So many great things to post about today. Shorpy has more great early 20th-century images of DC:
Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Red Cross ambulances at Washington Monument." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
September 1935. Washington, D.C. "Front of Negro home near Capitol. Interiors of these homes vary little. A chair or two and a table, a bed and perhaps an extra mattress on the floor cares for six to ten people." 35mm nitrate negative by Carl Mydans for the Farm Security Administration.
Fuck Yeah Women’s History has an anti-suffrage cartoon from 1915, the mug shot of Julia Aaron, one of the Freedom Riders, and the Motorcycle Queen of Miami, Bessie Stringfield.
An old anti-suffragist cartoon shows a white man being thrown out of a brick building onto the street. The brick building shows three white women looking out the window at the man being thrown out onto the street, and they seem pretty pleased with the situation. The man is well dressed in a top hat and coat and looks incensed at the way he has been treated as he looks back at the building and the women in the doorway that are looking happy with themselves. These women are wearing votes for women buttons and are carrying women’s rights pamphlets. On the buildings are signs that say “Man? The missing link”, “No men admitted”, “Home for lost stolen or strayed suffragettes”, “man disgraces the animal world” and “down with the men”. At the bottom of the image are red words that read “girls I didn’t marry”.
Julia Aaron, 1961. Julia Aaron didn’t just participate in the Freedom Rides, her family also housed some of the many people who arrived in New Orleans in order to integrate inter-state buses and trains.
“Known as the Motorcycle Queen of Miami, Bessie Stringfield started riding when she was 16. She was the first African-American woman to travel cross-country solo, and she did it at age 19 in 1929, riding a 1928 Indian Scout. Bessie traveled through all of the lower 48 states during the ’30s and ’40s at a time when the country was rife with prejudice and hatred. She later rode in Europe, Brazil, and Haiti and during World War II she served as one of the few motorcycle despatch riders for the United States military.”
Black Vintage has a beautiful photograph by Dorothea Lange from 1945:
It’s so exciting to own a new President refrigerator. 1954.
It’s new, it’s practical, it’s pegboard! 1954
But the winner of the “Dang, that is awesome” award for the week goes to the Library of Congress for their National Jukebox project.
The goal of the Jukebox is to present to the widest audience possible early commercial sound recordings, offering a broad range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.
The Jukebox contains over 10,000 recordings between the years 1901 and 1925. You can browse the collection by genre, artist, date, and even target audience, or you can listen to one of their playlists. They even feature a Day by Day search function that allows you to find songs that were recorded on a specific date. On my birthday in 1904, this version of Auld Lang Syne was recorded:
As I’ve noted elsewhere, early 20th century suffragists were quite adept at using visual media to support the cause of women’s enfranchisement, producing postcards that challenged the idea of gender inequality. These women activists also produced a number of stamps that could be and were affixed to envelopes to promote the movement! While the western states were generally supportive of the move for equal suffrage (see image above), suffragists extended their activism to focus on the heavily-populated eastern states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York in the mid-1910s to generate support east of the Mississippi River.
After the 19th Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution in 1920, the federal government took up the cause of supporting women suffragists, producing stamps of their own, including this 3 cent stamp featuring Susan B. Anthony on August 26, 1936.
Ellen Willis’ daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz, created a fantastic online archive of her mother’s work. Ellen Willis was one of the co-founders of the 1960s women’s liberation group The Redstockings and the first rock critic for the New Yorker. Aronowitz has archived a number of her mother’s writings on the topics of sex, religion, and rock criticism (among others) that are a fabulous view into the mind of Willis and other women in the 1960s and 1970s. From her humorous piece Classical and Baroque Sex in Everyday Life (The Village Voice, 1979):
There are two kinds of sex, classical and baroque. Classical sex is romantic, profound, serious, emotional, moral, mysterious, spontaneous, abandoned, focused on a particular person, and stereotypically feminine. Baroque sex is pop, playful, funny, experimental, conscious, deliberate, amoral, anonymous, focused on sensation for sensation’s sake, and stereotypically masculine. The classical mentality taken to an extreme is sentimental and finally puritanical; the baroque mentality taken to an extreme is pornographic and finally obscene. Ideally, a sexual relationship ought to create a satisfying tension between the two modes (a baroque idea, particularly if the tension is ironic) or else blend them so well that the distinction disappears (a classical aspiration). Lovemaking cannot be totally classical unless it is also totally baroque, since you can’t abandon all restraints without being willing to try anything. Similarly, it is impossible to be truly baroque without allowing oneself to abandon all restraints and so attain a classical intensity. In practice, however, most people are more inclined to one mode than to the other. A very classical person will be incompatible with a very baroque person unless each can bring out the other’s latent opposite side. Two people who are very one-sided in the same direction can be extremely compatible but risk missing a whole dimension of experience unless they get so deeply into one mode that it becomes the other.
Hallie Q. Brown (Hallie Quinn), 1859-1949, compiled and edited by Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction. Xenia, Ohio: Aldine Pub. Co., 1926.
Perhaps the site’s biggest strength, however, comes from the “Oral Histories of the American South” collection, which contains 500 oral history interviews gathered by historians from the Southern Oral History Program. Since 1973, the SOHP has conducted over 4,000 oral history interviews with a variety of Southern people, “from mill workers to civil rights leaders to future presidents of the United States.” These oral histories are organized into six categories, each holding hundreds of hours of first-person narratives about their relative topic. The Charlotte collection contains a number of interviews dealing with the integration of West Charlotte High School from a traditionally black school to an integrated one. For researchers interested in civil rights history, the Civil Rights series provides additional primary resources on African American employment and the integration at Lincoln High School in Chapel Hill. The interviewees in the Southern Women collection reflect on women’s employment, activist and life experiences, while the Southern Politics series includes “many interviews with prominent politicians from across the political spectrum. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Andrew Young appear in this collection along with Lester Maddox, George Wallace, and Jesse Helms.”
Dan Sayre Groesbeck "Shall We Be More Tender with Our Dollars Than with the Lives of Our Sons". Chicago: Illinois Litho. Co., [1917.
As this site is a collection of primary source materials, there’s not much in the way of historical interpretation happening. Which for most historians and researchers serves its purpose well – the vast breadth and depth of the collections allow the researcher to find a ton of information from a variety of perspectives without being mediated through additional interpretive lenses of others. When dealing the Southern history – as with any contested histories – it’s refreshing to have this diverse set of resource materials available without feeling like the collection is missing vital voices.
The website, though dense with information and material, is incredibly easy to navigate. It encourages visitors to search for specific topics or categories, or to browse at leisure within a specific subject area. The design of the site includes a number of links from the home page that visitors can start their search from, including Highlights, Collections, Titles, Subjects, and New Additions. The site also includes a page of Classroom Resources that includes lesson plans in NC, US, and Afro-American histories.
The Documenting the American South website would be a great resource for most visitors, though the site seems most suited for scholars, researchers, and educators. Although the breadth of the primary source material would be suitable for scholars researching specific topics or perspectives relating to Southern life, the site is very user-friendly in its construction. In addition to providing subject guides for browsers (the people, not the computer kind) can peruse (my favorites include Explore Women’s History in North Carolina and The diary of a female plantation owner in South Carolina), the site includes guides to visitors who don’t possess advanced researching skills, such as a Guide to Using the Subject Index.
: Woman\’s American Baptist Home Mission Society, c1919.”]
Mary McLeod Bethune, Women of Achievement: Written for the Fireside Schools Under the Auspices of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society. [Chicago, Ill.
Documenting the American South has taken great strides in the use of new media, starting with the digitization of hundreds of oral histories. The quality of the audio files range from moderate to excellent, which is fairly impressive when you consider the oral history project started in the early 1970s and may not have been conducted with the highest-end of equipment. Many of the Highlights include audio podcasts that allow the visitor to listen along while browsing through documents, and visitors can subscribe to the RSS feeds to be alerted when new podcasts become available.
Along with the oral history audio recordings, many of the images of scanned documents are of a relatively high quality, as is the written descriptions that accompany the artifacts. Finally, Documenting the American South includes a link to a 23-page .pdf file of comments readers have shared with the site’s creators, opening the door to an interactive conversation between collections manager and researcher. Documenting the American South is a fantastic resource for researchers of all levels to engage with the past in the South, and they are sure to come away from the site having found something unique and unexpected.
Emmett J. Scott (Emmett Jay), 1873-1957 and Lyman Beecher Stowe, 1880-1963 Booker T. Washington, Builder of a Civilization. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1916.