Tuesday, April 24, 2018


It is national poetry month, so we just put up a small display of some gems from the collection. The two jaw droppers are a manuscript poem by Phillis Wheatley in her immaculate hand, and the mimeograph copy of the Howl that Allen Ginsberg sent to Richard Eberhart. But there are some other amazing things as well: manuscript poems by Frost and Wordsworth, and beautiful printing of Rilke and others. 

Stop by and take a look. The case is just inside the front doors and open to the public.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

From Inner Space to Outer Space

Artificial heart modelWhen he was a child, Arthur R. Kantrowitz and his younger brother Adrian liked to build things.  Using old radio parts, they constructed an electrocardiograph on the table in their Bronx kitchen in the 1920s. As the brothers grew up their paths diverged. Adrian became a physician and heart surgeon, while Arthur turned to physics and engineering. However, throughout the 1950s and 1960s they continued to collaborate on mechanical inventions that would prolong the life of patients with heart failure, such as the inter-aortic balloon pump (1967) and the left ventricular assist device (1972).

Arthur’s real passion, however, was fluid mechanics, particular the behavior of super-hot gases in confined spaces, which included experiments in nuclear fusion, laser propulsion, magnetohydrodynamics, and supersonic high intensity molecular beams. His invention of the nose cone (“Means for and method of controlling attitude of re-entry vehicle”) for rockets and space vehicles was instrumental in getting both man and machine safely back to earth. Altogether, Kantrowitz held 21 patents including a wide-angle isotope separator, a space vehicle, an axial-flow compressor, and a high-powered laser.

1937 patent diagram for Castering WheelsOne of his earliest inventions, however, was more tangible. In 1937, Kantrowitz submitted a patent request related to caster wheels, in particular the behavior of shimmy in said wheels. He proposed that by permitting the wheel only to move a limited distance “laterally relative to the axis of the castering spindle…the tire deflection is partially neutralized continually and its interaction with the angular motion can be reduced enough to prevent shimmy."  Kantrowitz felt that this application could be of significant importance when it came to a “castering wheel for aircraft and other vehicles.” The patent was approved in September 1939.

Kantrowitz was a scientists his entire life. He was a chief physicist at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics from 1935-1946, after which he taught physics and engineering at Cornell University until 1956, when he founded the Avco-Everett Laboratory in Everett, Massachusetts, which he ran from 1956-1978. In 1978, after his retirement from Avco, he joined the faculty of the Thayer School of Engineering as a part time professor and senior lecturer.

Calculations on Health Care Costs
We recently re-processed Arthur Kantrowitz's papers and looking through them, it is apparent that he never stopped working to improve the life around him. That is probably why, in 1992, he took a look at health care costs, trying to solve a problem that has yet to be solved. Found in a folder entitled “Unfinished calculations,” it seems that he ran out of time. Arthur Kantrowitz died at the age of 95 in 2008, six days after his brother.

You can ask for MS-1097 to see more. As soon as the finding aid is ready, we will post a link here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Illustrated with a Poem

MacLeish text "Now we don't know" next to Migrant Mother imageWe seem to be obsessing over photograph books lately. Not sure why, but here is another one! In 1938, while the Depression still raged, the poet Archibald MacLeish made use of the Farm Security Administration's invitation to writers to make creative use of their vast photographic collections. MacLeish produced a poem, but rather than use the photographs to illustrate the poem, he reversed the usual format. On the dust jacket blurb, he writes: "Land of the Free" is the opposite of a book of poems illustrated by photographs. It is a book of photographs illustrated by a poem.

MacLeish text "We're wondering" next to image of woman on a cot in a tent
The "poem" is also referred to as a soundtrack, and similarly to how illustrations change the way you read a text, MacLeish's poem alters your vision of the photos.

MacLeish text about a riot next to image of a riot scene
It is a cool interplay of text and image well worth your time. Come in and ask for Land of the Free, Rare E169.M16.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cruise of the "Pandora"

Photo captioned "My last look at the North-West Passage"We have blogged about William Bradford's mammoth photographic ode to the North, Arctic Regions, in the past. We just found in our collections a book that could be considered its little cousin: Allen Young's Cruise of the "Pandora" from 1876. Like Arctic Regions, it uses actual pasted-in photographs as illustrations. The scope and size is considerably smaller (it contains just twelve photos in a book you you can easily hold in your hand), but it shows the same kind of environmental and cultural tourism Bradford displays.

Photo captioned Cape Riley where the first relics of Franklin's Expedition were found."There are photos of Cape Riley "where the first relics of Franklin's Expedition were found"; a sentimental "last look at the North-West Passage": and the quarter deck of the Pandora after a successful hunt. The book also shares Bradford's awe toward the Arctic. Even though the journey had the dual purpose to complete the Northwest Passage and search for Franklin's lost ships, to Young, the region was a place of wonder and beauty.

Photo captioned Quater-deck of Pandora--A mornign's bag
To take a look, ask for Stef G665 1875 .Y5.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Americans

Photograph from The Americans showing a segregated bus in New OrleansIn 1959, as the country began to wake up (again) to its legacy of racism, an artsy photography book by a Swiss-born photographer was issued by Grove Press. It was so unsettling. Robert Frank's masterpiece, The Americans, took a cold, critical look at 1950s America and exposed it in a style evocative of the 1930s Farm Security Administration photographs. It was scorching. Things were supposed to be better now--the Depression was over and we had won the war. But, somehow they weren't.

Cover of French edition of The AmericansJack Kerouac wrote a Beat-inspired introduction that gave the book a counter-culture kick and set Frank up as a poet employing the medium of film and light. What most people didn't realize was that the book of minimally captioned photographs, without text except for Kerouac's short intro, had been released a year earlier in France. The French version contains the same images, but also an extended essay on American history and culture by French poet Alain Bosquet. The essay contextualizes Frank's work and simultaneously uses the images as illustrations. The two books set side by side represent very different aesthetics attempting to do different things for different audiences.

Photo from The American of apartment windows in Hoboken, New Jersey
We are now fortunate to have both "firsts" in our collections. Ask for Rare E169.02 .F713 1958 for Les Américains. The Americans will be cataloged soon. Come take a look and see what has changed and what hasn't.

Friday, March 30, 2018

First Press in Vermont--in Dartmouth Hall

Opening page of An Oration on Early EducationWe have been moving though a very old backlog of minimally cataloged books and manuscripts. Most of them have to do with local history or Dartmouth and were in a collection called "Vault 4," a location that no longer exists except in the memories of some long-time staff members. We stumbled on a real prize this week, An Oration on Early Education. Okay, the text is a bit of a snoozer; it was one of the 1779 Dartmouth commencement addresses but was printed in "Dresden" by Alden Spooner. Spooner had been brought to Dartmouth the year before to act as printer for the College and the town. He operated his press in Dartmouth Hall for a little over a year, then he moved on to Windsor, Vermont. According to Ray Nash, who compiled a bibliography of Spooner's press at Dartmouth, this was the 32nd output of the press.

For a long time people thought the printing press Spooner used was the actual first press brought to the colonies--the same press that printed the Bay Psalm Book. That could be true, but there is no hard evidence to support it and many historians of early American printing doubt it. We do know it was the first press brought to Vermont and the press is now on display at the Vermont Historical Society.  Of course, when Spooner was printing in Dartmouth Hall, he was technically in Vermont, or at least the folks in "Dresden" and Bennington declared it so during a territorial spat involving New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The campus and community flipped back to New Hampshire shortly thereafter.

To take a look at the florid prose of the Oration, ask for D.C. History LB2325.W663 1779. If you want to learn more about Spooner's press, the best place to start if Ray Nash's Pioneer Printing at Dartmouth, D.C. History Z209.H3N3.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dartmouth's Unsolved Mystery

Headline article reading "Two Fire Companies, Volunteers Battle 5 Hours as Flames Gut Dartmouth Hall; Arson Hinted."For one of the most iconic buildings on Dartmouth's campus, Dartmouth Hall has quite the checkered history. If you've seen any of our other blog posts on the building, you know that it replaced another building that was demolished by students in the late-18th century, and that it burned down in 1904, only to be restored for a brief few decades of glory before burning a second time in 1935. Whereas the details of the building's destruction the first two times are known, the 1935 incident remains a mystery.

The 1935 fire began inside the building in the early hours of April 25th, and it took two fire companies and numerous volunteers five hours to wrestle the flames under control. The fire was supposed to have started in the basement, burning unnoticed until it began to spread through the ground floor and caught the attention of a student, who sounded the alarm. The fire quickly became dangerous, climbing through inaccessible shafts to the upper floors and, ultimately, the roof.

The fire wasn't the only thing to spread quickly, though, as rumors of arson began to sweep the campus like wildfire. Over many articles published in April 25th and 26th, bits and pieces of "evidence" began to accumulate: the fire had started conveniently at the base of a shaft that ran right up to the belfry - allowing the fire to cause maximum damage in minimal time. Several other fires were started in other buildings around the same time, including one in Beta Theta Pi, where the brother who discovered the flames claimed to have seen a figure fleeing the scene.

Photograph of Dartmouth campus with sites of fires marked, headline reads "Traveler Plane Covers Firebug's Trail."

A rash of articles suggested pyromania and questioned the possible motives of an arsonist, however, the College claimed to have found no solid ground for connecting the other fires lit on April 25 to the one in Dartmouth Hall. If anything, the College insisted at the time, the smaller blazes were some perverse prank on the part of a few students.

The file we have on the fire in 1935 mostly stops there. Other than the articles dating April 25th and 26th, there are only a few other documents, mostly focused on fundraising and plans for a restored building - this time to be made completely fireproof. Only one other article, dated June 2 and headlined "Clue Found to College Pyromaniac: School Authorities Admit Suspicion of Some Person in New Attempt to Destroy Buildings," suggests that the debate - and even the fires - may have continued.

To conduct your own investigation into this unsolved Dartmouth conspiracy theory, come by Rauner and ask for the Vertical File "Dartmouth Hall Fires and Rebuilding, 1935" - and while you're at it, check out some of the other files on the historic building!