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From the Stacks

“From the Stacks” offers a regular helping of Newberry sustenance for the hungry intellectual. Learn about one of our hidden treasures, meticulous maps, or enduring ephemera, highlighting the resonance between the Newberry’s 125 years of collecting and the timely—and timeless—issues of today. These items, covering a wide range of subject matter and form, are presented here in all their scholarly pathos and quirky splendor.

Henry James Letter; What Maisie Knew

Happy Birthday, Henry James!

Henry James

VAULT Wing ZP 883 .S8935

Henry James, a nineteenth-century behemoth in literary realism, published What Maisie Knew in 1897. This coming-of-age narrative, which follows a sensitive daughter and her divorced, frivolous parents, is an unflinching account of a dysfunctional family. Its pages plunge the depths of childhood guilt, fear, and growth. With astonishing precision and candor, James inhabits the consciousness of his eponymous heroine—from her earliest glimmerings of awareness to her final, comprehensive worldview.

September 1, 1939

Bringing Auden Full Circle

Carl E. Kurtz, W.H. Auden

Vault Oversize Wing MS 196

Bringing Auden’s Poetry Full Circle

In conjunction with one of our current exhibitions, “Exploration 2013: The 27th Annual Juried Exhibition of the Chicago Calligraphy Collective,” we look back at a past Newberry Purchase-Prize winner: “September 1, 1939” by Carl E. Kurtz, a work that attempts to recuperate a line of W.H. Auden’s poetry that the poet himself disavowed.

A Toast to Women's History Month

May Walden

Midwest MS Walden, Box 6, Folder 168b

May Walden, a Socialist Party organizer and activist based in Chicago, shrewdly capitalized on a number of current political issues when she turned this portable drinking cup into a 1912 presidential-campaign novelty for Eugene V. Debs, the 1912 Socialist candidate for United States president. Printed on the reverse side of this intriguing example of printing ephemera is the slogan “A Clean Cup for Clean Politics.” Debs ran for president five times between 1900 and 1920, the last time from federal prison, where he was incarcerated for his antiwar sentiments.

Ben Hecht's Oscar

And the Oscar Went To...

Ben Hecht

Midwest MS Hecht, Item NL 1106

The introduction of sound into film in 1927 made people who could write naturalistic dialogue Hollywood desiderata. Newspaper reporters, accustomed to hitting the pavement in pursuit of a story and parsing an array of social, cultural, and professional argot, followed the lure west to try their hands at screenwriting. Ben Hecht received encouragement from Herman Mankiewicz, who had just left the New York Times for what was billed as a new gold rush.

Love at Last

Sherwood Anderson

Midwest MS Anderson, Box 66, Folder 2494

Sherwood Anderson, author of Winesburg, Ohio, met his fourth (and last) wife, Eleanor Gladys Copenhaver, in 1928. Initially, their courtship was fraught with difficulties. Sherwood was considerably older (20 years); moreover, he was still married to his third wife, Elizabeth Norman Prall. By 1931, their once-secret romance was sitting-room chatter—and Eleanor’s reputation, formerly pristine, was in metaphoric tatters. But Sherwood was intent on marrying Eleanor and dedicated considerable energy to winning her hand.

President Lincoln Grants Chief Wanzopeah's Request

Focus: President Lincoln's Birthday

Chief Wanzopeah, President Lincoln

Ayer MS 3188

In February of 1864, Chief Wanzopeah of the Miami West addressed a letter to President Abraham Lincoln. “My Father,” he begins, “I have not bothered you for the last ten years and now I have one little favor to ask.”

Letter from Washington Hall to his wife, Jemima Hall

Focus: Black History Month

Washington Hall

Midwest MS Rodgers, Box 1, Folder 15

Not much is known about Washington Hall, the African American slave author of three 1836 letters to his wife, Jemima Hall. Hall’s owner was Levi F. Hall, a large landowner near Florida, Missouri, who had ten slaves in 1840 and probably produced cash crops like hemp and tobacco. When Levi Hall died in 1841, his son took over the farm and continued to own slaves. Whether Washington Hall was among them is not known.

The New Yorker's Idea of the Map of the United States

McCutcheon's View

John T. McCutcheon

Midwest MS McCutcheon, Box 13, Folder 382

Cartoons satirizing pretentious residents of New York reached an apotheosis with Saul Steinberg’s celebrated 1976 New Yorker cover, “View of the World from 9th Avenue.” Beyond the Hudson River lies a visual approximation of a certain provincialism: an empty plane populated by words recognizable as place names but without any distinctive characteristics.

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