Categories
History

The Opposition in the WCTU archives

The Frances Willard House Museum & Archives has an extensive collection of books, articles, reference material, and other educational media on topics of all kinds. I’ve looked through hundreds of books and boxes in the WCTU archives, which hold some material as old as Willard herself. Among these titles are subjects you’d expect: medical treatises, temperance sermons and literature.

But I also found things you wouldn’t expect, like the back catalog of The Brewers Journal and anti-temperance literature. One of these “opposition” titles popped out in my recent archival digging. A Prohibition Primer, published in 1931 by an anonymous author and a “liberty-loving Publisher”, is a short but sharp tongue-in-cheek rejoinder to Prohibition and the temperance movement.

Chapters like “What Is Silly About Prohibition?” and “Why Is It Right To Disobey Prohibition?” are embellished by cheeky illustrations that show the “horrors of drink according to Prohibitionists” and caricature temperance advocates as a ghastly, scolding jack-in-the-box. Conversely, a bootlegger with a dapper three-piece suit is given a halo and deemed “a necessary evil.”

Paired with the illustrations, the simple and didactic writing style is aimed directly at children (or adults looking for a laugh):

“At school, if there is anybody you hate more than a big, bullying candy-stealing boy, it is a tattletale. Well, Prohibition is filling up our country and especially its Government offices with the kind of men and women who were tattletales when they were children and have never learned enough to get over it.”

What’s probably obvious by now is that it’s not terribly generous toward the temperance movement:

“From about 1820 on they began trying to force their ideas on everybody. They made speeches in halls, at lectures, in the churches, on the streets. They had ministers preach from their pulpits that it was wicked to drink alcohol. The more they talked the more excited they got. The more excited they got the more things they said that weren’t true and couldn’t be proved.”

How seriously the WCTU worried about their public reputation is hard to say. The book was published not long before the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, so the movement’s influence was already waning. Regardless, call it opposition research or just plain savviness; the WCTU knew it was important not just to Do Everything, but to Know Everything, especially their rhetorical enemies.

Categories
Film History Libraries

For the records

Dan Cohen ponders why some recent sci-fi films prominently feature libraries, archives, and museums:

Ever since Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor extracted the Death Star plans from a digital repository on the planet Scarif in Rogue One, libraries, archives, and museums have played an important role in tentpole science fiction films. From Luke Skywalker’s library of Jedi wisdom books in The Last Jedi, to Blade Runner 2049’s multiple storage media for DNA sequences, to a fateful scene in an ethnographic museum in Black Panther, the imposing and evocative halls of cultural heritage organizations have been in the foreground of the imagined future. …

… At the same time that these movies portray an imagined future, they are also exploring our current anxiety about the past and how it is stored; how we simultaneously wish to leave the past behind, and how it may also be impossible to shake it. They indicate that we live in an age that has an extremely strained relationship with history itself. These films are processing that anxiety on Hollywood’s big screen at a time when our small screens, social media, and browser histories document and preserve so much of we do and say.

Ready Player One is another recent example. And let’s give some love to the historical society in Back to the Future Part III. Read the rest here.

Categories
History

Move it, McDonald’s

The replica of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, where I used to work, will be torn down next month:

Kroc, considered by the company to be the founder of the modern chain, built his first restaurant in 1955 after franchising the brand from the original owners, Richard and Maurice McDonald. The Des Plaines restaurant was torn down in 1984, the same year Kroc died. The McDonald’s Store No. 1 Museum opened the next year, with the original restaurant’s sign out front.

Why is it being razed?

Repeated flooding led the museum to close off interior access in 2008, while still allowing tourists to peek in the windows. McDonald’s said visitors to the site have declined in the last decade since tourists have been barred from entering the space. Flooding in the area also continues to be a problem.

Can’t say I’m surprised. It’s in a terrible location (with a modern McDonald’s right across the street) and the mannequins inside look super creepy, especially at night. It’s also, as those who watched The Founder will know, not even the first McDonald’s.

Not sure if Des Plaines will be sad to see it go due to the historical significance and tourist draw, or happy to replace it with another business that actually generates revenue. I suspect the latter.

Categories
History Libraries Presidents

A Hopey Changey Library

Somehow I missed this story on how the forthcoming Obama Center (above) will be challenging the “scam” of presidential libraries. The author, who wrote a book on the topic, lays out how:

The National Archives and Records Administration—which operates presidential library-museums for every president from Herbert Hoover through George W. Bush—won’t be operating either for Obama. His private Obama Foundation, not the government, will own and operate the museum. And there really won’t be a presidential library. The Obama Foundation will pay for NARA to digitize unclassified records and release them to the public as they become available, but the center’s “Library,” which may or may not house a local branch of the Chicago Public Library, will not contain or control presidential papers and artifacts, digital or otherwise. Instead, according to a NARA press release that called the museum “a new model for the preservation and accessibility of presidential records,” those records will be stored in “existing NARA facilities”—meaning one or more of the agency’s research or records centers across the country.

Is this good or bad?

The notion that a federal presidential library would contain no papers, and not actually be federally operated, is astonishing. But to those like myself who have advocated for years—without much success—that it’s time to reform the broken presidential library system, it’s also an important positive development, and one that could be revolutionary.

Oh.

Though I’ve been to several presidential museums, I don’t think I’ve ever been in the library portions of them. I wonder how this will play among scholars who actually need access to the records. Will it be more convenient or less convenient for them to be separated from the “flashy, partisan temples touting huckster history” (LOL)? We’ll see, I guess.

I do like the idea of including a branch of the Chicago Public Library. That won’t assuage all the other local concerns about the Obama Library, but it would go a long way to keep what can easily become an isolated, self-contained operation connected with the community that feeds it. All the better it will be for the former Reader in Chief.

Not sure if any of the other modern presidential libraries incorporate public libraries, but that would be a mutually beneficial new trend.

Categories
Books Libraries Teach Me How to Dewey

DDC 060-069: Museum’s Rules

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

The Rundown:

  • 060 General organizations & museology
  • 061 Organizations in North America
  • 062 Organizations in British Isles; in England
  • 063 Organizations in central Europe; in Germany
  • 064 Organizations in France & Monaco
  • 065 Organizations in Italy & adjacent islands
  • 066 Organizations in Iberian Peninsula & adjacent islands
  • 067 Organizations in eastern Europe; in Russia
  • 068 Organizations in other geographic areas
  • 069 Museum science

It’s becoming evident that the first 100 of Dewey is tailored for folks who already love the library and its humanities brethren. Like the “first fruits” of library science, the best stuff (at least according to people like me who geek out about books, libraries, museums, and other districts of Nerddom) comes first, before every other discipline, as an intellectual offering to St. Dewey.

Museums aren’t the only subject of the 060s, but they are the most interesting since books about Iberian organizations apparently don’t circ well. (There were a lot of books on the so-called Robert’s Rules, a reference authority for parliamentary and meeting procedures, but forgive me for not raving about the riveting world of legislative order.)

Does your library have any other interesting books in the 060s? I’ve already admitted by bias toward museums and the like, but is there anything here for non-history geeks? If not, take heart that once we get out of the 100s we won’t find hardcore history until Dewey’s end. Until then:

The Dew3:

The Stranger and the Statesman: James Smithson, John Quincy Adams, and the Making of America’s Greatest Museum, The Smithsonian
By Nina Burleigh
Dewey: 069.09753 BUR
Random Sentence: “Perhaps Adams’s preference for looking at the skies was motivated by his hopelessness at what he witnessed on the earth.”

Cabinets of Curiosities
By Peter Mauriès
Dewey: 069 MAU
Random Sentence: “From the monsters of folklore and mythology to the freaks of real life was no very long step.”

The Secret Museum
By Molly Oldfield
Dewey: 069.5 OLD
Random Sentence: “It might seem a bit of a weird thing for him to have done, that is, if you’ve read his novels but don’t know much about butterfly mating.”