In 1917, the noted journalist and philologist H.L. Mencken published an article in the New York Evening Mail concerning the history of the bathtub in the United States. According to the Baltimore writer, known as much for his satire and acerbic wit as he was for his political reporting, Cincinnati was home to this tub. Mencken asserted that America’s first bathtub was introduced on December 20, 1842 by Adam Thompson who lived, in all places, Cincinnati, Ohio. Made of mahogany and lined with lead, the vessel was introduced by Thompson to his guests at a Christmas party, described how it worked, and invited the partygoers to take a dip. Four of them took him up on his offer, and the next day the invention was widely reported in the press. Continue reading Cincinnati’s Bathtub Hoax and a Missing Giant Tub
What do the papers of a local choral director and composer and the records of the Kennedy Heights Community Council have in common? All these records were added to the Urban Studies collection in the Archives and Rare Books Library in 2014. Finding aids are now available for both of the collections and they are open to the public for research.
The University of Cincinnati Libraries have created a website and digital archive that provides access to the historic Cincinnati subway and street images, a collection of over 8,000 photographic negatives and prints taken as part of a failed subway development project in the 1920s, and photographs documenting various street projects from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Available at http://digital.libraries.uc.edu/subway/, the “Cincinnati Subway and Street Improvements, 1916-1955” website includes construction images as well as both interior and exterior shots of private residences and city scenes. In addition to providing access to the historic prints and photographs, the website also documents the story of the failed subway project and includes a construction map with linked images.
With a grant awarded by the National Archives and Records Administration a few years ago, we were able to process our Theodore M. Berry Papers, a collection of nearly 200 boxes that documented the life and career of Ted Berry, UC alum, first African-American mayor of Cincinnati, and a national figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Communities around the nation are celebrating Black History Month in February, and on Tuesday The Ledger-Independent in Maysville, Kentucky ran a very nice article about Berry, based in large part on the website that was created for the grant project. Written for the newspaper by Marla Toncray, the article was picked up by Dawn Fuller in UC’s Public Information office.
Please join us for a public lecture featuring author Margo Taft Stever and Professor Hong Shen of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 ~ 10am-noon Baur Room (room 3880 Corbett Center for the Performing Arts, College-Conservatory of Music)
Together with James Taft Stever, Margo Taft Stever and Hong Shen published the book Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Asia, The Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods (Zhejiang University Press, 2012).
They are the fruit of our archival world, those strange objects, quirky provenance discoveries, and odd functions that lend surprise to the workday. For example, while attending a conference just last week, I was working one afternoon in a research library to delve into a few early documents related to our UC holdings. Taking a break and wandering down a dark hallway, I saw a partially-opened door, poked my head in, and saw two shrunken heads in bell jars. Not what I was looking for, but certainly more interesting than what I had been reading!
So it wasn’t unexpected at all when I returned home and saw that the Archives & Rare Books Library’s own anatomical oddity is in the public eye, something we’ve anticipated for the past several weeks. In its January issue, Cincinnati Magazine has a feature called “Artifact,” for which they used the jawbone of a mule from our Stephen Foster Collection. Having the mandible in the collection isn’t as bizarre as it might seem. The Foster materials were compiled by former UC president Raymond Walters during his tenure from 1932 to 1955. Walters was a Foster scholar of sorts and acquired the collection as part of his research, eventually donating it to the Libraries. There are the typical items in the Foster material that you would expect, such as sheet music, songbooks, images, and recordings. And the jawbone fits right in with these items because it is actually a musical instrument, used for percussion in the antebellum minstrel shows that traveled up and down the Ohio River, stopping in towns like Cincinnati to perform their songs and dances. A stick would be used to rasp up and down the teeth to provide the rhythm. But how and when Walters acquired the bone is a mystery. Continue reading ARB Jawbone Makes the Pages of Cincinnati Magazine
In the Archives and Rare Books Library, we receive all sorts of questions related to the university’s history. Some are simple to answer, but others can take hours of research and can require digging through many old files and records. In the Fall of 2013, Steven R. Howe, a professor in UC’s Psychology Department, contacted us regarding his research on the history of the Fellows of the Graduate School. His goal was to enhance the website for the Fellows of the Graduate School by creating a list of former fellows. Since no comprehensive list existed, ARB staff helped Howe locate Board of Trustees minutes, course catalogs, faculty directories, and biographical files on individual faculty members. His research resulted in a spreadsheet that lists all the Fellows of the Graduate School along with some biographical information on each of the fellows. This list, along with some other information resulting from his research, is now available on the Archives and Rare Books Library website: http://www.libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/archives/collections/fellows_graduate_school.html Continue reading Complete list of Fellows of the Graduate School Now Available Online
In the October issue that just hit the newsstands, Cincinnati Magazine has an illustrated article called “The City’s History in 50 Objects.” The magazine’s editors, writers, and fact-checkers began this endeavor several months ago, calling upon libraries and archives, museums and individuals, to submit ideas for items that help tell the story of the city’s heritage.
Of the dozens of suggestions they received, the editors decided upon one of the items in the holdings of the Archives & Rare Books Library: our freshman beanie from the turn of the 20th century. The provenance of our beanie is unknown; it’s just one of those things that eventually end up in the University Archives, but brings an interesting bit of history (rather like our life-size cutout of former UC president Nancy Zimpher that now stands guard in our Rare Books Room!). Continue reading ARB Makes the "History" Pages of Cincinnati Magazine!
The primary task of the Rapid Transit Commission and the 1917 Bauer Bill (Senate Bill 264, which authorized the formation of a commission for the design and construction of a rapid transit system) was not the construction of the subway alone, but the construction of Central Parkway, the “grand boulevard” that was to replace the Miami & Erie Canal. The Commission was also tasked with the secondary subway project to ensure that the Parkway was built, since the one could not commence before the other was underway, a means of ensuring the success of both.
When it was first proposed in a 1907 report, written by landscape architect George Kessler regarding the development of a city park system for Cincinnati, Central Parkway was meant to rival Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue and the grand boulevards of Europe, to be landscaped and lined by stately brownstones and mansions. Accented by decorative lampposts, fountains, trees and shrubbery, the new boulevard was to provide a park-like atmosphere for Cincinnatians, with sidewalks to stroll and benches on which to relax and enjoy the scenery of the Parkway as it wound its way north from Walnut Street in the downtown business district to Lundlow Avenue in the residential neighborhood of Clifton.
Woodward (“Woodie”) Garber’s designs for Christ Church Episcopal Church in Glendale, Ohio are now available for viewing at Archives and Rare Books Library of the University of Cincinnati. There is a specification notebook of the addition to the church, as well as numerous blueprints that cover every aspect of the building from the temperature control wiring to chapel windows and even the layout of trees on the grounds.
Garber (1913-1994) assisted in the design of Christ Church Epsicopal Chapel in 1959. He added the All Saints Chapel which produced space for 100 people along with classrooms and offices. This new addition connected the main church and the parish house by a glass corridor with an entrance colloquially known as the “Whale’s Mouth.” Continue reading Woodie Garber Blueprints Now Available