Bob Dylan Archive now open to select applicants—at the Helmerich Center for American Research

Even a full year after The University of Tulsa and the George Kaiser Family Foundation completed their acquisition of the Bob Dylan Archive, we here at Special Collections still get phone calls and emails from curious and enthusiastic Dylan fans around the world asking if they can come take a peek.

The 6,000-item strong collection, including lyric sheets and other materials, is not housed here in McFarlin Library, but rather at the Helmerich Center for American Research, located at the Gilcrease Museum.

A new Rolling Stone article indicates that researchers wishing to view and work with the collection can submit applications to the collection librarian for approval.

Even better news is that plans for a public exhibit area, to be known as the Bob Dylan Center, are underway. The future display space will be in the Brady Arts District. TU and GKFF are currently accepting design proposals for the public archive. An opening date for the public Bob Dylan Center has not yet been announced.

Posted in General, Popular Culture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Richard Assmann Pencil Sketches

Some of our collections consist of hundreds of books or thousands of pages housed in hundreds of boxes, but some are small enough to fit into one slim envelope-type box.  The Richard Assmann Pencil Sketches (2003.032) may seem unassuming but that does not make them any less interesting.  This entire collection is made up of 2 small pencil sketches on paper that measures 7X9 inches. McFarlin Special Collections and Archives purchased these 2 delicate images in 2003 from Tavistock Books.

Richard Assmann (1887-1965) was an illustrator from Germany who found himself in Europe during World War I.  When doing a search for him, there are few sources related to this artist but many for the meteorologist and the TV personality of the same name.  The most interesting result related to this artist is for an ebay-like website that deals strictly in collectible postcards.  This site has more than 120 postcards illustrated by Assmann ranging in subject from religious scenes with saints to public figures such as Ottokar Kernstock to scenes of everyday life in Germany.

The two pencil sketches in our collection are both dated to 1915 and are signed by the artist.  They are captioned in German.  The caption for the first sketch translates to “Galacian Tragedy. A Mother’s Funeral.”  It shows two small children riding in a cart on top of a casket.  The cart is pulled by a cattle with a man walking beside it.  The young boy carries shovel while the man, presumably the father, carries a small cross.  The three figures all have down-turned faces.  The second sketch, entitled “German Artillery Observer in Ostruco,” shows two very tall ladders with a man sitting atop each one.  These men are looking through some sort of device off into the distance.  In the foreground, there is a small group of soldiers paired off into smaller groups of two or three.  These soldiers observe the work being done on the ladders and one uses a pair of binoculars to look off in the same direction as the men on the ladders.  Though these sketches may be small, they have a strong attention to detail and the creases in the soldiers’ clothes are meticulously drawn.

To see the Richard Assmann Pencil Sketches or any of our other collections come see us during our operating hours (Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 4:30 pm).

Posted in Collections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Perry Douglas Erwin letters

McFarlin Library Special Collections and University Archives has an extensive World War I Collection. Our department has been collecting World War I material since the 1970s with the acquisition of hundreds of unit histories and other books comprising the original “World War I Library.” We house over a hundred separate collections of diaries, letters, photographs, and artifacts relating to the war. We are in the process of making these collections available online.

Our Perry Douglas Erwin letters (2007.009) are part of our digital collections. Perry Douglas Erwin was born in Johnson, Nebraska on March 24, 1893 and died in November 1964. Vivian Conley was born in 1894 in Kansas. Perry and Vivian married in August 1917. Perry was a lieutenant in the 9th Field Artillery during World War I.

The Erwin letters were found in an antique store in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The letters date from January 9, 1918 to January 29, 1919. The collection consists of 173 letters from Erwin’s wife, Vivian (occasionally spelled Viviene), while he was stationed at Fort Still, Oklahoma and other locations. Vivian Erwin also wrote other correspondents, including Erwin’s sisters Harriet, Dorothy, and J.E.F; Erwin’s mother and father; Margaret Wyndham, a Henry Kendall College alumna and faculty member. There is also one letter from Erwin to his parents. His mother and sister may have also written him. Six unidentified photos accompany Vivian’s letter of May 3rd, 1918. One of the women in the photographs may have been Vivian because she appears repeatedly in the set.

This collection originally caught my eye because of its connection to The University of Tulsa. The University of Tulsa, originally Henry Kendall College, was founded in 1894 in Muskogee. Both Perry and Vivian attended Henry Kendall College, which moved to Tulsa in 1907. He did not graduate but she did. She was also the 1913 class president. In a letter from Vivian to Perry, Vivian writes,

“I saw the girls there dancing – it bro’t back memories to me – of my life at H.KC. I was very happy there.”

For more information on the history of Henry Kendall College, please refer to our blogs from last March.

The letters detail Vivian’s daily life in Oswego, Kansas, where she lived with her parents during the war. She often writes about her health, but, most importantly, she writes of her hope for Perry’s safety and desire to see him again. In one letter dated August 24, 1918, she said,

“Honey man, I’m just living for the time when I can again take you in my arms and love you.”

She also repeatedly recounts stories of her time with Perry before the war. Her letters have a tone of desperation to know Perry’s whereabouts and how he fares both physically and emotionally. Another letter from Vivian dated September 15, 1918 reads,

“Why on earth don’t you write? Are you under quarrantine [sic] – have they transferred you, or what? You’re not tired of writing letters to me are you?”

After the war, Perry was a Newspaper Carrier and they lived near Okmulgee.

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.

Posted in Collections, Digital Collections, History, World War I | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some new WWI Digital Collections uploads.

As part of our ongoing efforts to make our World War I holdings available online, the Hugo “Hap” Gruenberg diary and photograph albums  have been added to our digital collections.

These can be seen as a single collection at this link.

The Hugo “Hap” Gruenberg collection (1991-008) was discussed in the blog last December  as well as in April of 2011.

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.

Posted in Collections, Digital Collections, World War I | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lord Loftus Letters

While I was trying to decide what to write my blog on for this week, I started just scrolling through our online finding aid to see what would catch my eye. This is how I came across the Augustus Loftus Correspondence (1984.001). This is a collection of letters written to Lord and Lady Loftus between 1821 and 1904. Lord Augustus William Frederick Spencer Loftus was a British diplomat who worked as an ambassador to many countries across Europe including Austria, Prussia, and Russia and was the governor of New South Wales from 1879 to 1885. While he served as the governor to this Australian region, he named a town there Emmaville in honor of his wife in 1882. Lord Loftus had a long career as a British diplomat. He began his work in 1837 at the age of 20 and continued on until 1899, just 5 years before his death. His collection of correspondence includes letters from members of the nobility from across Europe and a few members of the British Royal Family.

The letters in the collection focus on a range of subjects from responses to dinner invitations to political inquiries. One letter is a royal invitation, written in French, from Le Grand Mouréchal de la Cour, the Grand Marshal of the Court. This position was responsible for the economic affairs of the court in Berlin and would have been the person to organize receptions for the crown.  There is another letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Campbell Tait, offering his assistance to Lord Loftus in his plan to erect an English church in Berlin. A letter written on December 12, 1870 asks Lord Loftus to intervene with the Prussian authorities to make improvements to the conditions in which the French prisoners of war were being kept. This was right in the middle of the Franco-Prussian War. Though Lord Loftus was no longer the Prussian ambassador at that time, the letter suggests that he had made a good impression and still had influence with them. Another letter of note is addressed to Lady Loftus and is from Adelaide the Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein and the niece of Queen Victoria. It is meant as an introduction to one of the Duchess’s acquaintances with hopes that he will be able to meet the Loftus’s while in Berlin. To me, the most interesting letter is one that marks an important honor in Lord Loftus’s life. This letter is from the Registrar Secretary of the Order of the Bath informing him that Queen Victoria has decided to bestow on him the honor of becoming a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. This position would have been a great achievement as it is the fourth highest honor a British citizen can receive. This collection of correspondence has many more letters with intriguing contents. The collection’s record can be found here: and it can be viewed during the reading room’s operational hours (Monday – Friday 8-4:30).


Posted in Collections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mildred Darby–Anglo-Irish novelist

Mildred Darby started out life as Mildred Henrietta Gordon Dill and grew up in England. She married Jonathan Darby in 1889 and moved to Leap Castle, located in Coolderry, County Offaly, in Ireland. As Mildred settled into life in an Irish castle, she became more interested in the plight of the Irish people under the rule of the English. She believed that the English had treated the Irish very poorly and felt it was necessary to tell the world about how the Irish were really treated. At the time, much of the information coming out of Ireland was spun in a way to make the English look good while the Irish looked like lawless natives who needed to be put in their place. Luckily, Mildred was also secretly a writer. She used the pseudonym of Andrew Merry to publish a number of articles and books. McFarlin Library Special Collections has a copy of one of her books, titled The Hunger, Being realities of the famine years in Ireland, 1845 to 1848 (DA950.7.M4 1910).

At the time, no one realized that Andrew Merry was actually a woman writer. Her writing style has been described as very masculine and very gothic. Under this name, she also wrote about the occult. In the late 19th and early 20th century, there was a growing interest in spiritualism and occultism. Mildred felt that Leap Castle was the perfect place to hold séances since it had a long history of being haunted.

Leap Castle, County Offaly

Some would say that Mildred helped Leap Castle become known as the most haunted castle in Ireland due to articles she wrote about ghostly activities she experienced in the castle. She also documented her experiences with an entity she called ‘The Elemental’ and published them in journals such as Occult Reivew. Unfortunately, her husband discovered that she was published her writings and forced her to stop. She followed his wishes about not publishing but did not stop writing.

In 1922, Leap Castle was burned during the Irish Civil War. The family was forced to return to England for a short period of time and then back to Ireland to live with family in County Longford. This move back to Ireland was to get compensation for the burning of the castle through the 1923 Compensation to Property Act. Mildred claimed she lost at least two drawers of writings that she had hoped to publish in the future, placing a price of £4,327 on her loss. After many appeals by the government and by Jonathan Darby, the Darby family finally received £6,950 for the burning of Leap Castle. The family never returned to the estate and Mildred never published again under the name of Andrew Merry. She passed away on January 5, 1932.

Posted in General, gothic, Great Irish famine, History, literature, occult | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Special Collections policy change for visiting classes

Special Collections is making changes to our policy on groups visiting our department, effective immediately.

Generally, there are two situations where groups visit us, and we’d like to clarify our rules to ensure that visitors have a pleasant experience, and to adhere to best practices in the continued preservation of our rare books and manuscripts.

For groups of people visiting the department as part of a tour or demonstration of what The University of Tulsa Special Collections has in our holdings, no more than 35 people will be admitted to the Satin Reading Room.

For groups of people visiting the department to handle our collections as part of primary research or course instruction, the following rules apply:

  • No more than 18 people will be admitted to the Satin Reading Room.
  • Only 3 people may sit at a single table at a time.
  • Only one box from a collection will be placed upon a table at a time.
  • There are additional rules for the Satin Reading Room listed on our Guidelines sheet, available in the lobby.

Please let us know if you would like to bring a class or group to our department. Special Collections is open to the public Monday-Friday, 8am – 4:30pm.

Posted in General | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John Steinbeck

Happy (belated) birthday to John Steinbeck the renowned American novelist – born February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California. Most of Steinbeck’s writings are drawn from his life in the Salina Valley of California and include the social and economic issues of that time period. His parents’ occupations included a county treasurer and a former school teacher. In 1920 Steinbeck attended Stanford University. He dropped out of college in 1925 and decided to work as a manual laborer and freelance writer. His book, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), caught the attention of the public for its realistic portrayal of the Great Depression. After his rise to fame, Steinbeck served as a World War II correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He died on December 20, 1968 at his home in NYC.

February 5th was the eightieth anniversary of the publication of Of Mice and Men (1937). The title is said to be inspired by the poem “To a Mouse” written by Robert Burns in 1785. This novella depicts the story of two friends searching for ranch work during the Great Depression in the United States. The story depicts the struggle to fulfill the American dream. Special Collections and University Archives has fifteen different editions of Of Mice and Men, including the galley proofs for Of Mice and Men, acquired in 1960 alongside four other modern authors: William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Mansfield, and Thomas Wolfe. One of our Of Mice and Men editions was published by The Limited Editions Club in New York in 1970. It has an introduction by John T. Winterich and includes twenty-four water colors by Fletcher Martin.

The novella is considered to be based on Steinbeck’s own experience as a traveling worker. It made the Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. It was considered to have vulgar and offensive language. It is still required, however, to be read in many middle and high schools to this day.

I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads . . . every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.” Crooks to Lennie, Section 4, Of Mice and Men

Illustrations by Fletcher Martin


Posted in Acquisitions, Birthday, Collections, literature | Leave a comment

Elizabeth Jennings – 20th Century British Poet

Elizabeth Jennings was a British poet from the twentieth century. She spent most of her life in Oxford England and was educated at St. Anne’s College. For a few years she worked in advertising, libraries, and publishing, then devoted all of her energies to becoming a writer. In her lifetime she published over twenty books of poetry and worked as an editor and critic. Jennings’ Catholic faith was a major influence in her life and much of her poetry centers around this faith and devotion. Her first small booklet of poetry was published in 1953 simply titled Poems. Many of her poems exhibit deep contemplation on her own spirituality and physiological state.

Her poetry was praised for its technical craft and plainspoken objective style and she wrote for both children and adults. In 1955 she won a Somerset Maugham Award and the prize money allowed her to visit Italy. This expedition greatly influenced her life and poetry. In the nineteen-sixties Jennings suffered from mental illness and this difficult time produced one her most famous poem collections The Mind has Mountains, published in 1966. Despite, or perhaps because of, her traditional differences from the other contemporary poets, her works remained popular in spite of changing literary tastes and interests. Jennings died in 2001.

Here are two examples of her published poems.

In a Garden

When the gardener has gone this garden

Looks wistful and seems waiting an event.

It is so spruce, a metaphor of Eden

And even more so since the gardener went,


Quietly godlike, but of course, he had

Not made me promise anything and I

Had no one tempting me to make the bad

Choice. Yet I still felt lost and wonder why.


Even the beech tree from next door which shares

Its shadow with me, seemed a kind of threat.

Everything was too neat, and someone cares


In the wrong way. I need not have stood long

Mocked by the smell of a mown lawn, and yet

I did. Sickness for Eden was so strong.



The radiance of the star that leans on me

Was shining years ago. The light that now

Glitters up there my eyes may never see,

And so the time lag teases me with how


Love that loves now may not reach me until

Its first desire is spent. The star’s impulse

Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful

And love arrived may find us somewhere else.


The University of Tulsa Special Collections and Archives has a small collection of her notebooks and papers. This collections ranges from 1973 to 1992 and contains working drafts of 2,225 poems. These lined school notebooks are almost entirely full of her poetry with notes and corrections. She usually only wrote one poem per sheet of paper in a seemingly quick and assured manner.  Upon acquisition of this collection it was understood that all of the manuscripts were unpublished works. The themes and topics of these poems range from faith, artists, love, composers, emotions, writers, etc.

A draft poem found in the TU collection, box 4, folder 1 

Love Tricks

He was love – sick, would not speak

To anyone who spoke to him.

This went on week after week.

He was in a dream

Of darkness. Love was only pain.

Those around were worn out now.

This boy must face the world again,

How could he know how,

In less than three or six months, he

Would be fast in love once more?

He will learn soon not to say

“I love” until he’s sure.



“Elizabeth Jennings.” Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 15 Feb. 2002. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

Posted in Collections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

McFarlin Fellows Dinner and Dr. Randall Fuller

Last night, February 16th, members of the Special Collections department had the privilege of attending the first McFarlin Fellows dinner of 2017. The Fellows are an integral group of donors without whose help McFarlin Special Collections and Archives would not be able to purchase new collections that encourage intellectual development for not just TU and Tulsa but also for researchers from around the country and the world.

As always, the night began with a cocktail hour filled with conversation and catching up. Following the cocktail hour in the faculty study lounge, we moved downstairs for dinner. As dinner came to a close, Adrian Alexander, the Dean of McFarlin Library, informed the Fellows of the large number of researchers who have utilized Special Collections recently and the subjects they are studying. He then introduced the speaker for the evening: Randall Fuller, the Chapman Professor of English and Chairperson of the English Department at TU. Dr. Fuller presented his recently published book The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation. Since its publication at the end of January 2017, it has gained acclaim and has had such praise as “evocatively told” (The Atlantic) and descriptions of Dr. Fuller as a “lively, engaging writer, with an eye for detail” (The New York Times).

Dr. Fuller described to the gathered crowd how Darwin’s On the Origin of Species first came to America. Darwin himself sent 3 copies of the book to America in late 1859 to 3 separate acquaintances. One of these copies was sent to Asa Gray, a highly respected botanist at Harvard. His copy remains at Harvard University and Dr. Fuller was able to examine it while doing his research for the book.

The book opens with a small dinner party where Charles Loring Brace (cousin of Asa Gray who had borrowed Gray’s copy of Darwin’s book), Amos Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May Alcott) and Henry David Thoreau at Franklin B. Sanborn’s home on New Year’s Day 1860. These men began discussing the recent execution of John Brown which led them to discuss abolition. Charles Loring Brace began telling the others gathered of Darwin’s theory that all species of animals and plants had developed from a common ancestor. Although Darwin left humans out of his theory, it was easy for the men to assume it would apply to humankind as well and they used it to support their ideas of abolition. This was part of a much larger nationwide debate that would eventually lead to the Civil War. Dr. Fuller’s book follows essentially 3 threads of the effects of Darwin’s book in America: religion, politics, and ideology. If Dr. Fuller’s book is half as interesting and dramatic as his lecture, then it is an engrossing read.

For more information on Dr. Fuller and his other works see his page on the TU website at: To find out more about the McFarlin Fellows visit the library’s page on them: 





Posted in Fellows Events | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment