Good-Bye to All That

As most of you know, on Monday, June 24th the UW Libraries will be moving to a new catalog.  Over the past few weeks we have been freezing various elements of our old system, Millennium.

While I’m not inclined to get overly sentimental over these kind of things, it does mark a big change and this is the last I will see of a screen I have been familiar with for over eight years (at various jobs).

Here’s the bibliographic record (in MARC format) for the final (copy cataloging) record I added:

Little Jack Tar

And here’s an item record from the last (original cataloging) record I created:

American Red Cross Society scrapbooks item record
American Red Cross Society scrapbooks item record

Drop me a line on Monday and let me know how they look in the new catalog. I’ll be in Minneapolis at the Rare Books and Manuscripts (RBMS) Preconference.


“Live dangerously and follow your convictions”: Seattle’s First Prudence Penny

Bernice Redington and her sisters in Tacoma, Washington, 1902

As Women’s History Month 2011 draws to a close, I bring to you part of the story of Puyallup-born journalist and home economist Bernice Redington (1891-1966).  Bernice Redington first revealed herself while we were in the process of getting the scrapbooks of her father, John W(atermelon) Redington cataloged.  A colorful character in his own right, John W. Redington was an enterprising jack-of-all-trades.  He found a niche as a newspaperman in Oregon and Washington, along the way becoming the father of four daughters, each of whom (as clippings in his scrapbooks proudly attest) seemed to have had some involvement with journalism and/or writing at various points in their lives.  Of the four, Bernice was the only one who never married and who remained the most connected with the Puget Sound region, although, like her father, she was quite peripatetic.

Bernice Redington began working for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1923, while attending the University of Washington part-time, where she apparently changed her major with some regularity.  She had worked for a time as a dietitian for the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, Washington and at Seattle advertising agencies before joining the staff of the P-I.  She published a weekly food page and a daily column under her own byline for about two years, but her role began to expand during the time of Royal Brougham’s editorship of the newspaper (1925-1928).  By the early 1930s, Bernice had added the moniker, “Prudence Penny” to her column, sometimes in tandem with her own name, sometimes on its own.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Prudence Penny letterhead

A pseudonym shared by numerous home economics columnists at various Hearst publications, Prudence Penny, was described in a 1924 article in Time Magazine, as “an institution through which Mr. Hearst dispenses good advice, human kindness, and valuable aid in exchange for the good will of prospective newspaper buyers.”  The Seattle Prudence Penny department grew to be a quite large and profitable concern — at its height, the newspaper hosted its own “Dream Kitchen” on site, provided a daily radio broadcast each weekday morning (with suggestions for that evening’s menu), and required the services of eight women to handle incoming telephone calls.

Cover of "Cosmopolitan Seattle" (1935)

It was exciting to try to learn more about the Prudence Penny phenomenon and to discover that we had two related items already cataloged in Special Collections, including Cosmopolitan Seattle, a  1935 edition of an earlier pamphlet that compiled recipes from a variety of “ethnic” and other restaurants.  A quick perusal of the finding aids database also showed that there was some correspondence between Bernice Redington and Edmond S. Meany contained in the latter’s papers, which yielded two examples of Prudence Penny letterhead, the “Dream Kitchen Bulletin” (pictured above) and one for “Prudence Penny’s Recipe Studio.”  A couple of  digitized Prudence Penny photographs led Deidre and I to make a field trip to the MOHAI Library and Archives on a soggy day to try to see if we could turn up an elusive portrait of Bernice Redington in her Prudence Penny persona.  Although we did not locate one, we were very fortunate to be shown an assortment of negatives from the Seattle P-I Collection which depicted the enormous crowds that attended Prudence Penny cooking schools and other events held in Seattle through the decades (thanks, MOHAI!).

Perhaps the most unexpected and informative discovery, however, was an interview with Bernice Redington conducted in 1959 that was housed in the Roger A. Simpson papers.  The Redington interview was one of several that formed part of the research for the book, Unionism or Hearst (1978), a study of the American Newspaper Guild’s 1936 strike against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which Simpson co-authored with William E. Ames.  As Bernice Redington recounts her own experience in the transcript, she had grown dissatisfied with working conditions at the P-I by the end of 1935, not having much of a say as the more experienced women on her staff were suddenly being replaced by lower-paid, less experienced ones.  Perhaps sensing the writing on the wall, she decided to quit her P-I job to focus on finally completing her degree and quit abruptly in early 1936.  Although she professed not to be much of a union sympathizer (“because my father was a small-town newspaper publisher and didn’t allow you to even mention the word unions”), she did testify before the National Labor Federation and supplied the “Molly Mixer” food columns for the Guild Daily newspaper (put out by the Guild during the strike).

After receiving her degree, Bernice found employment for part of the year with the Ball Brothers (glass fruit jar) company and the rest of the time as a social worker in Kitsap County.  She eventually left for Hawaii, where she returned to journalism, working for several publications, including the Honolulu Star Bulletin (1946-1948) and also completing an (unpublished) novel.  She returned to Washington State in 1948 and became the head of the test kitchen for the Fisher Flouring Mills, also appearing on radio broadcasts for Fisher.  She settled in Normandy Park, where she continued to do freelance writing and also was involved in community affairs until her death.

Bernice Redington at age 13

Although only a very partial portrait emerges from these few scattered facts, it seems pretty clear that Bernice Redington was a strong-minded woman who did her best to live up to the journalist’s credo she expressed in an interview so much later in her life.   In addition to the materials at the UW, the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives also holds its own set of John Redington papers (AX 93), as well as a collection on Bernice Redington (AX 92), which contains correspondence on food preparation, fashion, and careers in home economics, as well as a number of cookbooks.

More Mystery Dates (and People)

Member of the Reed family? Unidentified photograph from Reed Family Papers (UAF-1968-21-CO), Alaska & Polar Regions, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Could this be a photograph of  Ida McKenny Reed?  She was a member of a pioneer family from Thurston County, Washington who penned a short piece about the land that became Olympia’s Point Priest Park, as well as some other stories for magazines.

Maybe it’s because SAA is around the corner, but in the spirit of MPLP and “progressive bibliography,” I decided that we should try to do a little less work on (re)cataloging material from the NPam shelves, while still getting some work done.  A quick pass through that section in search of titles that would provide some good practice in assigning LC classification yielded some curious finds.  Among the most intriguing was a pamphlet entitled, Damask Roses: A Tale of Point Priest Park and the Legend of Ellis Cove by a certain “Ida McK. Reed.”  Although there was already a record in OCLC suitable for copy cataloging purposes, it gave a publication date of 19–?.   I came tantalizingly close to nailing down a more definite date of publication, but decided to leave the rest of the fun to future catalogers.

A quick online search turned up the Constance Reed Haller papers at the Washington State Library, which identified Ida McKenny Reed as the mother of Constance and the wife of Thomas Milburne Reed, Jr. in its catalog record.  Another hit sent me to the Alaska Digital Archives, which contained a link to a collection level record for the Reed family papers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, along with a number of digitized photographs.  While the description for the papers gave a brief rundown of Thomas Milburne Reed’s career in Alaska, as well as the activities of other family members, Ida McKenny Reed was somewhat absent.  Did she also  go to Alaska?  And was she in any of these photographs?

I chose this picture as a possible Ida because the woman is smiling, but there are a few other images of another (different) older woman who also may be a likely candidate.

Oh, and in another bit of scariness, I discovered that UAF also holds the Don Draper papers.  But it’s definitely another Don Draper.

“Twelve Stories of Solid Comfort”

Advertising brochure for Hotel Savoy, Seattle, Washington (circa 1908)

I’m not much of a fan of puns, but I do enjoy some forms of wordplay.  Recently I was trying to supply a date for yet another lovely piece of ephemera I had to catalog.  The item in question (back cover panel pictured above) was an advertising brochure for Seattle’s Hotel Savoy, which boasted of that lodging as being the perfect place to stay while taking in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (remember that?).  Clearly, the brochure must have been distributed some time around 1909, although the language of the announcement, which still made the AYPE seem a future prospect, made a slightly earlier date of “publication” a possibility.  I decided to double check quickly to see if the Hotel Savoy predated the fair.  I soon came across a handy publication entitled, The Heritage of Seattle Hotels, which included the following information:

Nothing approached the Rainier-Grand’s bon vivant popularity until THE SAVOY HOTEL opened in 1906.  Not pretentious by any means, advertised as “12 stories of solid comfort,” there happened to be elaborate French-period accommodations on the top floor…jokingly dubbed, by men-about-town, as “the vice-Presidential Suite.

For some reason, that passage immediately made me think of the television series, Mad Men.  Were those bon vivants who patronized the Savoy the “mad men” of their day?  Then I realized that one of the running jokes from the show’s season premiere had been the numerous references to “floors” made throughout the episode, culminating in Don Draper’s proposed slogan for a swimsuit ad campaign: “So well built, we can’t show you the second floor.”  Scary coincidence?  Even more strange was that the fictional client in the show was real life Northwest company, Jantzen (currently celebrating a centenary).

Floors?  Stories?  Get it?

The date I decided to use for the brochure in the catalog record was 1908 — as good as truth or fiction.  I’ll leave you all to decode the deeper meanings of Mad Men for yourselves.

Image credit: Washington State Historical Society Digital Collections Accession ID No. 2004.24.1

Seattle Preserved: or, a Plot Discovered

Frank La Roche portrait of C.T. Conover and S.L. Crawford on Fifth Avenue, between Cherry and Columbia Streets (circa 1889)

I couldn’t let Preservation Week go by completely unremarked, so I thought I’d share a snippet of some semi-forgotten history gleaned from the scrapbook cataloging project.

Charles T. Conover and Samuel L. Crawford were journalists, turned Seattle boosters and real estate tycoons at the close of the 19th century and start of the twentieth.  The substance of their biographies (and scrapbooks) could take up several posts (and I may get around to it some day), but the archivist in me found the following incident in the life of Crawford (which is recounted slightly differently in other sources) to be of special appeal.  As Conover (the longer-lived of the pair) recalled in his “Just Cogitating” column in the July 8, 1950 edition of the Seattle Times:

A dominant trait in my old partner, Samuel L. Crawford, was his unswerving loyalty to his friends and the things he believed in.  … He had helped to nurture and sustain The Post-Intelligencer since its birth, had, at one time, been part owner, and in the great fire of 1889 he lugged the files of the paper up the hill to safety through the smoke and blistering heat before showing up at the office of Crawford & Conover to help salvage our effects.

Little did he know how it would turn out some 120 years later.

To be continued…

Whitman Sampler

Ah, the approaching end of the old year and the beginning of a new one naturally can lead one to be reflective.

One of the very last items to be cataloged during 2009 (statistically speaking, that is) definitely provoked a few moments of introspection on my part.  In reviewing a spreadsheet listing several hundred (!) Special Collections items that needed cataloging attention, I was bemused upon coming across the title, “Whitman in Fiction,” that my immediate thought was “Marcus?” rather than “Walt!”  Very embarrassing for an English major.  Or maybe I just need a vacation.

With that title now handily (re)cataloged (thanks to a massive assist from Jessie), I began to ponder over whether or not I could come up with any suitably esoteric connection between Walt Whitman and the Pacific Northwest for this blog. Taking up that (unsolicited) challenge, I suddenly was reminded of a certain Levi’s commercial that has been shown incessantly in movie theaters over the past several months.  I think you know the one I mean.  It features a quick series of shots of a succession of attractive, but unkempt, youths cavorting in what, even to this infrequent visitor to the Rose City, appear to be some recognizable Portland area locations, while an actor (Will Geer) reads parts of the famous Whitman poem, Pioneers! O Pioneers!, on the soundtrack.

Further investigation reveals that the commercial is indeed the work of Portland-based advertising agency, Weiden + Kennedy, as part of new ad campaign for the denim giant that has sparked considerable online chatter (for a representative example, you could go here).

If you haven’t come across this commercial yet, I”ll leave it up to you to decide for yourselves whether you find it riveting or annoying:

Or perhaps you may prefer to read a book.  Whether it’s on your Kindle, or if you choose to venture into the Special Collections Division (where regular hours resume on Monday, January 4, 2010), a wealth of material (even the work of Walt Whitman) awaits your reading pleasure.  To paraphrase Walt, may those particular “sources and rills of the Northwest” indeed prove to be inexhaustible in 2010.

Happy new year!