Glenda Pearson, Head of Microfilms and Newspapers, sent me a link to a remarkable blog post that came out this week from a Portland, Oregon blogger. The stunning images take us on a journey to the basement of Portland’s Pittock building where The Oregonian was once printed where we now see an unintended archive recording pieces of the past chosen by workers who printed the news in that very space. Decades ago, workers clipped and pasted pictures, maps, and other ephemera on the walls creating a striking scrapbook of events and images from their time. Even more powerful is what the space is used for now – a place to run conduit for major internet providers. The significance is how the story survives and continues as time moves on. While some hidden collections can, upon discovery, be moved to a more secure location to be preserved, this value and impact of this collection relies on it staying exactly where it is, on the walls where it was originally collected and enjoyed, and allowing current use of the space to reflect contemporary values and norms. Who knows what the future will introduce to this historical timeline.
The story of discovering the collection and researching the history of Portland buildings was featured here in Oregon Live yesterday.
Seattle dance enthusiasts have had much to get excited about this fall with two visits from local-boy-made-good, Mark Morris. First, in a brief engagement earlier this month by his own company at On the Boards; and this coming Friday will see the much-anticipated premiere of Kammermusik No. 3, his first work done on commission for Pacific Northwest Ballet.
In a recent interview, Morris claimed to be “not very nostalgic” about Seattle. While we do not take an official position on nostalgia, here at Special Collections we are very proud to be able to share at least a small fragment of an important part of Seattle’s dance legacy, and one that is intrinsically connected to Morris, the Verla Flowers scrapbook.
Verla Flowers (1913-2003), of course, was Morris’ first dance teacher. As Joan Acocella describes it in her biography, Mark Morris (1993), his mother chose Verla Flowers Dance Arts for her son from a newspaper advertisement after looking for a school that offered instruction in Spanish dance (p. 20). But enough about him for now. Verla Flowers clearly was an extraordinary woman in her own right.
The scrapbook that we are fortunate enough to have was begun originally by Verla Flowers’ mother, Augusta, who presented it to her daughter shortly before her graduation from Ballard High School, and was continued by Flowers for several more years. The volume documents Flowers’ childhood, her own early dance training and performances, her student years at Cornish, and her first forays into teaching. While it contains few photographs, it does include the above image of what appears to be a children’s Halloween party. This particular event may be the one described in a newspaper clipping (which, in the scrapbook, has had its date and source trimmed) titled, “Hallowe’en Party a Birthday Surprise for Flowers Sisters”:
Verla and Lorna are real Hallowe’en children, as both were born on October 31, though there is a four years’ difference in their ages. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Flowers, are active in the labor movement, Mr. Flowers being a member of Machinists’ Hope Lodge No. 79. The children’s birthdays are always celebrated with Hallowe’en gaiety. Verla is 10 and Lorna 6 this year.
Or maybe not. We certainly would welcome any additional information. While Mark Morris may be too busy to stop by right now, we hope that you will take the opportunity to come to Special Collections and investigate Seattle’s dance history more deeply.
Happy Halloween to all and happy birthday, Verla Flowers!
“…Powers was a patrolman in the lower end of town when Seattle was hardly the sort of city described in the Rollo books…” Unidentified newspaper clipping, (1914?), Michael T. Powers scrapbooks, volume 6
I couldn’t let Archives Month slip away completely without a somewhat relevant post. In case you didn’t know it, the theme of this year’s celebration in Washington State is: “Law & Order in the Archives: Crooks, Cops and Courts.” In searching for an appropriate collection to highlight, the eight volumes of the Michael T. Powers scrapbooks, whose catalog record recently received an upgrade, rather handily fits the bill.
In documenting the career and interests of the long-serving Seattle police officer, these eight volumes of scrapbooks are a rich and fascinating compendium of mostly-forgotten criminals, political scandals, and a whole host of other unsavory incidents from the 1890s to the 1920s. Powers filled a number of roles in the Seattle Police Department, including time spent as the captain in charge of the Ballard station. He retired from the force in 1923 and was briefly on the payroll of the Seattle Times before temporarily leaving Seattle for his native San Francisco, apparently for health reasons. Special Collections also holds a small collection of his papers, which contains several letters sent to Powers in San Francisco from his nephew, Ralph M. English (also an SPD employee).
Also to be found is this unsigned card, which, given the frequency that sports in general, and baseball in particular, are mentioned in the letters, probably originated from English too:
So, whether you are celebrating the Giants’ victory or lamenting the Mariners, why not consider spending part of the off-season in Special Collections, where you might just develop some new interests before spring training (or the next Archives Month) rolls around.
Fresh vegetables just waiting to be popped into a lovely crisp salad, inspired Prudence Penny to plan a Spring Salad Show for tomorrow’s Bon Marché matinee at 2 o’clock.
Prudence Penny’s telephones are open from 8:30 until 5 with a staff of experts to help with any household questions. Just telephone Main 2000, the Prudence Penny department will be glad to assist. Read the daily feature and the Wednesday food pages for up-to-the-minute ideas and listen to the following menus discussed over KOMO daily at 12 o’clock:
SUNDAY: Banana, grapefruit and nut salad with cheese dressing is followed by pig knuckles and pineapple with rice and bean sprouts. Butterscotch meringue pie is the dessert.
Not an April Fool’s Day hoax, but an actual menu excerpted from one of the Prudence Penny clippings (minus date) found in a John Redington scrapbook. April 1st coincidentally was the date that Bernice Redington claimed to have begun working at the P-I and also is the anniversary of this blog’s first public post, so I felt doubly compelled to follow up on yesterday’s entry!
And in the don’t-try-this-at-home department, I must confess that in the course of compiling information on Bernice Redington I gave into the temptation of dialing the Prudence Penny telephone number. No one answered.
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.
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.
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 Dailynewspaper (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.
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.
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.
It may not be an ‘r’ month, but we recently dug up the Oyster industry scrapbooks from the J.J. Brenner Oyster Co. in Olympia. These scrapbooks are full of clippings and advertisements, recipes and pamphlets, as well as a few photographs, letters, and posters. They also contain numerous clippings and letters concerning water pollution in the South Sound and its effects on native Olympia oysters. Oyster growers’ fight with Rayonier, which had a pulp mill dumping “sulphite waste liquor” in the South Sound during the 1950s, is particularly well-documented. There is also a plethora of oyster advertising, including a World War II era poster urging people to contribute to the rationing of meat by eating oysters instead. My personal favourite, however, may be the ‘diet’ which involves consuming nothing but oysters and alcohol with the promise of becoming the best-looking alcoholic around. There’s nothing like a little truth in advertising.
The Oyster industry scrapbooks consist of four volumes dating from the early 1920s through the 1980s. The first three volumes, with materials from the 1920s through the 1960s, appear to have been compiled by Earl G. Brenner, J.J. Brenner’s son. As part of Washington Sea Grant’s ‘100 Years of Oyster Culture’ celebration, these three volumes were copied into Washington Oysters: A Scrapbook. The fourth volume, clippings from the 1980s, appears to have been the work Brenner’s son Earl R. Brenner.
J.J. Brenner Oyster Co., Oyster Industry Scrapbooks, vol. 1.