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.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kaiser: Beauty in Business, part 1

Many Californians will recognize the name Kaiser (or Kaiser-Permanente) and associate it with the health care industry giant it has become. But historically the Kaiser empire, started in 1912 by Henry J. Kaiser, was into much more than hospitals, and included a road-paving business, large-scale construction projects, shipbuilding and shipyard operation, Kaiser-Frazer automobile plants, steel mills, aluminum, chemical and cement companies, low-income housing projects, and real estate development in Hawaii.

Over the past couple months, Marjorie and I have surveyed two large collections under the Kaiser name: the papers of Henry J. Kaiser (Banc MSS 83/42; 329 cartons, 194 volumes), and those of his son Edgar F. Kaiser (Banc MSS 85/61; 500 cartons and 32 volumes).

While I tend to consider many corporate records less than thrilling, there were some surprisingly colorful finds inside these collections, if one looked deep enough.

The following images are from the Edgar F. Kaiser papers (Banc MSS 85/61, volume 25) and show a 1957 marketing proposal booklet for their automobile line that highlights potential uses of colorized aluminum for the interiors and exteriors of cars. Earlier in the 1940s and early 1950s Kaiser had teamed up with Frazer and Darrin to produce a handful of car models, stylish classics that can still occasionally be found today (look around for the Kaiser "Virginian," "Manhattan," the "Special", and my personal favorite, the "Dragon" hardtop convertible!). These cars were never made, aluminum being a questionable choice of material for this purpose-- is anyone else thinking, "What about dents?!"-- and Kaiser had ceased production in earnest around 1955.

Still, if you love mid-century modern design like I do, you'll get a kick of out some of these car designs. Note how the car models are named after different California cities and landmarks. How lovely to be driving around town in a "Piedmont..."

This is a page of sample colors and textures that could be put on the interior of the car, in such places as doors, dash, foot panel, etc.

Personally, the pink swirls and the turquoise beehive would go great with, well, nothing in my own utilitarian car, but hey a girl can dream.

Behold, the "Golden Gate," a station wagon with lots and lots of window...

The "Del Mar," roomy and zoomy- check out the space-age trunk of this metal behemoth!

And finally, the "Merced." Looks like a fun ride to me!

(Other models can be seen in this volume of the collection. The artist was not noted anywhere in the document. Part 2 to come in July.)

--D. Miller

Monday, June 22, 2009

Good News for Elephants

We have come across many cartons of unsorted newspaper clippings during the survey so far. Unfortunately, this is not a rare sight:

Normally I wouldn't look too closely at them and would just make note in our database that there were loose and bundled clippings in this carton. However, these are clippings that Hubert Howe Bancroft collected and there was one bundle in particular that caught my eye:
[labeled "Useful Items"]

I was intrigued to say the least. I decided to spend some extra time to look at this small bundle and see what Hubert Howe Bancroft thought was useful in the late 1800s. The topics ranged from new patents, scientific discoveries, and funny items. My favorite clipping is one that describes the use of the meat of potatoes as a substitute for ivory - which, as the author points out, is excellent news for elephants!

I also enjoyed reading about a trio of traveling rats....

...and I learned about the beneficial effects of wearing flannel (actually pretty relevant for the surveyors given our chilly work environment!)

Here are some others that I liked:

From Banc MSS B-C 14: Bancroft miscellaneous newspaper clippings, 1860-1890.

--A. Croft