It’s No Wonder…That They’re Called Little Wonders!

By Jim Meade, Audio Engineer

What sound disc is 5 inches in diameter and carries sound on one side only? A compact disc, or CD, would be a good answer, but not quite what we’re thinking of. Here we look into one of the more curious corners of the Belfer 78rpm Collection: Little Wonder discs. Belfer holds a collection of 106 Little Wonder discs, which were digitized in 2016.

Little Wonders are 5 ½ inches in diameter and single-sided. They have narrow grooves on one side (compared to regular 10 and 12 -inch double-sided 78rpm discs), with one to two minutes playing time.

A Little Wonder Record Company disc containing the Long Boy tenor solo by Byron G. Harlan.

A casual observer might assume from their appearance that these are children’s records, due to the figure of an infant conductor sometimes appearing on the label, combined with their small diameter. However, they are actually popular titles of the day. Little Wonder later gave rise to Bubble Books, a series which did combine discs and books for children. Little Wonder records were hugely popular between 1915 and 1923, selling an estimated 40 million over the life of the label.

These records were manufactured under contract by Columbia and often featured Columbia recording artists. Because artist credits on Little Wonder records are rare, identification of performers is often an educated guess by experienced collectors. Some famous voices have been identified on Little Wonder recordings including an uncredited Al Jolson.

A Little Wonder Record Company disc of the song, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”

Little Wonders are acoustic recordings with a low production value, sold initially without a paper label or a record sleeve to lower costs.

The reverse side of a Little Wonder record with information on the unique record’s pending patents.

This may also have been a deliberate strategy to distinguish them from regular priced records and not eat into profits from Columbia’s more up-scale discs. At a time when regular records cost $0.75 to $1.00, Little Wonders were priced at $0.10 to $0.15 cents, making them an instant, large scale success. Little Wonders were retailed through 5 and 10 cent stores such as Kresge’s and Woolworth’s, as well as through the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward mail-order catalogs. By the mid-1920s, the price of regular, full-length records decreased to $0.50, a shift that created competition in the music market and may have ultimately led to loss in popularity for the Little Wonders.

A Little Wonder disc containing the song, “The Old Grey Mare,” and cheerful illustrations of musical instruments.

The success of these little discs turned the record industry on its head by aggressively reshaping the price structure. With Little Wonder, records became a truly affordable mass medium that everyone could enjoy.

American and Soviet “Truth”: Pravda in Special Collections

By Natasha Bishop, Reference Assistant

SCRC is home to the collections of many prominent twentieth-century American cartoonists and journalists, some of whose works deal with one of the century’s most omnipresent forces: the Soviet Union. Three of these figures, Communist activist Earl Browder and political cartoonists Bill Crawford and Don Wright, engaged with the Soviet Communist Party’s daily newspaper, Pravda in their articles and cartoons. In doing so, the three men showcase the distinctly different ways propaganda and bias emerged in Soviet and American presses at this time.

While multiple newspapers were published in the Soviet Union, none was more far-reaching than the Soviet Communist Party’s central organ, Pravda (Russian for “Truth”). The publication powerhouse ran under Communist control from 1912 to 1991 and, at its height of circulation, reached 11 million people daily. Through Pravda, the party disseminated official policy while also presenting a strictly controlled image of communism’s reception abroad.

Front page of Pravda featuring a state officials group photograph with Josef Stalin standing center, March 2, 1947.

In efforts to present an image of widespread international support for the Soviet Union, Pravda employed American writers and cartoonists living abroad as foreign correspondents, some of whose collections are now held in SCRC. Noted American radical artists William Gropper and Fred Ellis, for example, both worked for the newspaper while living in Russia in the 1920s and 1930s, respectively. And in 1966, SCRC acquired the papers of one of Pravda’s most prominent American correspondents, Earl Browder.

The Earl Browder Collection contains the activist’s manuscripts, correspondence, memorabilia, and photographs, in addition to over 1,350 titles from his personal book and pamphlet collection. It is a critical collection because Browder was the General Secretary of the Communist Party USA from 1930 to 1945 and a two-time U.S. presidential candidate. He was a seminal party member until being expelled in 1956 for promoting a peaceful coexistence between socialism and capitalism. Browder continued to write for Pravda in the years after his excommunication and remained a committed socialist until his death in 1973.

SCRC holds a number of articles Browder wrote for Pravda, all of which are exaggerated accounts of socialism’s influence in the United States. A potent example of this is the 1939 article, “Lenin and his Influence in America,” which Browder begins by declaring: “Fifteen years after the death of Lenin, the influence of his ideas in America has grown to the proportion of a major factor in the life of the country…Lenin’s penetrating vision revealed the many affinities existing between the people of the Soviet Union, land of socialism, and the people of the United States.” This faithfully reflects the serious manner in which Browder wrote his Pravda reports, amplifying the Soviet Union’s impact on the American general public.

Being a state-run political apparatus, the heavily regulated and serious Pravda existed solely to push Communist policy. SCRC’s issues of Pravda contain few images and no cartoons; the editors clearly prioritized policy over entertainment. Through Browder and other foreign correspondents, it kept the Soviet public abreast on American news, although always biased in favor of the Communist party.

Conversely, the American public maintained an awareness of information being circulated by Pravda throughout the twentieth century, as evidenced in two works in SCRC collections by prominent cartoonists, Bill Crawford and Don Wright. While Soviet news contributors wrote from a serious standpoint, American cartoonists could afford to be more glib in their presentation of foreign matters. No major periodicals were controlled by political factions and because the American press operates within the free-market economy, its news publications have always had the dual task of informing and entertaining to attract readers. Rooted in comedy, the cartoon remains a staple of American newspapers. It is an effective tool wielded to deliver sharply critical commentary made more palatable through humor.

Cartoon criticizing the two-faced nature of Soviet officials by Bill Crawford, ca. 1958-52.

Crawford’s cartoon, published sometime between 1952-58, shows Josef Stalin holding a mask in his right hand. “‘We are devoted to strengthening peace and cooperation with the U.S.’…New Soviet Ambassador Zarubin,” assures the mask to the American audience. Meanwhile, Stalin faces the opposite direction and speaks directly to the Soviets (as quoted in Pravda) “‘U.S. Ambassador is a slanderer disguised as a diplomat’…Pravda”. This showcases the deep cynicism of what Americans believed were false promises being made by the Soviets. Its message was clearly that the Soviets were not to be trusted, which stoked the flames of fear being nurtured during the Red Scare era.

Cartoon by Don Wright featuring a newspaper merchant selling two Soviet and one American publications, undated.

 Although less explicit than Crawford’s cartoon, Wright’s still plays into the fearmongering aspects of anti-Soviet propaganda. This undated cartoon published in the Miami Herald shows a dejected man at his newsstand in Moscow selling three publications: Pravda, Izvestia, and the Wall Street Journal. The paranoia-imbued message Wright delivers says that the Soviets were closely monitoring the American economy.

The American and Soviet presses would keep their readerships informed on the current events of each other’s countries throughout the Cold War. Their delivery styles were markedly different due to the nature of state-run versus free-market publications, yet similarities are found in the biased and propagandistic nature of their foreign news content.

The William Gropper Papers (William Gropper Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Fred Ellis Papers (Fred Ellis Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Bill Crawford Papers (Bill Crawford Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Don Wright Papers (Don Wright Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), and Earl Browder Papers (Earl Browder Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections. Additional issues of Pravda are also available on microfilm at the Bird Library.

Additional Sources:

Dallin, Alexander. “America Through Soviet Eyes.” The Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 1, 1947, pp. 26–39.

Gruliow, Leo. “The Soviet Press: ‘Propagandist, Agitator, Organizer’.” Journal of International Affairs, vol. 10, no. 2, 1956, pp. 153–169.

Moore, Barrington. “The Communist Party of the USA; an Analysis of a Social Movement.” The American Political Science Review, vol. 39, no. 1, 1945, pp. 31–41.

White, James D. “The First Pravda and the Russian Marxist Tradition.” Soviet Studies, vol. 26, no. 2, 1974, pp. 181–204.

150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University

By Meg Mason, University Archivist

On March 24, 1870, the Board of Trustees of Syracuse University signed the University charter and certificate of incorporation. Over the next few years, the College of Liberal Arts was founded, classes began, the first Commencement was held, the first Chancellor was inaugurated, and the University’s first building, the Hall of Languages, was constructed. All the founding pieces were now in place for the University to begin forming a legacy of traditions, many of which are documented and on display in a new University Archives exhibition, which I am proud to have curated, 150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University.

Photograph of Syracuse University graduates, 1891 from the Syracuse University Photograph Collection.

Curating this exhibition allowed me to draw upon some of the University Archives’ most historically rich collections, including the Photograph Collection and Memorabilia Collection. These collections document so many traditions, from Commencement to mascots to the Chimemasters. I also jumped at the opportunity to show off some of our most special items. Both a number 44 football jersey worn and signed by Ernie Davis ‘62, the first African American Heisman Trophy winner, as well as the Alma Mater written in the hand of its author, Junius Stevens, Class of 1895, will be on display, though for a limited time to prevent fading. There are also other wonderful pieces, such as old photographs of graduates at Commencements long past and an impressively-sized cheerleading megaphone from the 1960s. All the photographs, printed materials, textiles, and other memorabilia are a testament to the University’s history of traditions that have inspired Orange pride, united the University community, and connected its past with its present.

Photograph of Ernie Davis, circa 1959-1962, from the Syracuse University Portrait Collection.

Syracuse University Alma Mater, handwritten by Junius Stevens, Class of 1895, circa 1893 from the Junius Woods Stevens Collection.

The tradition I found most challenging to exhibit is the origin of orange as the University’s official color. Although orange was adopted as the official color in 1890, there isn’t an official proclamation in the University Archives, and we don’t hold many materials that have color from that time. I managed to track down a student newspaper article about the impatience of the student body to change the University’s colors from pink and blue to orange. I also included the brilliantly-orange cover of an 1891 Men’s Glee Club program, which is the earliest orange item I could find.

Some of my favorite items in the University Archives are the freshman beanies. They’re just so round and delightful. While I can’t imagine feeling so delighted if I was a first-year student who had to wear one, I’m grateful to alumni who kept theirs and later donated them to the University Archives. We have a nice collection of beanies in all shades of orange (and even green!), and we managed to fit a goodly number of them in the exhibition case.

Freshman beanie, circa 1930s-1940s from the Syracuse University Memorabilia Collection.

The beanies are a great example of a tradition that has faded away. When I started curating this exhibition, I had a vague idea of tradition as something timeless and classic. But looking through what is now on display, visitors will see not only traditions that have endured but also those that have fallen by the wayside as well as fairly new ones. Those old, long-gone traditions lost their meaning, and over time the University has picked up new customs and celebrations as they have embraced values and a community that is more diverse and inclusive. So now we have Otto the Orange as our mascot instead of the Saltine Warrior thanks to the late 1970s protests of a Native American student organization, and we have annual, traditional celebrations such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and International Thanksgiving.

Photograph of the orange mascot, later known as Otto, 1982, from the Syracuse University Photograph Collection.

Please join us for the opening reception of the exhibition on Thursday, September 4, from 4:30 to 6 pm at the Special Collections Research Center on the 6th floor of Bird Library. The exhibition is open for viewing through the spring of 2020. If you’re not into the color orange (What?!), the number 44 (How could you?!) or the Alma Mater (Sacrilege!), you at least have to come see all those thoughtfully-curated beanies!

The Syracuse University Photograph Collection, the Syracuse University Portrait Collection, the Syracuse University Memorabilia Collection and the Junius Woods Stevens Collection are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s University Archives (University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).

August News Wrap Up

August was a busy month in the Special Collections Research Center with many of our staff traveling to the Society of American Archivists conference in Austin, Texas, and IDEAL ’19: Advancing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility in Libraries & Archives in Columbus, Ohio. Interns and student workers hurried to finish summer projects. Instruction requests started to roll in for fall (request a session here!). Exhibition preparation and installation dominated the month of August. Stop by for a sneak peak at the progress  or join us for the official unveiling of “150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University”  at a reception on September 5, 2019, from 4pm-6pm on the 6th floor of Bird Library.

150 years of tradition letters are being attached to the wall, with a frame guiding where the letters should go. A ladder and a level and tape are strewn about indicating work in progress.

150 Years of Tradition exhibition feature wall is being installed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News and Mentions:

  • August 21, 2019 SCRC’s graduate student assistant, Isabel McCullough describes her summer internship.

New Acquisitions:

The Reentry Box Set, 2019. The People’s Paper Co-op, Philadelphia, PA.

A set of 10 prints in a folder, all handmade by formerly incarcerated women and men on handmade paper from pulped criminal records.

(Please allow time for cataloging. Contact the department for updated status.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New to SCRC and the Belfer Audio Laboratory & Archive:

Image of a closed and open ovenHelp us give a “warm” welcome to our new oven!

Many audio tapes manufactured since the 1970s exhibit a chemical breakdown, hydrolysis, also known as “sticky shed syndrome. This manifests as a sticky brown deposit on tape machine parts such as heads and guides, often accompanied by an audible squeal and reduction in audio quality. The condition worsens as the tapes age.

Reversal of this condition can often be achieved by baking the tapes in a lab oven for extended periods of time, sometimes up to several weeks. Belfer’s new lab oven has precision digital control necessary for repeatable results and the capacity to treat multiple reels at once. It will also be used for controlled experiments in flattening warped vinyl records from our collections. We will work to  establish optimum temperatures and exposure times for flattening vinyl records of different density.

Thank you to audio engineer Jim Meade for sharing information about this process.

Highlight from August Social Media:

First-year students on SU’s campus are still getting used to college life, but at least they don’t have to worry about…

Posted by Syracuse University Archives on Thursday, August 29, 2019

Andre Norton: Creator and Guardian of Fantastic Worlds

Student workers join the Special Collections Research Center over the summer to work on focused projects and internships. For the month of August we will be highlighting student work and student research projects from summer 2019. This week, we highlight a research post from one of our graduate student workers.

By Jana Rosinski, Curatorial Assistant

book of AN: The Book of Andre Norton, original title The Many Worlds of Andre Norton, edited by Roger Elwood, DAW Books, Inc., 1974

The Book of Andre Norton edited by Roger Elwood, DAW Books, Inc., 1974

Syracuse University Libraries Special Collections’ Pulp Literature and Science Fiction Collections is home to the papers of Andre Norton (other pen names: Alex North and Allen Weston), a science fiction and fantasy phenom with enough publications to inhabit the many worlds she created. The Andre (Alice Mary) Norton Papers, a gift from Andre Norton, contains Norton’s writing in varying stages of development, correspondence with other science fiction and fantasy authors, and a sampling of fanzines she followed.

As a writer, Norton’s some 300 titles that spanned over her epic 70 year career as a writer are awe-inspiring to me. Breaking into the largely male-inhabited realms of science fiction and fantasy in the 1940s and 50s and earning a plethora of awards for her creativity and contributions to the genre shouldn’t be overlooked—she was the first woman Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, the first woman to be the Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master, and the first woman inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. But what is truly stellar is her immersion in the community of science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts (AKA fandom).

Two color fanzine covers

Amra: covers from issues vo.2, no.26, October 1963; vo. 2 no. 27, November 1963

Norton provided support to science fiction fan communities and other writers in several ways. Aside from trying her hand at owning and running a bookstore in 1941, reading for Gnome Press (a small publisher of what would come to be considered sci-fi classics), and working at the Library of Congress and nearly every branch within her home library system, Norton subscribed to fanzines and engaged with writers, illustrators, and readers in the community.

Fanzines (way pre-internet) were DIY publications of fan fiction, original art and pieces of writing, a space for reviews of books and movies, a means of knowing the realm’s goings-on (conventions, group activities, and other events), and analogue discussion forums. These pages allowed cross-country and even global communication and connection between humans who really loved a character, series, world, or even just an element of the genre.

SCRC has an assortment of fanzines owned by Norton that she collected as a fan, including an issue with her handwritten note about an illustrator and regular contributor, suggesting her knowledge of the publication, as well as an issue of Amra, a swordplay & sorcery fanzine about Conan the Barbarian, with a letter addressed to Norton from the zine’s editor. Since this was 1962, each issue was individually addressed and mailed to subscribers (some of the zines still have stamps and the handwritten traces of this). Noting that Norton was a patron of the publication, the editor thanks her for her support and even asks for her to contribute an original piece (while also joking about all the fanzine can offer in cents per word).

Review of one of Norton’s books from The WSFA Journal, the official organ of the Washington Science Fiction Association, no. 37, February 1967.

Continuing her support of writers, Norton went on to create a research and reference library of popular literature genres for writers, with a foundation of some ten thousand texts from her personal library. She called the research library High Hallack, named for a continent from her Witch World series. In addition to texts, Norton provided art and videos she collected, as well as support for mail and phone inquiries. Like fanzines, the library was a space for the celebration of fandom and the exploration of new worlds.

Through her fiction, fan patronage, and her amassed collections, Norton created galaxies for exploration that continue to serve as ready portals to discovery.

The Special Collections Research Center is dedicated to providing opportunities for student learning and research. Stay tuned for more updates from our students throughout the month of August.

The Andre (Alice Mary) Norton Papers, are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections (Andre (Alice Mary) Norton Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).

Additional Sources:

“High Hallack Library.” Andre-Norton-Books.com, 2019, www.andre-norton-books.com/andre-s-life/high-hallack-library.

Norton, Andre. “High Hallack Library: What It Is and Why.” The SFWA Bulletin, Winter 1999, pp. 24-25.