The Folsom Prison Magazine collection (BANC MSS C-H 6) gives a colorful and satirical inside look at inmate life at the prison in 1895.
Opened in 1880, Folsom Prison is California's second oldest state prison after San Quentin and one of the earliest maximum security prisons built in the United States. Inmates housed there in the 1890s would have spent most of their time in the dark, locked inside a 4x8' stone cell with a 6" eye slot in the solid boilerplate door.
Despite, and definitely inspired by, this bleak life, one inmate created a magazine of poems, cartoons, and satirical articles concerning life at the prison with subjects ranging from an inmate baseball team and domesticated rats, to a touring ballet revue title Black Crook.
One dark poem, located on page 5, reads:
With iron hand he rules the waiters,
And sleight of hand forbids,
He feeds the Cons on stewed potatoes,
And tries to mash the kids.
--E. Van Lith
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.