired us to go back through to update and expand records for collections. As part of this project, I began reorganizing and creating more in-depth records for the Harold Leventhal Proletarian archive (2006.003). This collection was acquired in 1977 and consists of his library of books and his papers. His library contained over 360 books which have been catalogued into our collection of books. These can be found by searching for “Harold Leventhal Proletarian Library” under the subject field on the library’s catalog. The papers section of the collection consists of 3 series: pamphlets and flyers, correspondence, and oversized materials. The flyers and pamphlets were mostly produced by various socialist and communist groups in the U.S. and give details of events being put on by these groups. The correspondence series has a large folder of correspondence between Leventhal and the activist Ammon Hennacy. The materials are in English and German.

Harold Leventhal portrait

Leventhal was a folk music manager who was born in New York in May 1919 and died there in 2005. His political activism started at a young age and he was arrested in 1935 for organizing a strike to convince students to refuse to fight in future wars. He was a member of the Young Communist League.  His first job in the music business was as an office boy for songwriter Irving Berlin. He would go to nightclubs to try and sell songs to musicians. He then enlisted in the Second World War. He was stationed in India where he met Gandhi and was inspired to found the American Friends of India. He met his future wife Nathalie Buxbaum, a UN guide, through an event related to his work with India. After the war, he met Pete Seeger and ended up representing his band The Weavers. His Christmas Eve Weavers reunion concert at Carnegie Hall in 1955 is cited as igniting the folk music boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s. This explosion of popularity allowed Leventhal to promote Bob Dylan’s first big concert which took place in NYC in April of 1963.

Poster for Bob Dylan’s concert

Throughout his career he produced concerts for musicians such as Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, and Joni Mitchell. He essentially adopted Arlo Guthrie after his father’s death in 1967. He won a Grammy award in 1989 for producing the album Folkways: A Vision Shared which was a tribute to Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly. In 2003 a concert was held at Carnegie Hall in his honor which featured many prominent folk musicians. There is a large collection of his papers at the Woody Guthrie Center in downtown Tulsa.

Leventhal and Arlo Guthrie

If you are interested in seeing the Harold Leventhal proletarian archive, stop by our office on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library. You can access the record for the collection here.

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World War I Stereocard Collection

This semester the Art History department offered a course titled Cultural Reactions to War in the 20th Century. The class studied painting, posters, music, poetry, prose, and films that were all created in reaction to WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War. The course explored how soldiers attempted to confront what had happened to them during the war and how civilians attempted to understand and either support or protest the conflicts.


For the final project, the graduate students were challenged to utilize primary sources found in The Department of Special Collections and University Archives at McFarlin Library to investigate a question related to war in the 20th or 21st century that interested them. The students were encouraged to have their final product take form as something that would best suit their topic. As a student in the class, I decided to create a website as I thought that would best present my topic and would allow the most people to experience it. When in Special Collections, I became fascinated by a collection of stereocards from WWI (1000.095). These cards were created to allow the audience to take an image of an event and look at it through special goggles in order to make the image to appear to be 3-dimensional. The cards that Special Collections has have captions on the back that explain to the viewer what is occurring in the image. These captions often use language that is biased in some way. I wanted to explore how these captions would affect the viewer’s perception of the image. The essays on the website focus on four topics: the cards themselves, people from colonized territories, the ruins left behind by the war, and new technologies developed during the war. If you are interested, you can take a look at the website here: If you would like to find out more about our stereocard collection you can search our digital collections website here:


The undergraduate students in the class curated a WWI display in Special Collections for their final project. Topics include the home front, new technologies, and how Christmas was observed during the war. If you are interested in stereocards there are several in the display cases for the exhibition. The exhibit will be up until the beginning of January and you can come see it Monday-Friday from 8am until 5pm.

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Christmas Cards from the Past

Christmas celebrations have been around for hundreds of years. They can be found all around the world, and differ from place to place. They range from fireworks, to parades, to concerts, to more personal celebrations such as family get-togethers. But what about those who you cannot physically be with during the holidays? How do you spread Christmas cheer and let them know you are thinking about them? If you said Christmas cards, you’re spot on!

The idea of sending Christmas cards is nothing new, and has persisted through the years. People from all over the world send out cards to those they can’t be with, and sometimes even to those they do see. Today, cards are often decorated with photographs of the family, and even include the family pets on occasion.

Here in Special Collections, we have an array of Christmas cards that have been sent throughout history. They all vary in style and sentiment, and some are even handmade.

Front of the letter

Robert Frost’s signature!

In the pictures above, you can see a Christmas letter designed by Henry Holt and Co. and signed by Robert Frost. The letter is actually an excerpt from “Mountain Intervals” written by Robert Frost. It can be found in our “Frost, Kohn collection” along with a Christmas card list from Robert Frost (not pictured).


Autumn to Winter

In the picture to the left, you can see the front of a Christmas card from our Alex Lykiard-Jean Rhys archive. The card shows two images of women, and display the words “Automne” and “Hiver”, French for autumn and winter. The inside contains a handwritten sentiment for a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Other collections such as the T.S. Eliot Papers, the Fred Graves Collection, and the Hopi Agency Archive also contain Christmas cards. To see these and dozens of others, please view our collections online at or come by and see us during our hours of operation, M-F 8:00-4:30. And don’t forget the annual Tulsa Christmas Parade this Saturday at 2pm downtown!

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Our Claw-some Cat Collections

McFarlin Special Collection and University Archives houses many author’s personal papers and manuscripts. Recently I discovered that a popular topic amongst writers was their interest in cats. The first author that came to mind when I thought about this close-knitted relationship with cats was Ernest Hemingway and his Florida – Key West home, which survived the recent hurricanes.

So it begs the question: “What is it about cats that writers find attractive?”

Cats have long been a muse for writers. Felines are present in author’s personal papers or as characters in books. I think it is safe to assume that most writers are cat people and have quite the dynamic relationship with these animals. Cats unlike dogs, in my opinion, require people to earn their trust. They are the perfect pet for people who spend copious amounts of time in silent thought.

I began to comb through our collections and found that author after author had some type of material, including photographs, letters, and books, of cats. Below I’ve included some of our many pieces related to cats:

  1. 16 pen and ink illustrations by Jean Campbell Willett, Helen Corke (Coll. No. 1975.001)
  2. The Cats of Copenhagen, James Joyce (PR6019.O9 C387 2012)
  3. Rover and the Other Cats, Hugh Leonard (Coll. No. 1995.021.39.4)
  4. “My Cats,” “Cats in Colour,” Stevie Smith (Coll. No. 1976.; Coll. No. 1976.
  5. Cats in Camera, Jan Styczynski (Coll. No. 1988.013.1)
  6. Correspondence, Rebecca West (Coll. No. 1986.002)

Joyce’s The Cats of Copenhagen short-story was written on September 5, 1936 for Joyce’s nephew, Stephen James Joyce, and illustrated by Casey Sorrow, an American artist. This piece was not published until 2012 due to public controversy on unpublished material and copyright issues. The Cats of Copenhagen is related to Joyce’s other well-known work titled The Cat and the Devil. We have no. 6 of 170 bound copies and it makes for a great addition to our department’s Joyce collection.

Rebecca West and longtime love affair H.G. Wells used cat names, Panther and Jaguar, to describe their relationship and separation from society. She also wrote a short-story titled “Why My Mother was Frightened of Cats” from a typewritten manuscript in 1956 which stated: “For me to keep a cat has all the excitement of a forbidden love-affair” and “Cats can be depended upon to find an infinite number of ways of disconcerting human beings.”

If you are interested in these materials or any others, collections are available for viewing in the Special Collections Satin Room from 8 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. If materials are housed at our offsite location, we ask for twenty-four hour notice. Have a great weekend!

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Christopher Isherwood

McFarlin Special Collections and Archives is home to many collections of author’s personal papers and manuscripts. One such collection is the Christopher Isherwood papers, 1909-1954 (Collection number 1979.012). Isherwood was an English-American author and playwright. He wrote many novels and novellas, helped write stage plays, and created many writings in conjunction with his close friend and poet W.H. Auden.

Christopher Isherwood

Christopher Isherwood was born in August of 1904 in Cheshire, United Kingdom. He grew up in a privileged family on the Isherwood estate. He attended Corpus Christi College at Cambridge but purposely failed and left in 1925. He then spent 6 months studying medicine at King’s College London from 1928 to 1929 but left before completing his studies. His first novel, All the Conspirators, was published in 1928. In the late 1920s he moved to Berlin which he later admitted was due to the Weimar Republic’s reputation as a place with sexual freedom where he could live more openly as a gay man. His two most famous works are collectively known as The Berlin Stories are semi-autobiographical works of his time spent in Berlin. This later inspired the stage play Cabaret. In 1933 he left Berlin and then traveled to China in 1938 to do research. In 1939 he and W.H. Auden set sail for New York in a move that many people thought was an attempt to avoid War World II. Soon after coming to the United States he moved to California where he lived for the rest of his life. He lived in Hollywood and became friends with people such as Truman Capote and Aldous Huxley. He became an American citizen on November 8, 1946 and converted to Vedanta for which he visited a guru once a week for the majority of the rest of his life. On February 14, 1953 he met Don Bachardy who was 18 at the time. They had an on and off relationship for the rest of their lives spending the last 10 years of his life happily together. Bachardy painted now-famous portraits of Isherwood as he was dying in their home. In the 1970s Isherwood adopted Bachardy so that he could inherit their house and the author’s royalties after his death since they could not legally marry. Isherwood died on January 4, 1986; his body was donated to science at UCLA and his ashes were later scattered at sea. After his death, his novel A Single Man was turned into a film in 2009 starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. His autobiography, Christopher and His Kind, was adapted into a television film for the BBC starring Matt Smith as Isherwood. He had more than 40 works published, some of which have been published posthumously. Over the last 7 years two books containing his diaries from the 1960s through the 1980s have been published and in 2014 a book of love letters between Isherwood and Bachardy was published.

  Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy

Don Bachardy painting Isherwood


The collection of Isherwood’s papers contains both correspondence and writings. The correspondence consists of letters between Kathleen Bradshaw-Isherwood, his mother, and Richard Isherwood, his brother. There is also correspondence from others to Kathleen and Richard that often refer to Christopher. Handwritten notes and transcriptions of reviews of Isherwood’s works written by Kathleen can also be found in the collection. There are several notebooks and diaries written by Isherwood between 1917 and 1933 and photographs of the author from a young child to middle age, of his friends and family, and of his trips to the Canary Islands and Morocco. There is also a scrapbook put together by Isherwood’s parents containing paintings and photographs of Marple Hall, the Isherwood estate. The writings in the collection include “From Hankow to Shanghai, Through the Back Door,” “The Nowaks,” and “On Reugen Island.” This collection spans 10 document boxes and 1 oversize box. It is kept at our offsite facility so if you would like to look at we will need to know 48 hours in advance to make sure we have enough time to retrieve it.

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The forgotten heroes: Dogs as soldiers

This November 11th marks the 91st official Armistice Day, better known as Veteran’s Day. The holiday dates back to November 11th, 1926, when Congress adopted a resolution in the summer of that year, requesting that the President honor the day with proper ceremonies and dedication to peace. At this time, the holiday was to be known as Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of WWI and those who fought. The day became a legal holiday in 1938.  Then, in 1945, WWII Veteran Raymond Weeks decided the day should be expanded to all Veterans, not just those who fought in WWI. So he changed the celebration to be inclusive. In 1954 a bill was passed that renamed the holiday Veterans Day, and it has been known as such ever since.

Countless men and women have fought for our great country over the years in order to preserve the freedom we cherish so dearly. But what is sometimes forgotten is that they were and are not alone on the battlefields. Some of the most over-looked war heroes are animals. Whether it be horses, who were a huge part of early warfare, or dogs, who are still commonly seen on the battlefield today, these animals played an intricate role in military strategy.

Red Cross dog bringing a helmet back to the trenches!

While horses have somewhat faded from military use over the years due to advancements in vehicles, dogs have remained a large component of many troops. During WWI dogs served as Red Cross members and tended to those injured or killed in the line of fire. While they couldn’t bandage up a soldier or perform a surgery, dogs could lead people to where injured soldiers were, and in some cases drag those soldiers to safety.

leading them to the injured soldier!

They would bring an item back from a soldier, such as a helmet, and show the soldiers or Red Cross Members in the trenches, and then lead them to the soldier from which they retrieved the item. This prevented soldiers and medical staff from wondering around the battlefield blindly looking for injured and risking their own safety.

Over time, the role of dogs in American warfare has changed and expanded. They have been used for attacking and subduing enemies, logistics and communication, detection, tracking, and as scouts. One of the more recent famous instances of a dog in warfare is the use of a Belgian Malinois in Operation Neptune Spear, the operation in which Osama Bin Laden was killed. This dog severed several purposes including alerting soldiers of the presence of other individuals, the arrival of Pakistani troops, the existence of secret rooms, and tracking various scents.

Dogs in warfare have also reached their way into popular culture with movies such as “Max” released in 2015, and “Megan Leavy” released earlier this year. In McFarlin Special Collections we have several images from WWI of dogs in training, as well as active on the battle field. Military Dogs can be seen leading Red Cross members to injured soldiers, enjoying time in their encampment, and patiently waiting next to pilots, just to name a few. If you’re interested in looking at some of these images as well as several other intriguing ones, feel free to stop by Special Collections during our operating hours (M-F 8:00-4:30) and take a peek!

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