Category Archives: American History Collections

New from RBML’s Archivists | September 2019

Newly Processed Collections

Cast in “A Musical Celebration of Broadway Honoring Patti LuPone”; The 27th Annual Black-Tie Benefit Gala for The Drama League at The Pierre Hotel, New York City; Photograph: © 2011 Richard Termine

Patti LuPone papers
A collection of scrapbooks, scripts, sheet music, and photographs chronicling the career of the Tony award winning actress and singer Patti LuPone.

#Loveinaction OH Collection
“The interviews of the #LoveInAction oral history collection were taken to document narrators’ experiences in the Student Interracial Ministry and SIM’s impact on their lives. The Student Interracial Ministry was founded in 1960 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Spurred by the civil rights movement, this student-run group strove to build greater understanding between people of diverse backgrounds by placing students in congregations to worship and live in different communities.”

Harriet Zuckerman papers
Correspondence, manuscripts, research files, drafts, memoranda, etc of the noted Columbia sociologist Harriet Zuckerman.

Manuel Ramos Otero papers

Manuel Ramos Otero

“Manuel Ramos Otero (1948-1990) is considered the first openly out homosexual writer from Puerto Rico. He resided in New York City for much of his adult life. In 1990, he returned to his hometown of Manatí, Puerto Rico, where he died of complications from HIV/AIDS. The collection includes personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts, notebooks and notes, reviews, photographs, and newspaper clippings. These materials range in date from Otero’s infancy to his death, 1948-1990. There is also a small section of the collection that contains material related to Otero posthumously, which dates from 1990 to 2007.”

Paul Levitz papers
Paul Levitz is a comic book writer, editor and executive. Currently the writer of Legion of Super-Heroes and Adventure Comics. He has served as a writer, editor, vice president, executive vice president, president and publisher at DC Comics. Over 40 years of comics scripts and Fanzines from the 1960s and 1970s.

Columbia University historical recordings, 1902-1985
A collection of phonograph records, reels of audio tape recordings, and motion picture films recording a variety of Columbia University academic and extra-curricular activities and events such as lectures; speeches, some at award ceremonies; commencement; installation of Nicholas M. Butler and Dwight D. Eisenhower as presidents of the University; King George VI of England during his visit, 1939; speech of England’s Queen Mother, Elizabeth in 1954; homecoming; football, the band; academic and alumni conferences; and radio programs under the auspices of Columbia.

Maison Française records, 1930s-2000s
Founded in 1913, the Maison Française of Columbia University was the first French cultural center established on an American campus. This collection consists of photographs, correspondence, event materials, fundraising records, calendars, publicity materials, programs, newsletters, interviews, and records related to a renovation project. It includes two scrapbooks containing mostly photographs of events at the Maison Française, such as the visits of Edith Piaf, Jean-Paul Satre, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer and Marcel Marceau.

Bard College Minutes, 1928-1944
This collection consists of the Board of Trustees and Faculty meeting minutes of St. Stephen’s College (1928-1935) and Bard College of Columbia University (1935-1944). In 1928, St. Stephen’s College, an undergraduate college of arts and sciences in Annandale-on-Hudson, was incorporated within the educational system of Columbia University as one of its colleges for undergraduates. In 1935, with former Columbia professor Donald Tewksbury as Dean, the College changed its name to Bard College of Columbia University, in honor of its founder, John Bard. In 1944, Bard opened its doors to women students and ended its association with Columbia.

Updated finding aids / collections

Virgil Thomson papers
There is now an online finding aid for the papers of music critic and composer Virgil Thomson.

Indusco Records
Oversize material in the Indusco Records is now fully described.

CFP: In Service to the New Nation: The Life and Legacy of John Jay

The John Jay Papers Project seeks paper proposals for a conference entitled “In Service to the New Nation: The Life and Legacy of John Jay,” to be held on September 24-25, 2020, at Columbia University. Dr. Joanne Freeman, Professor of American History at Yale University, will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. The conference coincides with a major exhibition of Jay documents and artifacts at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) and with the completion of The Selected Papers of John Jay, a documentary edition of Jay’s writings that appears as a seven-volume series published in print and digital formats. The current edition of the John Jay Papers Project commenced in the 1990s and built on the extensive collection of John Jay materials that RBML began amassing several decades earlier. The conference is sponsored by Columbia University’s Office of the Provost.

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Championing the Causes of Chinese Americans: The William Yukon Chang Papers

By Hong Deng Gao

This month, on September 4, William Yukon Chang (鄭玉安), died at the age of 103. Born in Honolulu in 1916, Chang earned a B.A. in Journalism from St. John’s University, Shanghai. In 1947, he left his job as the editor and columnist of The China Press, a daily English-language newspaper, in Shanghai, and moved to New York City.

From 1955 to 1972, he almost singlehandedly wrote, edited, and published the Chinese-American Times (CAT), a monthly English-language newspaper that drew the world’s attention to what was going on in New York’s Chinatown. The newspaper also provided a venue through which Chinese American communities everywhere — from Maryland to Tennessee, from Oregon to Vancouver — could read and write about their own lives.

A typical front page of the Chinese-American Times.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s recently acquired William Yukon Chang Papers contains a variety of rich materials on Chang’s extraordinary life and career. Chang’s grandparents emigrated to Honolulu from China. His family prospered from raising coffee and running a grocery store. They sent Chang to attend college in Shanghai after he had graduated from McKinley High School in Honolulu. Just before the Communist takeover, Chang left his job at The China Press and hitched a flight to the U.S. En route through Minnesota with an American friend, Chang met Tang Kou Mei (湯國梅), the first daughter of the Nationalist general Tang Enbo (湯恩伯) and an exchange student at St Mary’s College, Winona. The two got married in 1952 and raised three daughters, Dallas, Marina and Priscilla. Continue reading

What is this place? A short intro to RBML

That is the question we hear a lot at the beginning of the new academic year as students explore Butler Library and end up here, in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, aka “The Pink Palace.”

pink castle design and acronym rbml

Is there difference between a “castle” and a “palace?”

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is Columbia’s principal repository for primary source collections.  The range of collections in the RBML spans more than 4,000 years and includes rare printed works, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, papyri, and Coptic ostraca; medieval and renaissance manuscripts; posters; art; comics & cartoons, and oral histories.

Forming the core of the collections: 500,000 printed books, 14 miles of manuscripts, personal papers, archives and records, and 10,000 (and counting) oral histories.

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New from RBML’s Archivists | August 2019

rows of archival boxes in a white room

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections newly opened or updated by RBML’s Archivists.

New finding aids

Yehudah Joffe papers, 1893-1966, bulk 1920-1945
“The collection consists of Joffe’s correspondence, manuscripts/notes, and newspaper clippings. Joffe’s correspondence in Yiddish in English is both personal and professional, covering communication with institutions he was working at or hoping to work at. Joffe’s manuscripts contain drafts for lectures and notes on university seminars and lectures he attended under Prof. Roman Jakobson and others. Joffe’s newspaper clippings contain a selection of clippings relating to Prof. Peck, his undergraduate advisor, and miscellaneous clippings.

Agudath Israel Records, 1933-2008, bulk 1940-1947
” This collection consists of autograph signed letters, typed signed letters, postcards, telegrams, printed material, programs, newspaper clippings, and written public announcements pertaining to the Agudath Israel movement in America, Eretz Israel/Palestine, and Lithuania. Most materials are dated during the 1940s (wake of WWII). Most letters are addressed to Rabbi Aaron Ben Zion Shurin. The materials are mainly in Hebrew and English with some in Yiddish. Most materials concern the role of Orthodox Jewry in the wake of the Holocaust.”

Andrew Alpern Collection of Edward Gorey Materials
“A collection of original artwork, published books, printed ephemera, and branded merchandise by the writer and artist Edward Gorey (1925-2000), assembled by Andrew Alpern.”
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United Bronx Parents – A Commitment to Service

By Rachel Klepper

(Part II of II. Read part I.)

Founded in the 1960s by Evelina López Antonetty (1922-1984) as a movement for school reform, United Bronx Parents developed into an important grassroots social-services provider.

Over time, the networks and power that Antonetty built transformed into an organization that provided public health services to Bronx residents and advocated for solutions to issues that residents faced, including substance abuse, hunger, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS. There are many reasons for these shifts, and UBP was certainly impacted by changes to neighborhood needs, local and national politics, and the nonprofit sector. The United Bronx Parents Inc. Records offer the opportunity to look to two internal factors that contributed to these changes: the staffing and management of UBP and its funding sources.

Executive director Lorraine Montenegro posed with a poster of her mother and UBP founder, Evelina López Antonetty

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United Bronx Parents – A “Community Grown Organization”

By Rachel Klepper

(This is Part I of a two-part story. Read part II.)

In 2018, the Lorraine Montenegro Women and Children’s Program Facility opened in a new building at 773 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx. With $12 million from New York State, this residential recovery center was built on the site where United Bronx Parents (UBP) began and worked for decades to improve the health and education of its community. The original building was called “La Escuelita,” and it was known in the Bronx as a hub for activism, community development, and social services. The new facility was named after UBP’s second executive director, Lorraine Montenegro, who died in 2017 in the aftermath of Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria. The RBML’s newly processed collection documents UBP’s path from its founding and the legacy that the new facility sought to honor.

Photograph of United Bronx Parents marching in a New York City parade, c.2000

In 1965, United Bronx Parents began as a grassroots coalition of Puerto Rican parents and activists concerned with the quality of their South Bronx public schools. Founder Evelina López Antonetty (1922-1984) brought her experience as an organizer and as a parent together to call for changes to an unequal and segregated school system. United Bronx Parents led workshops that trained parents to advocate for bilingual schools, more relevant curricula, and free lunch, among other demands. They called for “parent power,” joining the many Black and Latinx activists that fought for community control in the 1960s. These efforts led to the decentralization of the New York City school system in 1969. Other successes included the founding of the first bilingual public school in New York City, and a free summer lunch program that fed thousands of children. Continue reading