By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor
As September draws to a close, we are celebrating Banned Books Week, which runs this year from 9/27 to 10/3. In honor of the celebration, we have a few staff and student selections to share with you:
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
ByBrett Barrie, Assistant Catalog Librarian
Upton Sinclair originally published The Jungle in serial form throughout 1905 in the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason following his undercover investigation of the meat industry. He sought to publish the serialization in book form; however, five publishers turned him down due to both the graphic, depressing content, and Sinclair’s socialist beliefs. Regardless, Sinclair solicited funding from individual subscribers and edited the serialization into book form. However, before the book was manufactured, Doubleday, Page & Company joined in his venture. In 1906 the socialist-sponsored plates were used to print 25,000 copies of the Doubleday edition, as well as a run of 5000 copies with the imprint The Jungle Publishing Co. Sinclair referred to the latter as the “Sustainer’s Edition” (even though it doesn’t appear in the text of the book). This edition bears the embossed Socialist Party’s symbol, whereas the Doubleday Page edition does not.
The book was first banned in Yugoslavia in 1929, was burned by Nazis in 1933 (while ultimately being well received by Roosevelt and Churchill), and banned again in South Korea in 1985 all due to Sinclair’s socialist views. Ironically, the book was also banned in East Germany in 1956 as inimical to communism.
1984 by George Orwell
By Nora Ramsay, Reference Assistant
The book, 1984, is a thrilling classic novel by George Orwell about a dystopian society where citizens know, “Big brother is watching you.” The book follows Winston Smith, as he secretly denounces the all-powerful government, Big Brother, and decides to live a daring life of scandals and secrets. This is a captivating tale of propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics, and perversions of truth. In 1950, the book was banned and burned in the USSR under Stalin’s leadership for its anti-communist views. It was only allowed back into the country after it was edited in 1990. The book was also banned in 1981 at a school in Jackson County, Florida for being pro-communist and for its “explicit sexual content.” After reading this book for an assignment in my high school English class, its symbolism and themes have stuck with me ever since. It is especially interesting to me to revisit the book years later to see a first edition copy!
9/23/20: Arts & Sciences newsletter features photos from SU Archives spanning the College’s 150th year anniversary. Their commemorative video also includes photos from the Libraries.
Call for Submissions
A reminder that the Syracuse University Archives is seeking to record and preserve the personal responses of Syracuse University students, faculty, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Take a look at our website page on this project for more information.
Selling the Soapbox by Courtney Asztalos, Plastics and Historical Artifacts Curator, and Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor
The image featured in the header of this post is from our Stephen Crane Collection (Stephen Crane Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.
By Courtney Asztalos, Plastics and Historical Artifacts Curator, and Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor
Hand-washing is not a passive act these days. It is careful, deliberate, systematic. Labels of soaps and hand sanitizers are inspected closely for germ- and bacteria-fighting power. And advertising agencies and soap manufacturers are coming up with new ways to market their products to fit the importance of this action. As strange as all of this may seem, manufacturers are doing what they have always done — responding to the current moment and state of mind of the consumer. Let’s journey back through SCRC’s collections to see how soap was packaged and sold throughout the 20th century.
Colorful cardboard cards with convincing bylines and illustrated depictions of products dotted the windows of streetcars in the early 20th century. At this time, streetcars had become a major means of transportation in American cities, effectively responsible for expanding the scope of the city, as they enabled suburbanites to commute to work in the city on a daily basis for extremely cheap rates. And streetcar advertising became a means of advertising products to a wide audience of city travelers. SCRC’s Lyall D. Squair Streetcar Advertisements Collection contains two dozen of the classic 11 x 21 cardboard signs that hung in the windows of streetcars, including an ad for the National Chemical Company’s “Velvet Borax Flakes.” In bold red, green, and black text, the advertisement promotes the product’s all-purpose effectiveness for clothes washing, dish washing, and household cleaning. The box, priced at 5 cents, less than many streetcar fares of the time, had a right to claim, “The price enables you to use it generously.” The National Chemical Company had moved to Syracuse in 1904, as the “Salt City” was the center of alkali production at that time. (Grace Wagner)
Madame C.J. Walker’s advertisements grace the back cover of many of the issues of The Crisis held here at SCRC. W.E.B. Du Bois’ famous magazine is chock-full of a stunning range of advertisements for Walker’s beauty products, ranging from hair products, to cosmetics, and complexion soap! This advertisement reads: “With winter gone and Spring bringing fair weather, flowers and fairy thoughts of beauty, one should seek to become beauty-wise as parlor-wise maidens are and use Madam C.J. Walker’s rejuvenating spring treatment for the skin.”
Sarah Breedlove, later known as Madame C.J. Walker, was famous for her innovation and formulas in the early 20th century that led her to establish “The Walker System of Beauty Culture,” and subsequently train “beauty culturists,” establish the Lelia College of Beauty Culture, and found the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the legacy and brand of which still exists today. Walker is recorded as the first Black American self-made female millionaire in the United States. Above, we see the gorgeous soap box of Walker’s advertisement from the 1929 issue of The Crisis. The “Complexion and Toilet” soap’s packaging in the advertisement suggests its quality is “unequaled” in its promise of use for “purifying, beautifying and refreshing the skin.” (Courtney Asztalos)
You might remember Lifebuoy as the soap that nearly “poisoned” Ralphie in the movie, A Christmas Story. Lifebuoy was introduced in the late 1800s in the United Kingdom and had its heyday in the 1920s through the 1950s when perfumed soaps were heavily in vogue. Lifebuoy, as Ralphie attests, has a distinctive, medicinal fragrance that made its marketing campaigns, focused on personal hygiene, a natural fit for the company. This can be seen in the above undated Alvah Posen advertisements for the brand, which focus on pleasing your romantic partner through good hygiene, as evidenced by the concerns of “B.O.” in the first panels of each cartoon. Contrary to popular belief, Lifebuoy did not coin the term, “B.O.,” but its use in their advertisements in the 1930s led to its popularity and widespread colloquial use.
The caption for these print advertisements, “A Word About Lifebuoy,” may bring another medium to mind: Radio. In the 1930s, radio programming began to pay attention to its “daytime” audience, predominantly made up of women, and the family drama-driven radio programs marketed to these consumers were accompanied by soap, deodorant, and cleaning advertisements. The soap-sponsored dramas led to the rise of the term “soap opera,” a usage that persists to this day. (Grace Wagner)
At many drug stores, shoppers can still be influenced by “appetite appeal” in packaging design when shopping for a bar of soap. “Appetite appeal” signifies a consumer’s ability to see a product through the packaging, by observing a product’s texture, color and design through a thin film of plastic. This wasn’t always the case prior to the ubiquity of plastics packaging, as seen in previous soap packages like Madame C. J. Walker’s soaps and Velvet Ivory Flakes. However, with the rise of the field of Industrial Design in the mid-1920s, products and packaging were pushed to the consumer in ways that coalesced with the rise of the plastics industry’s domestication of product manufacturing. Egmont Arens was a leading innovator in plastics and product packaging. Arens, while largely respected for his unique industrial design contributions to everyday American objects, such as the subway turnstile and the meat slicer, often experimented with plastic and its new capacities as a consumer material.
In 1941, Arens sent himself a legal claim to copyright his soap coating process via the USPS: “On December 8, 1941, I, Egmont Arens, claim the development and invention of the method by which soap or similar or other commodities may be coated with a protective coating, which has the function of protecting and preserving the commodities so coated, and which is adaptable to being printed, and the method by which such a protective coating may be simply and easily removed without damaging the coated commodity.”
As the drawing submitted with his claim demonstrates, the soap product could be immersed in a solution of liquid methacrylate, which would harden into a removable plastic coating. (Courtney Asztalos)
An undated Sylvia Carewe advertisement promoting Ivory Flakes soap trades on nostalgia. A faceless young man reaches his hand out to a girl sitting in a tree in a yellow dress and a bonnet, as the tagline proclaims, “He’ll always remember rescuing you from the Crab-apple tree.” In the 1930s, soap and stocking advertising partnerships took advantage of consumers’ tentativeness to invest in silk stockings, which could be delicate and expensive, by emphasizing the wash-ability of the garment with the respective soaps that they sold. A competing advertisement promoting the Lever Brothers’ Lux soap from 1937 to wash stockings for continued E-L-A-S-T-I-C-I-T-Y takes a more aggressive stance than Carewe’s approach by emphasizing the importance of wearing stockings because “Men Like STOCKINGS Better Than BARE LEGS.”
When nylon, a synthetic fabric developed by DuPont, entered the commercial market in 1939, it quickly revolutionized the stocking industry. Almost as quickly,silk, and then nylon, the two fabrics the stocking industry was dominantly built on, were seized by the War Production Board for military supplies, within the first few months of the U.S. entering the war. An internal Ivory Flakes memo sent to Carewe dated September 4, 1941, anticipated the shortage of materials, or the “silk situation,” and noted, “Ivory Flakes is facing the difficult problem of keeping abreast of women’s stocking habits during this rapidly changing period.” Wartime shortages on the American home-front presented advertisers with a unique problem during World War II. How could they continue to market products, when consumers were being advised to ration and “make do” for their country? By July 1942, Ivory Flakes was employing the taglines, “Keep ‘Em Wearing!” and “Suds ‘Em and Save ‘Em!,” in an attempt to match their messaging to a wartime tone.
As the war continued, and stocking shortages reached new heights, Lux, Ivory Flakes, and other brands continued to revise their marketing strategies, as unprecedented numbers of women chose to forego stockings or covered legs, apparently far less concerned with what “men like” than the Lever Brothers wanted to believe. (Grace Wagner)
In 1959, Lurelle Guild was working with Palmolive to change the drab traditional olive tone of their Palmolive soap to “better match and blend” with home furnishings and beauty accessories, specifically targeting women as consumers. In a draft of his report based on surveys, Guild wrote: “There is no reason for Palmolive to keep its traditional green color alone… the present green color of Palmolive Soap rated a poor 8% in the green group.” He pointed to other soap manufacturers seen above in this grid of soap packaging, such as Lux, Woodbury, and Camay who “naturally, have this same group” of consumers. These other soap manufacturers were accessorizing with the color pink through these wrappers, but also advertised in other colors such as blue, white, green, and yellow. The choice for women to choose and accessorize their soap colors was clearly a trend. Much like Syroco promoted accessorizing with color through their line of Lady Syroco accessories for Bath & Boudoir at the end of the 1960s, ten years earlier, this lineage of centering product marketing on the psychology of female consumers had already begun.
In the draft of his report, Lurelle Guild commented, “Times have changed and customers demand a change. The younger generation buys ‘impulse’ products to fit immediate needs. Tradition means little to them. Women are more color conscious now — especially in ensembling of colors in kitchens and baths. Acceptance of beauty colors ranks high. It is a must! There is a strong desire for other colors and it is our definite opinion that they should be included at once in your new product design. Without them, there will be a serious loss of business for you.” Once Guild had finalized his new design for Palmolive, he tested it with consumers in a nation-wide survey. Ironically, one of the comments that he chose to highlight in his report to Colgate-Palmolive was from Mrs. Minnie Link of Binghamton, NY, who wrote, “I have seen perfumes come and go— I suppose the same thing is true about soap. I like new things that are made better and prettier. They give me a lift in my old age.” (Courtney Asztalos)
By Ari Spatola G’20, University Archives Graduate Assistant
Throughout this past year of working for the University Archives at the Special Collections Research Center, I’ve been tasked with processing quite a few Greek life organization collections. In general, I’m always excited to process new collections because any experience is helping me transition from “baby” archivist to archivist, and I’ve been able to find fascinating content in every collection I’ve processed. This past spring, however, when I was assigned the Alpha Phi Omega Collection to process, admittedly, I breathed an initial small sigh of disappointment at the thought of processing yet another Greek letter society collection. While each collection houses its secret joys, I’ve personally never been a huge fan of Greek letter organizations. I never understood why masses of students eagerly flocked to pledge these groups made up of, at least to me, seemingly random Greek letters each semester. “What are people seeing in these groups that I’m not?”, I asked myself as I began examining the Alpha Phi Omega Collection’s inventory. Very quickly, I found the answer.
Processing the Alpha Phi Omega Phi Chapter Collection has eased my reservations about Greek life organizations greatly, and, in fact, made me realize and appreciate the good a group of organized and dedicated individuals can create under the structure of Greek letter societies.
The Phi Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega was founded at Syracuse University in 1931 by a group of just 15 members from the School of Forestry in association with the Boy Scouts of America. As a small service fraternity, the Phi Chapter participated in community service and fundraising activities in the greater Syracuse community. What made this chapter shine brighter than other service fraternities and softened my view of Greek letter organizations, however, was their dedication to accessibility and disability advocacy. This began in 1967 when members of the Phi Chapter were helping a fellow chapter brother navigate campus in his wheelchair. They quickly realized how inaccessible the Syracuse University campus was for wheelchair users and other individuals with mobility issues and sought to confront these issues. This marked the beginning of their efforts towards their project, The Elimination of Architectural Barriers, where, on a campus-wide level, the chapter critically analyzed the shortcomings of SU’s physical campus environment. They published a handbook detailing accessible and non-accessible pathways and entrances as well as tips for navigating campus for those with mobility issues.
Soon after, the chapter realized that improving accessibility on college campuses was a crucial issue across the country and began a national support campaign for their project. The Phi Chapter’s work in campus disability advocacy was noticed by and published in Alpha Phi Omega’s national publication. Around the same time, the Phi Chapter’s most crucial publication, The Elimination of Architectural Barriers Handbook, was created and distributed. The Phi Chapter’s appeal for national support was fulfilled when the leaders of the 1970 Alpha Phi Omega National Convention named The Elimination of Architectural Barriers a national service project, the first proposed by a single chapter. The chapter was awarded the Arno Nowotny National Service Award three years later.
Following their great accomplishments in national campus-wide accessibility, the Phi Chapter remained dedicated to disability advocacy and service. Most notably, the chapter began hosting annual Christmas parties for disabled children in 1967. Currently, the Phi Chapter is continuing to give back to their community and uphold the values they set for themselves 80 years ago. While I initially overlooked the value of Greek letter organizations, processing the papers of the Alpha Phi Omega Phi Chapter allowed me to recognize the important work and service these groups can provide their community when all parties are united in doing good.
The Alpha Phi Omega Phi Chapter Collection (Alpha Phi Omega Phi Chapter Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of our University Archives collections.
The study of architecture is an interesting endeavor. Buildings are generally large, immobile, and subject to change. Buildings are rarely in a convenient location, and even if you are able to see a building in person, you can never take in the entirety at once — you cannot be both inside and outside or standing on multiple floors simultaneously.
The forms through which we study architecture, including photographs and various types of architectural drawings, have their own kind of permanence. In the case of drawings, these forms of documentation were the place where the buildings began from conception. And often, photographs and drawings are all that is left of structures that have been torn down or fallen to ruins. In other cases, buildings are planned in concept only. The structure never comes to be, or at very least not in the way it was drawn.
One of the architecture classes I took as an undergraduate student posed one big question on this topic: What is the true expression of architecture? Is it the concept as the architect imagined it? The three dimensional manifestation of the concept as the structure itself? Or the collection of two dimensional plans, drawings, and photographs that collectively try to represent a three dimensional space? I never came to a satisfying conclusion, but I think the question bears asking, and it’s a question that has stuck with me.
As a Reference Assistant at SCRC, I’ve worked on several research projects on the history of SU, and in particular SU’s buildings and grounds. Often, the research included looking for photographs. Nearly every time this unanswered question was in the back of my mind and grew to encompass far more than just a question of architecture. Studying the history of a University is an equally complex endeavor. Universities, too, are large, immobile, and subject to change. Not to mention the fact that they tend to have several pieces of architecture of their own.
For the most part, the images in the Syracuse University Photograph Collection were created and saved with the intention of documenting the complexities of this University and its changes over time. These are the breadcrumbs through which we make history. But as I’ve spent time with this collection, I’ve come to see how much more it has to offer.
Both the problem and joy of documenting something as immense and multifaceted as a building or a University stems from the fact that by creating a piece of documentation, such as a photograph, that documentation becomes a new medium of its own. Photographs recontextualize SU’s campus into new expressions of art and architecture.
Yes, these photographs document SU’s history, but they also capture moments of whimsy and synchronicity.
When taken as a whole, these images can show how one structure can be both light and dark.
How one sculpture can by turns be sorrowful, pensive, or imposing.
By adjusting the lens through which we view these pieces of documentation, we can take them in as art in their own right. We can see the different elements of the photograph other than the primary subject.
The framing and lighting.
The unintended subject in the foreground or background.
The elements that make these images seem something more than what they were intended to be.
These details compiled across a collection of images are what make the whole greater than the sum of its parts and what brings some humanity into studying the history of a University campus.
The Syracuse University Photograph Collection (Syracuse University Photograph Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of our University Archives collections.