A Fond Farewell

Jennifer Allan Goldman has been the institutional archivist at The Huntington for the last eight years.

Jennifer Allan Goldman has been the institutional archivist at The Huntington for the last eight years.

Today is my last day as institutional archivist and curator of manuscripts at The Huntington. Just over eight years ago, I came here to be the first person to hold the official title of “institutional archivist.” Though various curators before me were responsible for the records of The Huntington’s various departments, I was the first person to have the title on my business card. I experienced a pretty steep learning curve—some of the volunteer docents at The Huntington had been studying and sharing the history of the institution before I was born. But through their knowledge, the amazing collections, and my fellow staff members, I quickly got up to speed.

One of my favorite things to do is test some of the myths that have floated around The Huntington for decades. Though this sometimes means disproving some favorite stories, having documentary evidence to support our claims makes us a better place and allows for a deeper understanding of our history and the lives of the men and women involved. In my first year here, a docent asked about Arabella Huntington’s receiving a speeding ticket outside of Paris, France—a story mentioned in a Smithsonian magazine article. I took it as a personal challenge to prove or disprove this story.

I went to the Pasadena Public Library to find a copy of the article, but the author did not cite a source. I chalked it up to another Arabella myth (there are many) and moved on to other research questions. Nearly a year later, a researcher going through the Henry E. Huntington Collection mentioned a letter from Henry’s daughter Marian, dated 1901, in which she writes: “Aunt Belle and Archer [her son] have developed quite a craze for automobiling, and have both been arrested for going over time.” Questions such as these would often come up, only to be answered months later by another person looking for something unrelated. Unexpected discoveries of this sort were like little surprise presents.

A 1901 letter from Marian Huntington to her father, Henry E. Huntington, in which she mentions that Henry’s wife, Arabella, and Arabella's son, Archer, have received speeding tickets while driving outside of Paris, France.

A 1901 letter from Marian Huntington to her father, Henry E. Huntington, in which she mentions that Henry’s wife, Arabella, and Arabella’s son, Archer, have received speeding tickets while driving outside of Paris, France.

There are still a few myths that will remain with us: Henry’s buying and building the Japanese Garden to woo Arabella; Henry’s asking Myron Hunt to move the site of his new house to accommodate a large English oak, which is supposedly the reason why the house and the North Vista are not perfectly perpendicular. I was never able to find concrete evidence to prove or disprove these legends, and they are such amusing stories that they pass easily between staff, docents, and visitors. I leave these myths for others to confirm or dispel.

Another favorite part of the job has been connecting researchers and visitors with the collections: hearing Sam Watters talk about how the drawings of Henry Huntington’s proposed house done by E. S. Cobb compare to the drawings by Myron Hunt, and how both connect to houses of the day; seeing visitors connect to the photographs and letters in the exhibition “Cultivating California: Founding Families of the San Marino Ranch,” especially some fourth graders who were very interested in General George Patton’s report cards; receiving e-mails from scholars complimenting our finding aids, which led them to exactly the item they were hoping to find. Seeing these connections happen confirmed that my work was furthering research and expanding the ability of people to understand the world around them, which is why I first went into the information profession.

While creating the permanent installation “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” the curators and Library staff were asked to name their favorite item in the Library collections. I have two rather disparate favorites: our amazing miniature book collection and the box of material in the Los Angeles Times Records related to the birth and growth of the National Football League’s Pro Bowl.

Miniature Shakespeare books in a six-inch-high, rotatable bookcase.

Miniature Shakespeare books in a six-inch-high, rotatable bookcase.

As the owner of a few mini books, I appreciate how much information can be contained in books that fit in your hand. My tiny Webster’s is abridged—but not as much as you would think. The craftsmanship that goes into creating a book half the size of my iPhone is astonishing, especially when you realize that some of the earliest mini books were printed without the aid of a computer or other machinery. Plus who can resist the complete works of Shakespeare in a six-inch-high, rotatable bookcase?

The Pro Bowl material is just so anachronistic to most people’s image of The Huntington. It includes early correspondence between NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and the Pro Bowl’s co-director Glenn Davis, as well as an early TV contract for the game and player contracts stipulating exactly how much each man received for food each day. This box contains the first twinklings of the NFL as we know it and includes requests by star players for special helmets and cleats and enormous (for the time) television revenue. As a lifelong football fan, I considered the day I found this box a red-letter day, and I may have spent a little too much time reading the folders while I cataloged.

Though I am off to new pursuits, The Huntington holds such an important place in my heart. I look forward to returning—as a Member—for the opening of the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center and spending time appreciating our collections from the other side of the desk.

Box of material in the Los Angeles Times Records related to the birth and growth of the National Football League’s Pro Bowl.

Box of material in the Los Angeles Times Records related to the birth and growth of the National Football League’s Pro Bowl.

Today is Jennifer Allan Goldman’s last day as institutional archivist and curator of manuscripts at The Huntington.

More Than Meets the Eye

New painting acquisitions needing care now make a stop in The Huntington's conservation lab before being put on view. In the case of The Three Witches, there was more than met the eye.

New painting acquisitions needing care now make a stop in The Huntington’s conservation lab before being put on view. In the case of The Three Witches, there was more than met the eye.

In 2012, The Huntington received a $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to develop an integrated preservation program that would serve both the Library and Art divisions. Previously, only books and works of art on paper received treatment in the preservation department’s conservation laboratory, with paintings being cared for by outside conservators. The Huntington has now hired a paintings conservator and is in the process of developing a dedicated conservation lab. In this post, paintings conservator Christina O’Connell describes her work on a recent acquisition, Anglo-Swiss painter Henry Fuseli’s The Three Witches (1782).

Fuseli’s The Three Witches came to the painting conservation lab for treatment shortly after its arrival at The Huntington. I needed to stabilize some flaking paint and clean the painting before it went on view in the Huntington Art Gallery. Almost immediately, I could see there was a story hiding under the surface, including changing formats and multiple layers.

The surface of The Three Witches was rough, with a pebbly texture. Previous assessments had attributed that to the heavy, coarse canvas. But I had another theory. Could The Three Witches be double-sided? Paint from the back of the painting could have seeped through the weave, explaining the nubby surface. If so, it wouldn’t be the only example where Fuseli painted on both sides of his canvas. Fuseli’s most famous work, The Nightmare, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, is double-sided. I’ve been in ongoing communication with conservation colleagues at the DIA to discuss the technical similarities between our Fuseli and theirs.

By shining bright light across its surface, the painting more clearly shows the pebbly texture and a vertical seam where a new strip of canvas was added along the left side.

By shining bright light across its surface, the painting more clearly shows the pebbly texture and a vertical seam where a new strip of canvas was added along the left side.

One technique I used to emphasize the texture and detail of The Three Witches was raking light, which involved sweeping a bright light across the painting’s surface. The bright, oblique light made it easier to document in photos the painting’s pebbly texture, as well as another curiosity—a vertical seam on the left side (more on that later).

I illustrated my theory about a double-sided painting by recreating the effect with a scrap of new canvas. I took a small piece of canvas with the same weave structure as The Three Witches and applied white acrylic paint on the back with a stiff brush. The white paint made it really easy to see and photograph the texture (see the related image). The small mock-up even had the same vertical and horizontal ‘pebble’ pattern as The Three Witches due to the warp and weft of the canvas.

I have no doubt there’s something on the other side of The Three Witches, but here’s the challenge: the painting was lined with a fabric support during a previous restoration and we can’t see what’s underneath. In order to get a better idea, we’ll have to x-ray it. That would give us a view of all the layers, including the ones now hidden from view. Once the painting comes off display, we’ll discuss plans to carry out x-ray analysis.

To illustrate her theory of a double-sided painting, the conservator applied white paint to the back of this canvas sample. The resulting texture gives credence to her theory.

To illustrate her theory of a double-sided painting, the conservator applied white paint to the back of this canvas sample. The resulting texture gives credence to her theory.

My examination also revealed other details that add to the technical complexity of The Three Witches. The seam along the left side of the canvas had old tack holes on the seam’s right side. The only explanation is that the canvas was once attached to a smaller stretcher and then was extended for the current composition. To me, this was additional evidence that the canvas was reused. To what extent remains a question. And is there something complete on the other side?

After my examination was finished, I began the conservation treatment, which includes stabilizing some small areas of flaking paint, removing layers of dirt and discolored varnish, and “inpainting,” which is filling in areas where paint is missing due to damage and abrasion. Removing the dark varnish dramatically improved the look of the painting. The varnish had obscured subtle details, rendering the composition flat and less three-dimensional. During the cleaning process, even more surprises emerged. In the upper left corner, I found something hidden under several layers of darkened varnish and at least two campaigns of old overpaint (painting from a previous restoration covering up some original paint):  a small, moon-like shape. The red “moon” is badly damaged, but I could see the edges of the entire shape, giving me an understanding of what it may have looked like. We have lots of questions about this mysterious moon, including whether it was intended as part of The Three Witches, or if it was part of an earlier canvas that was re-used.

Using a mixture of organic solvents and cotton swabs, the conservator removed thick layers of discolored varnish.

Using a mixture of organic solvents and cotton swabs, the conservator removed thick layers of discolored varnish.

I plan to conduct one additional test—cross-sectional analysis. This involves taking tiny samples of all the layers of the painting, embedding it in a polymer or resin, and sanding it from the side to understand the structure and order of all the paint layers. As with the x-ray analysis, we’ll have to wait until after the exhibition to do this.

The Three Witches currently hangs in the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery. Now that this initial phase of conservation treatment is complete, you can better enjoy the dramatic lighting of Fuseli’s composition and the bold, energetic strokes of paint. Come and see if you can find all the details mentioned in this post!

Related content on Verso:
“Which Witch?” (October 10, 2014)
“A Magic Brew?” (October 31, 2014)

Christina O’Connell is senior paintings conservator in the preservation department at The Huntington.

A Toast to Vesalius

Visitors to the Library’s permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science” can see an original plate from Epitome, then touch the copy, imagining how medical students of the time peered into the body.

Visitors to the Library’s permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science” can see an original plate from Epitome, then touch the copy, imagining how medical students of the time peered into the body.

As champagne corks pop on Dec. 31 to welcome the New Year, many in the field of medicine will be raising a glass to Andreas Vesalius (1514–64), born 500 years ago on this day. A Flemish-born anatomist and physician, Vesalius wrote one of the most influential books on human anatomy, De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body, 1543). Among those celebrating will likely be many of the participants at “Vesalius & His Worlds: Medical Illustration during the Renaissance,” a conference being held at The Huntington from Dec. 12–13, 2014.

“The Renaissance was a turning point in medical illustration,” said Jeanette Kohl, associate professor of art history at the University of California, Riverside and the conference convener. “Artists began using direct observation, including dissection, to understand anatomy, instead of relying on classical texts,” said Kohl. The conference brings together rare book collectors, curators, art and cultural historians, and physicians to explore the changing concepts of the human body from the early Renaissance to the 17th century, using the work of Vesalius as a point of departure.

The text on the sarcophagus from this 1555 edition of De humani corporis fabrica reads “Vivitur ingenio, catera mortis erunt” (“Genius lives on, all else is mortal.”) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The text on the sarcophagus from this 1555 edition of De humani corporis fabrica reads “Vivitur ingenio, catera mortis erunt” (“Genius lives on, all else is mortal.”) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica was a groundbreaking work, containing highly detailed drawings showing the organs and structure of the body. The Huntington owns a first edition of De fabrica and a shorter, more affordable student version published the same year, called Epitome. This illustrated summary of the larger work contains two plates with layered flaps that could be cut out and re-assembled to understand the placement of internal organs. One of these is on view in The Huntington’s permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.” A facsimile with movable parts lies next to it, where visitors can return to the days of Renaissance, imagining the excitement of peering into the human body, albeit virtually, one layer at a time.

The Huntington also holds two second editions of De humani corporis fabrica, published in 1555, the second of which came from the Burndy Library, a collection acquired in 2006 and composed of some 67,000 rare books and reference volumes in the history of science and technology.

On the title page of the 1543 De humani corporis fabrica, Vesalius performs a dissection in an anatomical theater in Padua, Italy. Did John Stephen van Calcar, a pupil of Titian, make this illustration? The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

On the title page of the 1543 De humani corporis fabrica, Vesalius performs a dissection in an anatomical theater in Padua, Italy. Did John Stephen van Calcar, a pupil of Titian, make this illustration? The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Renaissance saw artists such as Titian (c. 1448-1576), Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), and Michelangelo (1475–1564) conducting their own investigations into how to depict human anatomy. Da Vinci was said to have dissected human corpses as part of his artistic training. So did Michelangelo, a detail used to dramatic effect in Irving Stone’s 1961 biographical novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy, in which the driven artist sneaks around the Church of Santo Spirito in Florence, dissecting bodies supplied by a friendly prior.

Yet it was Vesalius who gathered the evidence and then systematically challenged the teachings of classical authorities such as Greek physician Galen (Aelius Galenus, 129–ca. 216). For centuries, Galen dictated certain beliefs about anatomy, even when there was little evidence to prove them.

As chair of surgery and anatomy at the University of Padua, Vesalius dissected bodies in front of his students, encouraging direct observation as the only reliable practice. This work led Vesalius to conclude that Galen must have used animals for his dissections, not humans. Vesalius made several corrections to the beliefs of his day, showing for example that the human sternum had three, not seven segments, and that blood vessels originated in the heart, not the liver. Still, when it came to organizing the seven books of De Fabrica, Vesalius respected the order imposed by Galen: bones, muscles, veins and arteries, nerves, viscera, heart, and brain.

Only 28 when he published De humani corporis fabrica in 1543, Vesalius is considered the founder of modern human anatomy. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Only 28 when he published De humani corporis fabrica in 1543, Vesalius is considered the founder of modern human anatomy. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

One of the elements that set De Fabrica apart from other works of anatomy was the exquisite detail and refinement of its drawings. Debate continues regarding who illustrated the books, with many believing it was John Stephen van Calcar, a pupil of Titian, who had produced three drawings for an earlier Vesalius work, Tabulae Anatomicae Sex (1538). Evidence, however, is limited.

The Huntington holds a preliminary pen drawing, a so-called third or last stage, for the frontispiece of De Fabrica, signed “Joh. Stephanus. inv. 1540 Venetiis.” The work has been under careful scrutiny to assess its authenticity.

Might this week’s conference reveal new evidence?

Diana W. Thompson is a freelance writer based in South Pasadena, Calif., and a regular contributor to Huntington Frontiers magazine.

Requiem for a Novelist

The novelist Kent Haruf.

The novelist Kent Haruf.

One of the greatest rewards of my job as a literary manuscripts curator is meeting and becoming friends with the authors whose papers I collect, and one of the sweetest of these friendships has been with the American novelist Kent Haruf.

Kent passed away peacefully at his home in Salida, Colorado, on Nov. 30, 2014, at the age of 71. He is best known for his novels Plainsong, Eventide, and Benediction, which take place in the fictional small town of Holt, Colorado. According to his British publisher, Pan Macmillan, he created “beautifully restrained, profoundly felt novels” that reflect “a man of integrity, honesty and deep thoughtfulness.”

His fiction tells uncomplicated stories of small-town life. Much like the plainsong whose unadorned musical style suggested the title of his breakthrough novel, these stories build cumulative force, conveying profound truths in a seemingly simple, unadorned prose style that gradually culminates in a richly conceived melody of revelation.

In honing his craft, Kent looked to major writers such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Sherwood Anderson, whose structure for Winesburg, Ohio inspired him to adopt shifting points of view to tell the stories in Plainsong.

Some of Kent Haruf’s notes for his novel Plainsong, ca. 1998-1999, in the collection of the Huntington Library.

Some of Kent Haruf’s notes for his novel Plainsong, ca. 1998-1999, in the collection of the Huntington Library.

Fellow authors and several literary prize committees have recognized Kent’s achievement. Ursula K. LeGuin wrote earlier this year in The Guardian that Haruf’s “courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love—the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection—are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction.” His work has received numerous honors, including the following: Plainsong (1999) was a finalist for the National Book Award, The New Yorker Book Award, and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize; his most recent novel, Benediction (2013), was short-listed for the Folio Prize.

The Huntington began acquiring Kent’s papers in 2008, and the collection has become one of the most important of our modern literary archives. Among other material, it contains drafts of the novels and stories, as well as correspondence, including a wonderful series of letters from the novelist John Irving, a great admirer of Kent’s work.

Kent has been taken from us before we are ready, and for me, along with his family and his many friends, the personal loss is deep. Fortunately we will always have the sublime pleasure of savoring his stories and graceful prose. We are fortunate that his new novel, Our Souls at Night, just written this past summer, will be published in the spring of 2015.

Closer at hand, a stage adaptation of Benediction will appear at the Denver Center for Performing Arts this winter. The playwright Eric Schmiedl also adapted Plainsong and Eventide in recent years, and Kent had looked forward to seeing the new play by a man whose work he greatly admired. I will be on hand for opening night, when I will join Kent’s family and friends for what will be a bittersweet time to enjoy the play, celebrate Kent’s life and works, and honor his memory. I will sorely miss him, but I will always carry him in my heart.

Related content on Verso:
“An Extraordinary Novel of Ordinary Lives” (March 12, 2013)

Sara S. “Sue” Hodson is curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington.

Pinkie and Blue Boy, Remixed

Pinkie and Blue Boy as you've never seen them before.

Pinkie and Blue Boy as you’ve never seen them before.

There they were. Pinkie and Blue Boy all chopped up into a million little squares and reassembled into the most glorious shellacked folding screen I had ever laid eyes on. I was in love.

It had already been a delightful opening night of a contemporary textile show at the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles when I decided to pop upstairs to check out the first solo exhibition of local found-materials art legend Clare Graham, whose work I was familiar with through MorYork, his studio and gallery in Highland Park. After making my way through the veritable funhouse of sculptured curiosities, soda can tabs, and teddy bear eyeballs in the main room, I wandered around the corner into a smaller second room. And there was the screen.

The folding screen stands alongside whimsical and impressive sculptures of bottlecaps, puzzle pieces, Scrabble tiles, buttons, and the like.

The folding screen stands alongside whimsical and impressive sculptures of bottlecaps, puzzle pieces, Scrabble tiles, buttons, and the like.

Now, I’ve spent a good amount of time staring at the time-honored treasures that are the original, actual, centuries-old Pinkie and Blue Boy, proudly holding court across from one another in The Huntington’s Thornton Portrait Gallery. That rendering of his shiny blue satin folds! Her otherworldy stance and stare! That brushwork! That texture! Impressive works to be sure.

Graham’s reimagining is a delight. In it, Pinkie and Blue Boy—eternally paired in the popular mind even though they were painted by two different artists and 24 years apart—no longer face one another as they do in the gallery; they now stand side by side as they greet viewers. Each is composed of a multitude of squares cut from quite a few paint-by-number interpretations of the masterpieces and reassembled in an orderly-yet-jumbled grid, with features like eyes and mouths and fabric folds repeating in a cubist visual swarm that’s kept in check by steadfast horizontal and vertical seams punctuated with round upholstery tacks. It reads as both an irreverent send-up and a doting homage to the pair of European paintings that had never met before Henry Huntington first introduced them here in San Marino back in the 1920s.

Standing eye to eye with Clare Graham's visual extravaganza, Pinky and Blue Boy Painted Folding Screen, 1994.

Standing eye to eye with Clare Graham’s visual extravaganza, Pinky and Blue Boy Painted Folding Screen, 1994.

Like the rest of Graham’s work, the screen is a bizarre and joyful restructuring of a familiar world. It is part of a wonderland built from mind-boggling quantities of paint-by-numbers, bottle caps, teddy bears, Scrabble tiles, and other consumer-culture refuse he has collected, scrubbed clean, and rendered new again.

It can be pretty easy to look at dominoes, buttons, and rulers in our daily lives and memories and forget to consider what went into making them and how they got into our hands. But it’s completely impossible to look at Graham’s reworkings of these everyday objects without being blown away by the astonishing amount of time, labor, imagination, and deliberation that he has put into creating them. His works are not only delightful spectacles to behold, but also paeans to the craft, to the artistry involved in making them.

A view of the exhibition's main room, as seen through a Graham-made, soda can tab–festooned looking glass.

A view of the exhibition’s main room, as seen through a Graham-made, soda can tab–festooned looking glass.

Make the trek across town. Go see the screen—and the rest of Graham’s work—before the show closes. It’ll bring a smile to your soul. And if you’re on Instagram, post some pictures of the screen and tag them #PBBremix so we can find them and show them to Pinkie and Blue Boy.

“Clare Graham & MorYork: The Answer is Yes” runs through January 4, 2015, at the Craft & Folk Art Museum, located at 5814 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Note: I hereby rescind the statement I made on Instagram the night I first saw the screen: “@thehuntingtonlibrary should totally acquire this.” I want it for my living room.

Kate Lain is the new media developer at The Huntington.

150 Years Later, A Massacre Still Haunts

A view of the Sand Creek Massacre site. Photo by Tom Carr.

A view of the Sand Creek Massacre site. Photo by Tom Carr.

For author Ari Kelman, the passage of 150 years has not dulled the impact or resolved the ambiguities surrounding the Sand Creek Massacre, one of the most notorious events in U.S. history.

Soon after dawn on Nov. 29, 1864, with the Civil War raging and the fate of the Union undecided, two volunteer regiments, led by Col. John Chivington, ambushed hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho people camped along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. Chivington’s troops killed more than 150 Native Americans—mostly women, children, and elderly men—and mutilated their bodies. Kelman’s award-winning book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, details how Americans have struggled to make sense of the atrocity and its consequences.

Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013), recipient of the 2014 Bancroft Prize, Avery O. Craven Award, and Tom Watson Brown Book Award.

Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013), recipient of the 2014 Bancroft Prize, Avery O. Craven Award, and Tom Watson Brown Book Award.

Delivering the annual Billington Lecture at The Huntington on Nov. 11, 2014, three weeks shy of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the massacre, Kelman riveted the audience with his account of Sand Creek and attempts to memorialize the violence. (You can listen to the lecture on iTunes U.) Kelman has received numerous grants and fellowships, most notably from the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Huntington, where his conversations with fellow scholars helped him shape and structure his book on Sand Creek.

Kelman knows how to paint a scene with words. Take, for example, the following passage from his book’s opening page, where he describes the killing field as it looks today, conjuring up a vista worthy of Albert Bierstadt:

The massacre site . . . sits on a rolling prairie, a place transformed by the seasons. From late summer till winter’s end, it remains a palette of browns, grays, and dusty greens: windswept soil, dry shrubs, and naked cottonwoods. In early spring through the coming autumn, though, colors explode. Verdant buffalo and grama grasses, interspersed with orange, red, and purple wild flowers, blanket the sandy earth, and an azure sky stretches to the distant horizon.

In 2007, Kelman attended the opening of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historical Site, the name of which denotes the first time the National Park System has formally used the term “massacre” to characterize a site where federal troops killed Native Americans. Kelman expertly documents the dramatic twists and turns that led to the creation of the site, interweaving a contemporary tale of politics, historical inquiry, archeological investigations, and U.S. government-tribal relations with flashbacks to the engagement and competing interpretations of the bloodletting that reverberate to this day.

Ari Kelman, a history professor at Penn State University, is currently working on two new books, Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War and For Liberty and Empire: How the Civil War Bled into the Indian Wars.

Ari Kelman, a history professor at Penn State University, is currently working on two new books, Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War and For Liberty and Empire: How the Civil War Bled into the Indian Wars.

In his book, Kelman addresses the three main points of contention regarding the violence at Sand Creek. Was it a battle or a massacre? Where exactly did the event take place? And who has the standing to interpret the event authoritatively? To his credit, Kelman does not simplify matters by providing easy answers but rather sifts though the historical record to convey a complex and nuanced view. With superb research and excellent storytelling, he relates how difficult it has been to label the event, pin down its exact location, and memorialize it in a way that satisfies all parties involved. At the book’s conclusion, he ruminates on these ambiguities:

For in the end, this story of memorializing Sand Creek suggests that history and memory are malleable, that even the land, despite its implied promise of permanence, can change, and that the people of the United States are so various that they should not be expected to share a single tale of a common past.

The repercussions of Sand Creek are still fresh: Kelman tells his audience that just two weeks before his lecture, someone tried to scratch the words “Sand Creek” off a list of battles and engagements on the Colorado Civil War Memorial near the state capitol in Denver.

The choice of words, the way we remember the past—these are matters of perpetual relevance. Read Kelman’s book to find out why.

Kevin Durkin is managing editor for the office of communications at The Huntington.

A Thanksgiving Cornucopia

For Thanksgiving inspiration—and just plain fun—adventuresome cooks would be well served by perusing the historical recipes in The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook, a publication from the Huntington Library Press, edited by Judith Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman. (Shown: a detail of the front cover.)

For Thanksgiving inspiration—and just plain fun—adventuresome cooks would be well served by perusing the historical recipes in The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook, a publication from the Huntington Library Press, edited by Judith Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman. (Shown: a detail of the front cover.)

Anyone searching for an authentic American dish to serve for Thanksgiving dinner should consider the humble succotash: it would make a hearty addition to the meal and a terrific conversation starter. The bean and corn medley was (and still is) prepared annually in Plymouth, Mass., as part of the Forefathers’ Day celebration commemorating the landing of the Pilgrims on Dec. 21, 1620. Mrs. D. A. Lincoln, in her Boston Cook Book of 1891, writes: “Tradition says [succotash] has been made in that town ever since the Pilgrims raised their first corn and beans, and it is supposed they learned to make it from the Indians.”

Mrs. Lincoln’s “receipt” for succotash is one of the fascinating historical dishes included in The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook, a compilation of recipes and folklore edited by Judith Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman. Drawn from historical cookery books in The Huntington’s collections and other sources, it was originally published by Harper & Row in 1973 and reissued by the Huntington Library Press in 2005.

A nineteenth-century cook applies some "elbow grease" to the preparation of dinner in an illustration from The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook. Huntington Library Press.

A nineteenth-century cook applies some “elbow grease” to the preparation of dinner in an illustration from The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook. Huntington Library Press.

Taking readers on a gustatory journey through the kitchens of yesteryear, The Cornucopia serves up a veritable feast of recipes and food-related tidbits from the 14th century to the turn of the 20th. Some of the dishes described in its pages might prove daunting to all but the most adventuresome chefs. Squirrel stew can be an acquired taste, after all, and goose blood is difficult to source locally. Methods of preparation, too, can present a challenge for the modern cook who might not know a pipkin from a spider. (And knowing that one is an earthenware pot and the other a footed cast-iron pan won’t help much, since few of today’s kitchens are equipped with either vessel.)

But this remarkable record of early foodways makes for fascinating reading that will delight the history buff and the gourmand alike. Early cookbook writers knew that it was not enough simply to provide a list of ingredients; conveying the proper techniques was essential, even for the simplest dish. It’s impossible not to admire the clarity of a recipe for black-eye peas, for example, that begins: “Gather your peas about sun-down. The following day, about eleven o’clock, gouge out your peas with your thumb nail, like gouging out a man’s eye-ball at a court house.”

Along with its humorous, obscure, and occasionally eyebrow-raising fare, The Cornucopia offers many recipes that are completely accessible and well worth sampling. Irish stew, cheese soufflé, lobster salad, hot cross buns, chocolate tarts—there’s something for every taste. Two of the dishes, a classic cranberry sauce and a mashed sweet potato casserole with Swedish turnips (rutabagas), would make particularly admirable accompaniments to a Thanksgiving meal of roast turkey—with, of course, a heaping helping of succotash. Those recipes appear below.

thanksgivingrecipes-3bAnother delicious cookbook published by the Huntington Library Press is A Celebration of Herbs: Recipes from the Huntington Herb Garden. This collection of recipes contributed by Huntington volunteers, readers, and staff is so packed with herbs that the savory aromas of thyme, rosemary, and oregano seem to waft right off the pages. From simple appetizers like a mushroom and cranberry paté with thyme, parsley, and chives to elaborate entrees such as pumpkin ravioli with sage butter sauce, A Celebration of Herbs offers dozens of flavorful ideas for adding the fresh taste of homegrown herbs (or even the store-bought variety) to meals for every occasion.

The book is beautifully illustrated with prints and engravings from The Huntington’s rare book holdings, including 24 full-color reproductions from Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, published in 1737.

Reproductions from The Huntington's copy of Elizabeth Blackwell's 1737 botanical work, A Curious Herbal, are sprinkled among the recipes in A Celebration of Herbs. (Pictured: thyme.) Huntington Library Press.

Reproductions from The Huntington’s copy of Elizabeth Blackwell’s 1737 botanical work, A Curious Herbal, are sprinkled among the recipes in A Celebration of Herbs. (Pictured: thyme.) Huntington Library Press.

A dash of Huntington history rounds out the recipes, providing an intriguing taste of what mealtime must have been like in Henry and Arabella Huntington’s home. Mrs. Huntington was a believer in locally grown produce, long before it became trendy, and there were six small greenhouses on the estate for growing vegetables for the kitchen. The family orchard produced bushels of fruit including oranges, grapefruits, peaches, figs, plums, nectarines, cherries, guavas, and cherimoyas (custard apples). Avocados undoubtedly had a place at the Huntingtons’ table, as well; Mr. Huntington was so enamored of the fruit that he planted what is believed to have been the first commercial avocado orchard in the state. A brief history of the Herb Garden, which was originally Mrs. Huntington’s flower garden, is also included in the book.

Contemporary cooks, especially those who enjoy cultivating their own kitchen gardens, will find plenty of inspiration in A Celebration of Herbs to create memorable meals to share with family and friends throughout the year. A recipe that’s perfect for fall is Autumn Apple Soup. The recipe is given below.

Hungry for more? Both of these cookbooks are available at the Huntington Store.

Happy Thanksgiving, and bon appetit!

Cranberry Sauce

To stew cranberries till soft is all that is necessary to make cranberry sauce. When soft, stir in sugar or molasses to sweeten. Scald the sugar in the sauce a few minutes. Strain if you please—‘tis good without.

Mrs. A. L. Webster, The Improved Housewife, 1854
From The Cornucopia: Being A Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook

Swedish Turnips and Sweet Potatoes

Pare two good-sized ruta-bagas [Swedish turnips] and cut them into slices. Wash and bake four sweet potatoes. Cook the Swedish turnips in unsalted water below the boiling point until perfectly tender; drain, and press them through a colander. Open the baked sweet potatoes, scoop out the centres, add them to the Swedish turnips, add a tablespoonful of butter, a saltspoonful of salt, and a saltspoonful of pepper. Beat the two until very light, heap them into a baking dish, brush the top with milk and bake in a quick oven until a golden brown, about twenty minutes. Serve with roasted duck, opossum, or baked rabbit.

Sarah Tyson Rorer, Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book, 1898.
From The Cornucopia: Being A Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook

Autumn Apple Soup

A lovely soup to make when “the frost is on the pumpkin.” Its heavenly aroma will scent your home better than any potpourri.

½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
½ cup light cream
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
4 to 6 thick lemon slices
4 to 6 fresh sprigs of mint

Sauté the onion in butter in a large saucepan until the onion is transparent, but not browned. Stir in the curry powder and cook 1 minute. Stir in the flour. Gradually add the chicken broth, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the apples, and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Puree the soup, lemon juice, and mint in a blender or food processor. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir in the cream, salt, and white pepper. Reheat without bringing to a boil. Serve immediately, garnishing each serving with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From A Celebration of Herbs: Recipes from the Huntington Herb Garden

Succotash

Since Mrs. Lincoln’s recipe for succotash is very lengthy and includes (among other ingredients) a hefty eight pounds of corned beef and a six-pound chicken, we won’t reprint it here. But readers are encouraged to consider adding a simpler version of this historic American dish to their own Thanksgiving celebration. The Pilgrim Fathers—and Mrs. D. A. Lincoln—would approve.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington.

Remembering Gettysburg

Photographs like Timothy H. O'Sullivan’s On the Battlefield of Gettysburg, showing bloated dead bodies, made war painfully real for many Americans. (1863, printed ca. 1891) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Photographs like Timothy H. O’Sullivan’s On the Battlefield of Gettysburg, showing bloated dead bodies, made war painfully real for many Americans. (1863, printed ca. 1891) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

On Nov. 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history: the Gettysburg Address. It was a delicate moment in the young nation’s identity. The Civil War had been raging for two years and the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) had claimed 50,000 lives. For the first time, the country required a national cemetery. In dedicating the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Penn., Lincoln uttered his now famous words:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Lincoln’s address continued for another minute or so, containing a total of ten sentences, a tiny snippet of dialogue compared to the main speech of the day, famed orator Edward Everett’s two-hour discourse. Yet in the ensuing months, years, and now decades, it would be Lincoln’s words, not Everett’s, which played over and over again in the minds of American schoolchildren, war veterans and others trying to make sense of the Great Conflict.

According to Civil War scholar David Blight, artist John B. Bachelder (1825–1894) walked every inch of the Gettysburg battlefield to render this map, showing roads, railroads, houses and places where officers were killed and wounded. (c. 1863) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

According to Civil War scholar David Blight, artist John B. Bachelder (1825–1894) walked every inch of the Gettysburg battlefield to render this map, showing roads, railroads, houses and places where officers were killed and wounded. (c. 1863) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Today, more than 150 years later, America’s deadliest war continues to maintain a tenacious hold in our national conscience. Earlier this month, another president, Barack Obama, recalled the sacrifices so many made at Gettysburg when he posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest honor, on Civil War Union Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing.

As Obama described, it was July 3, 1863, the third day of the battle, and Cushing had been wounded twice. With Confederate soldiers just 100 yards away in what is now known as Pickett’s Charge, Cushing refused to abandon his position, continuing to give orders to his battalion, saying he’d “fight it out, or die in the attempt.” Moments later, his attempt ended. He was 22.

On this day 151 years ago, Lincoln showed an uncanny sense for which words would best soothe a rattled nation. But in one crucial aspect, his remarks missed the mark. Lincoln predicted: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.”

On the contrary, we remember Lincoln’s words — so eloquently stated, so long ago.

Implements of Modern Warfare (1875) shows one man’s fascination with Civil War objects. L.M. Buehler collected these items at the close of the war and made them into a curiosity cabinet that official Gettysburg photographer William H. Tipton called “the only one in the world.”  The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Implements of Modern Warfare (1875) shows one man’s fascination with Civil War objects. L.M. Buehler collected these items at the close of the war and made them into a curiosity cabinet that official Gettysburg photographer William H. Tipton called “the only one in the world.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, The Huntington has held a number of commemorative events, including exhibitions, conferences, and lectures.

In 2012, The Huntington held a photography exhibition, “A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning, and Memory in the American Civil War” and a concurrent Library exhibition, “A Just Cause: Voices of the American Civil War.” You can still visit the website of “A Strange and Fearful Interest,” which includes many of these images as well as commentary by historians such as Gary Gallagher, Joan Waugh, and David Blight.

Talks from “Civil War Lives,” a 2011 conference that brought together some of the nation’s most renowned Civil War scholars for a two-day event, can be found on iTunes U.

In addition, many lectures exploring themes relating to the Civil War are available in a special page on iTunes U, “Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.”

Diana W. Thompson is a freelance writer based in South Pasadena, Calif., and a regular contributor to Huntington Frontiers magazine.

Making History

Library, botanical, and art collections aren't the only treasures at The Huntington. Take Education director Catherine Allgor, for example.

Library, botanical, and art collections aren’t the only treasures at The Huntington. Take Education director Catherine Allgor, for example.

One of the great things about working at The Huntington is that we’re surrounded by all this cool stuff: on any one day, we can walk outside and see roses, orchids, cycads, bonsai, penjing and puyas. Walk back inside and it’s Houdon’s Diana, Cassatt’s Breakfast in Bed, or Gutenberg’s Bible. But there’s more. Aside from the great collections, there are some remarkable people doing some pretty remarkable work. Catherine Allgor, head of our Education team, is one of these.

Not yet two years into the job, she has proven to be quite a force here at The Huntington. She’s led her talented team in some exciting new directions—from launching the college-level seminar series Huntington U to embarking on a new teacher training program to help local Pasadena Unified School District educators learn inquiry-based teaching techniques. All the while, she’s so approachable and hilariously funny that it’s sometimes hard to remember that she also happens to be one of the world’s experts on a very interesting slice of history: first ladies of the United States.

Allgor leads a teacher training session for Pasadena Unified School District educators.

Allgor leads a teacher training session for Pasadena Unified School District educators.

Google her and you’ll see—she’s all over the place, a frequent commentator on television and other media. Before coming to The Huntington, Allgor was a history professor at the University of California, Riverside, teaching classes running the gamut from women’s history to race and slavery. She also taught at Claremont McKenna College, Harvard University, and Simmons College. And her 2006 book, A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation, is right where PBS turned when making “Dolley Madison,” part of its American Experience series.

Pretty impressive all this. So it came as no surprise when the National Women’s History Museum recently elected Catherine to their board of trustees. Never been to that museum, you say? In fact, it’s really amazingly easy to get there:  the museum is located online at nwhm.org. Its mission: to educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future by integrating women’s distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States. But its online address is only a first stop on its way to a much more ambitious goal: to build a world-class, permanent museum on or near the National Mall.

You can visit the National Women's History Museum at nwhm.org.

You can visit the National Women’s History Museum at nwhm.org.

“It is a chance to bring women’s history into the public conversation,” says Allgor.  “I’m an educator. I want students of all stripes to be able to see quite readily that women have made history, too. They comprise one half of the great American narrative.” So Allgor, and a bunch of very smart and very dedicated cohorts, go forward with their work cut out for them: find a proper site, make a convincing case, and raise the money to create a space that honors women in U.S. history.

We couldn’t be happier about Allgor’s most recent honor and are thrilled to have such a dynamo leading the educational charge here at The Huntington. Kudos, Catherine!

Susan Turner-Lowe is vice president for communications at The Huntington.

Harvest Time on the Ranch

Visitors sample freshly picked carrots (and get a taste for the delights of home gardening) during a recent open house on the Ranch.  Photos by Letizia Ragusa.

Visitors sample freshly picked carrots (and get a taste for the delights of home gardening) during a recent open house on the Ranch. Photos by Letizia Ragusa.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
–Henry David Thoreau

Tucked away in a lesser-known corner of The Huntington, on a half-acre site that once served as a gravel parking lot, sits a garden known as the Ranch. This demonstration garden is literally bursting with the sights, smells, and sounds of a mostly edible landscape designed to thrive in the hot, dry climate of Southern California.

Throughout the year, the garden functions as an outdoor lab for adult and children’s classes, professional development workshops, and symposiums. But during the peak growing seasons—from spring planting through the fall harvest—the Ranch holds monthly open houses where families can explore, learn, and pick up fresh ideas. The final open house of the year took place in late October. Judging by the feedback, it inspired a whole new crop of enthusiastic gardeners—”natural resources” of the very best kind.

Ranch coordinator Kyra Saegusa shows off a Georgia candy roaster squash weighing 21 pounds. Fruits and vegetables grown on the Ranch are donated to the local Friends in Deed food bank.

Ranch coordinator Kyra Saegusa shows off a Georgia candy roaster squash weighing 21 pounds. Fruits and vegetables grown on the Ranch are donated to the local Friends in Deed food bank.

When first-time visitors enter the Ranch, they immediately experience a pleasant rousing of the senses from the hum of bees and hummingbirds, the pungent aroma of herbs and native sages, and the sight of butterflies, lizards, and finches busily making their way around the garden. Here visitors can learn more about their favorite foods, rekindle memories of fruits and vegetables savored during childhood, and discover new foods that grow well locally. Children are delighted when a staff member offers them a taste of a fresh carrot that has just been pulled from the ground or a juicy cherry tomato, plucked from the vine and still warm from the sun. (Most of the harvest is donated to a local nonprofit, Friends in Deed, for their community food bank.)

Ever since the Ranch’s monthly open houses began in 2010, they’ve given Huntington visitors the opportunity to get a close-up look at the process of growing food sustainably in an urban setting. People can take away ideas and inspiration for their own gardens—whether they’re looking for the right kind of fruit tree to plant, wondering how to incorporate natives and drought-tolerant plants into an existing garden, or wanting to know the basics of growing fruits and vegetables at home.

Tangy pomegranates are an autumn favorite. The trees are easy to grow at home and are well suited to our dry climate.

Tangy pomegranates are an autumn favorite. The trees are easy to grow at home and are well suited to our dry climate.

“The Ranch is an easily relatable space,” says project coordinator Kyra Saegusa. “For some people it’s an entirely new way of looking at what a garden can be, full of delicious bounty, a great wildlife and pollinator habitat, beautiful to look at, and extremely livable.” Visitors see a space that is both productive and aesthetically appealing without being meticulously manicured. They have no difficulty imagining replicating parts of it in their own gardens, and Saegusa has heard from countless individuals and families who have done just that.

Gardening also teaches important lessons about the role each individual plays in the ecological process. Plants, insects, soil, and the gardener work together in a balanced and harmonious cycle that, in the end, produces nutritious food that supports life. Additionally, gardening offers lessons about patience, acceptance of things that can’t be changed, the value of failure, and living in the moment. Not everything grown will flourish, and that’s okay, because it teaches gardeners to look more critically at their methods, to try something different, and to push themselves to face challenges. Waiting has its own rewards. The peaches that have been watched closely all summer or the melon that’s growing on the vine will taste so much better for having been nurtured, anticipated, and then picked right at the height of ripeness. It’s the best kind of satisfaction.

Ideas and inspiration blossom on the Ranch. Mark your calendar for March 28 when the monthly open houses return.

Ideas and inspiration blossom on the Ranch. Mark your calendar for March 28 when the monthly open houses return.

Each season brings something new to the Ranch. Now that fall’s harvest of pomegranates, persimmons, and figs is winding down, staff and volunteers are gearing up for spring. Until then, the monthly open houses will go on hiatus while the soil is prepared for next year’s crops, seeds are sown, and several advanced workshops in native plant propagation are held. But mark your calendars for the fourth Saturday in March when the Ranch will throw open its gates again, inviting Southern California gardeners to come in and get inspired.

Letizia Ragusa is a horticultural intern for the Huntington Ranch project.