The Bizarre Valentine Postcards of R.F. Outcault

By:  Kevin Grace

Postcard showing little boy crying and dogs looking onThe children are either drawn as freckle-faced street urchins or as the clean-smocked offspring of the hoity-toity.  The animals – a parrot, typically dogs – look on quizzically or crack wise.  And the occasion being Valentine’s Day, the messages are about the lovelorn and the hopeful.  These are the early 20th century postcards drawn by Richard Felton Outcault, a pioneer of the modern newspaper comic strip who gave America such literary figures as Buster Brown and The Yellow Kid.   And advertising being Richard Felton Outcaultwhat it was (and is), Buster and the Kid gave us books, shoes, coin banks, calendars, clocks, pencils, puzzles, and all manner of geegaws, selling the country on the all-American pastime of buying stuff.

But the postcards deviated from the overall merchandising a bit, although Outcault’s newspaper employers and their agents certainly generated a lot of them.  The holiday cards were something a little different, a reflection of the artist’s own attitudes to his comic Postcard showing girl kissing boy with the words, "O! Will I be your Valentine?creations.  R.F. Outcault was born in 1863, hailing from Lancaster, Ohio.  He came to Cincinnati in 1878 to attend the McMicken School of Design – which is now the Cincinnati Art Academy, though the University of Cincinnati certainly traces part of its heritage as well to the McMicken school, so in effect Outcault is a UC alumnus.  He graduated in 1881 and began his employment as a painter of bucolic scenes in the massive safes constructed by the Hall Safe and Lock Company.  Growing in local reputation, Outcault managed to land a job with the 1888 centennial industrial exposition in Cincinnati, one of the many local product fairs held in the 19th century, and which were begun as an outlet of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, founded in Child asking for a Valentine with parrot looking on1828 and now part of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.  At the exposition he painted scenes for Thomas Edison’s electric light displays, parlaying that into a career on the east coast with trade magazines.  Incidentally, while Edison was a telegraph operator in 1860s Cincinnati, he frequented the OMI library for his reading pleasure.

By 1894, Outcault was drawing cartoons for newspapers and magazines, particularly the New Postcard with the words "This is February 14" showing a girl and a dogYork World, the New York Journal, Judge, and the New York Herald.  It was during this time that he created his first famous character of his “Hogan’s Alley” cartoon, the Yellow Kid.  By 1902, R.F. introduced his famous Buster Brown and his faithful terrier, Tige.  And, his personal style of using panels and dialogue balloons became a standard in cartooning.

A boy in uniform giving a girl a Valentine's cardBut those strange Valentine cards?  They are unlike the sweet and lovey-dovey kids’ valentines of the late 20th century.  Instead, there is an edge to Outcault’s art, a bit of an insult here and there, and more rejection than true love.  In a way, they are an outgrowth of the so-called “Vinegar Valentines” of Victorian America.  Vinegar valentines Postcard with a girl and boy and the words "I adore you"were sarcastic and insulting, greetings designed to reject the offers of true love.  Competing with true romantic valentines, these little missives of misanthropy usually were sent anonymously to those one disliked, be they flirtatious bachelors or suffragists.   Outcault’s cards resemble them in a natural progression, one supposes, from invective to just strange little takes on the whole idea of Valentine’s Day.

Postcard with the words, "I'm thinking, thinking all the time. Of my heart's best love, my valentine." Showing young man and dogFor R.F. Outcault, his valentine postcards were done in his typical style and represent another aspect of what was a long and productive cartooning career.  Retiring from the hubbub of daily newspaper work, he spent the last decade of his life quietly painting and died in 1928.

 

A Jacobite Jukebox: Historical Narratives Preserved in Song

By: McKenna Corey, ARB Intern

It was hard for me to really conceptualize the true narrative power of song until I was reorganizing the Virginius C. Hall Jacobite Collection this week. As I was arranging a stack of books, I saw one that caught my eye. The spine read: The Scottish Jacobites and Their Songs and Music. Written in 1899 by Thomas Newbigging, the book recounts in detail not only the history of the Jacobite movements, but also their rich musical history.

Cover of Scottish Jacobites by Thomas NewbiggingThough I’ve never really had any musical talent (except some early experiences with the recorder), I thought it might be interesting to pursue some further research on the topic. Sure enough, there were further resources on the musical stylings of the Jacobites, and I decided to dig in! Though in this post I’ll only be referencing Newbigging’s book,  I’ll include a reading list of some other books I found here at the ARB that focus on the Jacobites’ music and song.

As I read further into Newbigging’s analysis of the songs, I realized how truly important music was to the Jacobites as they pursued their quest to return King James II and VII to the throne, and restore the power of the monarchy to the House of Stuart. The Jacobites were steadfast in their goals; they believed that James’ removal from power was an illegal move, and that he was their rightful ruler. Though the Jacobites were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempts to restore the House of Stuart, their music lives on and preserves their history.

This music served a variety of purposes. Some songs were poetic battle cries that motivated the Jacobites to pursue their goals, some were sad ruminations upon those that were lost, and some took a darkly humorous outlook on a seemingly hopeless situation. Regardless of their intended purposes, these Jacobite songs are poignant reflections on this period in history, including not only the Jacobites’ story, but their spirit. These songs are performed even today. I wanted to pick out a few of my favorites from Newbigging’s book, and include some audio so you can listen to them too! I didn’t think I’d be spending my week listening to bagpipes, but I can’t say I’m upset about it; rather, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Continue reading A Jacobite Jukebox: Historical Narratives Preserved in Song

Shakespeare’s Source for Romeo and Juliet

By:  Kevin Grace

“For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Romeo and Juliet illustrationThose are the final lines in Romeo and Juliet. The young lovers are dead, victims of their own passion and the enmity between the Capulets and the Montagues.  Though their story is set in Renaissance Verona, it could be a tale told in any culture around the world in any era of humankind.  For all the literary genius of William Shakespeare, scholars have long known that many of his plays were re-workings of stories he heard and historical accounts he read during his lifetime.  Whether it was for Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, Othello, or others, Shakespeare adapted these accounts for his stage in the late 16th and early 17th centuries that now have been performed countless times for more than 400 years, and over those centuries his own words have been adapted time and again.   To see King Lear presented in England or Ireland is not the same as seeing it performed in South Africa or India or China.  And of course, to see it once in England or America is not the same as seeing it once again on what might be the same stage in the same year.  William Shakespeare’s plays are paragons of beautiful language, infinite interpretation, and above all, compelling stories.

Shakespeare Extra Illustrated

Continue reading Shakespeare’s Source for Romeo and Juliet

Benjamin Gettler papers – Update on Progress

By:  Alex Temple, Gettler Project Archivist

I recently finished taking a complete inventory on Benjamin Gettler’s papers.  It’s been really interesting unpacking folders from such an ambitious and involved person.  The collection largely stems from his involvement in various organizations from 1960-2003, notably the Cincinnati Transit Company, S.O.R.T.A./Metro, American Controlled Industries (ACI), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and the University of Cincinnati.  There is also a large collection of political correspondence with letters dating as far back as 1959 (with Robert F. Kennedy), through 2012.

The bulk of the time spent so far has been going through each item in Mr. Gettler’s correspondence, which contains approximately 1000 items.  Every piece has been examined for a sender, recipient, date, subject, and format.  That was a lot of reading!  It’s been interesting to read Mr. Gettler’s interests come through in his political correspondence, as well as seeing the often-contentious battles regarding S.O.R.T.A.’s operations.  I must admit, it’s been hard to stop examining the documents and start writing about them. Continue reading Benjamin Gettler papers – Update on Progress

Jelly Beans and Politics

By:  Alex Temple, Benjamin Gettler Papers Project Archivist

I’m currently working through Benjamin Gettler’s political work, and have just finished the first of six folders on his political correspondence.  So far I’ve identified 150 items, representing approximately 30 years of his work, views, correspondence, and recognition.  Largely, Gettler placed his energy into the Republican party, notably towards the Reagan/Bush campaigns.  His campaign aid for politicians earned him various accolades, such as an honorary address to the House of Representatives from Representative Brad Wenstrup; invitations to Inaugural Balls for Ohio Governor Bob Taft and President Ronald Reagan, and an invitation to visit the White House in 1982.

White House InvitationWhite House Invitation Continue reading Jelly Beans and Politics

Edward Locker’s 19th Century Views of Spain

By:  Savannah Gulick, Archives & Rare Books Library Student Assistant

Title Page, Edward LockerOne of the collecting areas of the Rare Books Collection in the Archives & Rare Books Library is early travel and exploration.  Though this area of the holdings ranges from the 16th century to the 20th, many of the travel accounts are illustrated volumes from the 19th century.  During the Peninsular War (1808-1813) that was fought between Napoleon and Spain against Great Britain and Portugal for the control of the Iberian Peninsula, the English watercolorist and civil secretary of 1st Viscount Exmouth Edward Pellew, Edward Hawke Locker, recorded his tour of Spain through watercolors and etchings. Following his appointment as civil commissioner of Greenwich Hospital, Locker proceeded to publish his account in Views of Spain (1824).

Locker, the youngest son of Captain William Locker, was born on October 9, 1777 in Kent. He entered the military following an education at Eton in 1795 at the naval pay office. From that point forward, he would secure a series of promotions until his retirement as civil commissioner Palenciain 1844 when he suffered a mental breakdown. Remembered as a man of varied talents, Locker was a skilled artist and a smooth conversationalist, and, was a fellow of the Royal Society. His pictorial tour of Spain is just one of his many illustrated works documenting his travels abroad. The British Empire and travel literature in the 19th century often go hand in hand as many of Britain’s skilled officers were sent on foreign tours and often documented their exotic travels (see account of India: http://libapps.libraries.uc.edu/liblog/2018/05/art-and-empire-in-nineteenth-century-india/). Continue reading Edward Locker’s 19th Century Views of Spain

Ohio Digital Newspapers & Chronicling America Presentation in ARB on Thursday July 26

Come hear about Ohio’s digital newspaper project and learn how to freely access historic newspapers from around the country.

When:  Thursday July 26 from 11:00am-12:30pm

Where:  Archives and Rare Books Library, Seminar Room 814

Westliche Blatter mastheadDid you know that 90 Ohio newspapers including foreign language papers have been digitized and are now part of the Library of Congress’ free newspaper database Chronicling America?  Learn how to access the over 13 million pages of historic newspapers from 47 states and territories covering 1789-1963 on Chronicling America.  Jenni Salamon, Coordinator for the Ohio Digital Newspaper Program, and Bronwyn Benson, Quality Control Technician, from the Ohio History Connection will demonstrate basic and advanced search strategies and how to work with your results to find information about local, state, national and international events, people, places and culture. They will also provide a brief overview newspaper digitization process and an update on the digitization of Ohio’s foreign language newspapers.

The Colored Citizen mastheadTreasures from the Archives and Rare Books Library collections including items from the German Americana collection that complement the digitized newspapers will be available for viewing before and after the presentation.

 

The Benjamin Gettler Papers: An Introduction to Cincinnati’s New Public Transit

By:  Alex Temple, Gettler Project Archivist

Book on the Cincinnati Transit CompanyFor the past several months, work has continued on processing the Benjamin Gettler Papers donated to the Archives & Rare Books Library.  Gettler was a notable lawyer, businessman, and civic activist in Cincinnati, an international philanthropist, and a former member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.  I’ve been fascinated by the amount of public transit-related history in this collection.  An often over-looked part of urban history is transportation infrastructure.  Public transportation records can tell us not only where people lived, worked, and played, but also the routes taken and who the routes served.  They can also provide insight into how, where, or why neighborhoods changed over time.

Cincinnati’s public transportation, as we recognize it today, really began in 1873 when several horse-drawn tram systems merged to form the Cincinnati Consolidated Railway Company.  Nearly a decade later, it was renamed the Cincinnati Street Railway Company (Gettler, 2012).  It remained the Cincinnati Street Railway Company until 1952, after the company had fully transitioned from rail to rubber-tire service, becoming the Cincinnati Transit Company.

Gettler himself was a prominent figure in Cincinnati’s transit history, as his involvement started slightly before the switch from streetcars to buses and through the sale of the Cincinnati Transit Company to the City of Cincinnati, forming the South Ohio Regional Transit Association (S.O.R.T.A.), and finally serving on the S.O.R.T.A. board beginning in 2003.  A good deal of the collection in the Benjamin Gettler Papers comes from his involvement in public transportation, including items such as meeting minutes from the board of directors.  One in particular which I found exciting to study was the meeting minutes from the board of directors from 1952 to 1954. Continue reading The Benjamin Gettler Papers: An Introduction to Cincinnati’s New Public Transit

The Cycle of Knowledge and Do Unto Others: The Ouroboros of Blegen Library

By:  Kevin Grace

For several months from July of 2017 to April of this year, each day on the Archives & Rare Books Library’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ArchivesRareBooksLibraryUniversityOfCincinnati/, featured an architectural element of Blegen Library, from printer’s marks to the original floor tiles and terrazzo walls.  In the way the cultural Belgen Library exteriorheritage of the building was presented with its sculptures and carvings representing the history of the book and the legacy of education, every detail was explored with a capsule account of its meaning and importance.  The figures in the bas reliefs of “Ex Occidente Lux” and “Ex Orientale Lux” were freshly discovered.  The bronze symbols of knowledge over the front door were explained.  The human stories behind the plaster and bronze printers marks were revealed. Continue reading The Cycle of Knowledge and Do Unto Others: The Ouroboros of Blegen Library

The Cincinnati House of Refuge and Asylums for Children in 19th century Cincinnati

The Children's Home of Cincinnati, 1093
The Children’s Home of Cincinnati, 1903

In my previous blogs, I have explored the history of Cincinnati’s House of Refuge and the records of the institution that are still available.  Throughout my journey, I have been struck by the number of homeless children and children without adequate homes who were placed in this juvenile detention facility.  One of the questions that I have been exploring is why these children were placed in the House of Refuge and not in another institution.    My first thought was that there must not have been anywhere for these children to go, but a search for orphanages and other institutions in 19th Century Cincinnati has revealed that there actually were institutions that cared for children who had been abandoned, neglected, or whose parents were simply unable to care for them.  So why were children who were not juvenile delinquents living in the House of Refuge?  It seems that one reason may have been because there was not a standardized or centralized way of dealing with neglected, abused or homeless children in the city.[1]

Services for children in need in 19th century Cincinnati were controlled by different entities and the placement of children was often influenced by religion, ethnicity, and race.  Orphanages in Cincinnati were almost exclusively privately run and they were often affiliated with a particular religion.  Some took in children who were homeless or children who the administrators felt were not adequately cared for by their parents, but other institutions only accepted orphans whose parents were either both deceased or whose parents were contributing members.  In addition, only a few institutions in 19th century Cincinnati, including the House of Refuge, accepted African American children.  A closer look at a few of these early Cincinnati orphanages shows how their services differed and overlapped. Continue reading The Cincinnati House of Refuge and Asylums for Children in 19th century Cincinnati