The Bancroft Survey Project began in February 2008. Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundations, the survey project is intended to be a simultaneously broad and in-depth survey of all manuscript holdings of the Bancroft Library, which has been collecting for over a century. Four archivists were hired to scour the collections for a three year term, during which they will review the vast myriad of manuscript materials and use a survey instrument designed to gather data on collection scope, subject categories, and physical condition. The survey archivists are Marjorie Bryer, Amy Croft, Dana Miller, and Elia Van Lith, and they are also the authors of this blog.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bathing Suit Season in the 1900s!

Summer Solstice is upon us, and even amidst the Bay Area's summer fog the temperatures are rising.  Bathing suit season is finally here in all its balmy glory.

Fancy a trip to the beach? Well just pull on your wool suit, cape and swimming boots- and don't forget your knee socks and hat- and meet me down by the seashore for some frolicking in the waves.

 This image is from a 1906 mailing card used for advertising.  
The note on the back said the card was considered flawed for 
not showing the men's suit, but "the picture was so very good 
the temptation was too great to leave it unused."

One day far too many months ago to be to my credit I surveyed the records of the Gantner and Mattern Company, a New York based clothing manufacturer with a large outpost in San Francisco.  Featured prominently among the volumes of the collection are several swimsuit catalogs ranging from as early as 1900 to the mid-1950s. 

There were far too many amusing and bewitching examples of yesterday's swim fashions to choose from, but I did manage to scan just a few images for the fashion-minded viewer's pleasure- I even chose some examples from the men's catalog.  Those Project Runway designers might just get some ideas from this one!

This is an example from 1906, with a very demure looking model in what seems to be a fairly scanty suit- perhaps an athletic version.

 Also from 1906- full swim dresses. Note the tights and lace-up shoes.

This is a page from the 1906 men's catalog. I really like the striped trunks. Stripes were definitely in that year!

 A much later example, this is a page from the 1943 Gantner  & Mattern catalog.  The model is wearing an example of the company's "wikies" trunks- the "de luxe" fancy version made of 100% worsted wool. Prices ranged from $3.95 to $6.00.


The cheaper version, left, is also from the 1943 men's catalog. The trunks are made from gabardine and prices range from $1.95 to $2.50. (By the way, doesn't everyone smoke while they swim?) 

The women's 1943 catalog notes that these styles are made of new, non-essential textiles, such as velvet, faille, and seersucker.   I adore the one on the top right with the flower decal. Not bad for war-time looks!

I like this last example, another mailing card from 1906, because she's laughing. 
Whenever I trying on a new bathing suit, I always laugh too. 

Visit the Bancroft to view the collection in the library- it's a SPLASH!

See: BANC MSS C-A 399 Gantner and Mattern Co., San Francisco records, ca. 1901-1957. 

-- D. Miller

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eidu Maru shipwreck drawings

According to the tale told in this account, the Japanese ship Eidu Maru set sail from Japan in 1841 with a crew of 13 and a cargo of sake, sugar, salt, incense sticks, flax, and other goods. Soon after leaving port it was caught in a series of storms that damaged it and drove it East, until the crew lost sight of land. With no sails, the ship drifted in the currents for 4-5 months until the crew spotted "2 white mountains" that turned out to be the sails of a Spanish ship off the coast of Baja California. The Japanese sailors and remaining cargo were brought aboard the other ship which then unloaded them near Cape San Lucas, following which, they traveled overland to San José del Cabo. A few years later, crew member Hyozen Togen Takichi wrote this account of the abandoning of the ship and the experiences of the crew in Mexico, illustrating the manuscript with beautiful watercolors showing the rescue, the landscape, and scenes of Mexican life.

Hyozen Togen Takichi was a 48 year old crew member from Shimabara, Hizen Province [Nagasaki Prefecture]. His representations of Baja California's landscape and people in a traditional Japanese 19th century style of drawing are remarkable and the detailed descriptions of life in mid ninteenth century Mexico and how it compared to Japan are often funny, and always engaging. Although the original manuscript is in Japanese, it is accompanied by an English transcription which is definitely worth a read!

This first image is a detail showing the Eidu Maru crew unloading their cargo into the dinghy belonging to the larger Spanish ship, the prow of which can be seen in the upper right-hand corner.

To the right are the crew members just after being brought ashore in Baja California. The Mexicans are riding horses and some are sharing their saddle with a Japanese sailor.
These cattle are almost dancing, and the house in the background, with its thatched roof appears to be more Japanese in style than Mexican.

Here, a man, possibly a crew member, addresses a group of men and women wearing traditional Mexican garb.

From Mekishiko shinwa: Strange stories from Mexico (BANC MSS M-M 1902)

-- E. Van Lith

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

400 year old book brings rare smile to grumpy archivist

A beautiful title page from a surprising find.

My post today is more casual and off-the-cuff than usual.  Simply put, I was having one of those survey days where everything is more complicated than it seems like it should be.  Certain oversized folders weren't quite where I expected them to be, mischievous elves had misnumbered or mislabeled other items, and my catalog records were starting to swim together.  When would this enormous survey project EVER end?? Would things EVER be clear cut and straightforward again? Argh!

Then I came upon a French illustrated genealogy from 1635. Its thick, strong cloth paper, careful hand-written script and intricate, pigment-dyed paintings of family coats of arms (or crests) all attest to its 375 long years of existence. Most of these items are found in the rare books collection, but this one is part of manuscripts and thus on my list to survey today.

I am not of French extraction, nor do I have any other particular connection to this item (although it would be terrific if my family history book was this ornate), I was just happy to see it today.  Not only is it exceptionally old (especially for a repository located in California, which only became a state in 1850), it is colorful. A true relic of another time and place. Enjoy!

(All images are photos of Banc MSS 71/166: Pierre d' Hozier genealogie de L'Illustre Maison Des Ursins, Paris, 1635)

The cover is probably from the 19th century.  Yes, it is dusty. Don't worry- we'll have it cleaned and wrapped. 

Above: the first page, (most likely) bears holding up the family crest.

Right: Two examples of coats of arms within branches of the Ursins family.

Below: Details of more coats of arms; at bottom, a colorful family tree. 

-- D. Miller (no longer as grumpy)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Criminal Past

Throughout the survey we have run across many sets of historic prison records from California's prisons, including the famous examples of Alcatraz, San Quentin, and Folsom.  There are at least four sets of records from San Quentin alone, and several other more general prison record books.

The mug shots from some of these collections are pretty intriguing and, at least on the surface, they appear to reflect the personalities of their subjects.  There are also records of prison inmates, descriptions of criminals in custody and at large, and criminal culture, such as the "Alphabet of Thief Slang" index below.

Above is a page from Prison Record Book for San Quentin and Folsom prisons, 1904-1911 (BANC MSS 89/44). One volume of this collection contains prisoners' pictures, while the other has their records and descriptions of their crimes. More from this collection below:

(Can you profile a criminal based on the shape and style of his- or her- hat?! Hmm, let's see, we've got bowlers, pork pies, and even a floral ladies hat. With all these fashion choices it's impossible to tell the bank robbers from the cold-blooded assassins!)

A particularly interesting piece of prison history also exists in the Bancroft's manuscript collections in the form of a scrapbook of various criminals, composed by the Sheriff's Office of Woodland, in Yolo County, California.  Titled the Edward F. Boyle Mug Book, 1875-1899 [BANC MSS 91/26], it contains some very rich descriptions. I particularly like the "Bad Egg" page. Transcriptions are included:

Robert May
Robt. Sullivan
at Alcatraz Island
Bad Egg

American 20 years of age- 5 feet 9 1/4 inches in stockings- 
dark complexion- [blear?] skin- no whiskers- small black eyes- black hair- small mouth. [R.S.M.] and the American Flag in Indian Ink on left arm.

John Thompson
Old Man Winnie
at large

American 44 years of age- 5 feet 2 1/2 inches high- light complexion- blue eyes- hair turning gray bald head- Rum Nose- face covered with Rum Blotches. Served 1 term of 4 years in San Quentin.

Index of Thief Slang: [note that the columns switch]
Burn a House = Glim a Crib
Pistol = Pop
Tumbled or Dropped = Got Suspicious
Jimmy = a Chisel for Prying
Hand Cuffs = [Darbies]
Pete =  Lock
Breaking a Lock = Make Pete Laugh
Crabs = Shoes or Mockisins (sic)

--- D. Miller

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Conservation challenges

It can be hard to care for scrapbooks since they often have brittle acidic pages and many items glued to them. But when you starting adding objects like cigarettes and berries, it ups the ante a little!

The berries in the scrapbook below were decorations on a Christmas tree - too bad they didn't just take a photo...

Scrapbooks from the Pringle Family Papers, Banc mss 72/203

-A. Croft

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Label Humor

Hats off to whoever is responsible for this next set of hilarious extraneous container labels. While I can't know who or what drove them to type out such wonderful absurdities, I can enjoy the results and definitely appreciate being jerked out of the sometime mundane work of the survey.

I came across the following silly label on box 3 of a collection of documents relating to missions in New Mexico, circa 1605-1720 (BANC MSS M-A 4:1).  While the box itself was labeled as a box, the library MARC record described all the containers as cartons; apparently this discrepancy didn't sit well with the label's creator.

This next label defies description. It is located on box 1 of a collection of documents reflecting relations of Indians and Spaniards over tribute, wool mills, treatment of the natives, and government regulations, 1544-1608 (BANC MSS M-A 7). What any of those subjects could have to do with bologna sandwiches or chocolate cake is beyond my ability to figure out. The incongruity kills me.

--E. Van Lith

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Redwood Reforestation in Lumber's Halcyon Days

Possibly my favorite part of this job, surveying The Bancroft's myriad manuscript collections, is how one is continually immersed in different people's stories, different realities, and so many of California's many different incarnations. In the late part of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, one important part of California's economy and story was lumber, especially redwood, and many of Bancroft's collections from the period relate directly to the lumber industry, among them, records from some of California's largest lumber companies, including Union Lumber, Pacific Lumber, and the Redwood Manufacturers Company (RMC). While surveying this last collection (BANC MSS C-G 202) I came across a binder of redwood advertising materials from the 1930s that took me right back to lumber's heyday when the industry's biggest problem was probably not being able to cut the trees down fast enough.

The binder was assembled by the California Redwood Association especially for RMC and generally touts the superiority of redwood over all other lumber, using such tag lines as, "California Redwood: The World's most durable Lumber," as can be seen in the image to the left. The text just below the image reads, "Count of annual rings shows down log … to have been exposed to wind and weather, ON THE GROUND SINCE THE YEAR 571 B. C.! Redwood log is still sound and solid."Other images in the binder show redwood shingles taken off of houses in damp coastal cities which despite being between 50 and 75 years old, are still in nearly new condition, while still other images show buildings made of redwood which had survived fire. Over and over, the sales materials tout redwood's durability. Which, of course, is hardly surprising, any industry wants to sell as much of its product as possible. But I was surprised by a piece titled "Supply Reforestation" that started off with the headline, "The Coast Redwood is California's Perpetual Crop ~ and Her Oldest," and concluded with the following optimistic quote:

"With the economical utilization of the timber supply that, growing for centuries, is still sufficient to last for 100 years, and the present reforestation operations, which assure a crop of second growth Redwood within sixty years, there is no chance whatsoever that Redwoods will become extinct as was predicted some years ago [sic]. Consequently, California can look forward to being perpetually in the Redwood lumber business, users of Redwood may count upon a continuous supply of this quality material and at the same time tourists will always have, in addition to parks of virgin trees, great timbered areas in which the grandeur of Nature has been enhanced by the hand of man."

In between, the item details what are most likely some of the lumber industry's earliest reforestation efforts in California and includes several photographs, including the following (enlarge the photographs to read the captions).

Unfortunately for both the lumber industry and perhaps most importantly California's stands of redwoods, consumption did not stay at circa 1930 levels and redwood takes a long, long time, longer than 60 years, to fully mature and begin to replace the forest that has been lost.

--E. Van Lith