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Researching Stenogravures, Crystopal, and Armand Winfield

By Jonah Carter, Plastics Artifacts Processing Intern

During the Fall semester of 2020, I was a processing intern for the Plastics Artifacts Collection. This processing internship not only provided me with the practical knowledge of how processing, organization, and arrangement work in archival and special collections, I also learned more about the process of archival research.

During my time as an intern, I handled a variety of very interesting plastic materials that ignited interest in studying them further. One of these materials I came across are called stenogravures. The stenogravures are very strong — as they are composed of phenol formaldehyde resin (the first commercially available synthetic resin) also known for comprising Bakelite — and are akin to stone carvings. Each stenogravure has a carved image on it; there were quiet a few carvings of landscapes, animals, people, events, and infrastructure. Stenogravures were created by Walter Stenning as mini art carvings on plaques in 1921. The Special Collections Research Center contains the first stenogravures ever created in 1923 and the production of these materials ended in 1932. The information about Walter Stenning is limited; however, I believe he later died in 1937 based on ancestry records (Detroit Free Press, 1937, 27). Stenogravures are rare due to the fact that Stenning was the sole producer of these materials over only a nine year period and they are limited in number. Syracuse University holds thirty-nine in its possession via donation (Clark, 2017, 7-9).

Colorful bird on black background.
An example of a stenogravure of a parrot. Plastics Artifacts Collection.

The second material that drew my attention was a beautiful, rectangular, stone-like plastic that could be mistaken for crystal. This material was crystopal, a plastic material that was created to mimic the appearance of hard crystal stone. It was due to this crystal-like nature and unique pattern inspired me to research crystopal further. The researching process for crystopal has been elusive. Much like Walter Stenning, finding extensive information on the material itself and its development proved challenging within a semester alone. Perhaps the information is waiting to be uncovered deeper within the plastics collection area holdings. However, I did gain more knowledge on Armand Winfield, the creator of crystopal, and the history of the plastics industry when researching crystopal and this made me transition my research from the material itself to its creator.

Blue and green square piece of plastic
Blue-green sample of Crystopal. Plastics Artifacts Collection.

So who was Armand Winfield? Fortunately, I was able to find out more through his personal papers, which the SCRC holds a portion of (the Smithsonian National Museum of American History also holds a portion of his papers). Born in 1919, Winfield was an innovator within the fields of plastic development, business, plastics engineering and design, as well as plastics history. Winfield studied geology in school and worked in the fields of anthropology and art upon graduation. In his college years, he worked as the assistant of his school’s Geology Department and as the school’s Museum Curator. He furthered his work in the field of art with his specialty being embedding materials in acrylics and making unique jewelry (Winfield, 1992, 41-43). His experiences in embedding objects in acrylics and jewelry-making serve as the beginning of his journey as a plastics creator, developer, and consultant.

Armand Winfield.
Photograph of Armand Winfield.

In 1945, Winfield founded his own fine art museum in New York City after serving in World War II (Winfield, 1992, 41-43). It was after he earned his masters degree that Winfield became a plastics consultant and engineer in addition to a university instructor on the subject. Starting in 1964, Winfield founded his own plastics consulting company, and common consultation jobs included designing and developing amusement parks (Winfield, 1992, 44-47). It was the consultant work Winfield undertook during this time that helped him achieve international acclaim and expertise in plastic development and business. When he expanded into plastic development, he focused on building construction and housing development across the world, with India being one of his most popular countries for these business engagements (Winfield, 1992, 48-50). Winfield had a wide-ranging impact on the plastics market and its subsequent development. The materials he created are found in so many homes and buildings around the world — the scale wide-ranging from the small (jewelry embedments) to the large (housing structures). The Armand G. Winfield Papers are an exciting resource for plastics research and potential discovery.

Without this internship I would have likely never have learned about the history of plastic development, specific artifacts of interest, and figures that have impacted the world many times over. Fleshing out an area of history I have never experienced before in a manner of research I have not conducted yet has been one of the most rewarding and interesting parts of my academic and professional career.


The Plastics Artifacts Collection (Plastics Artifacts Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) and the Armand G. Winfield Papers (Armand G. Winfield Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


References:

Clark, C. (2017). Stenogravures: Miniature Works of Art, Technology and Plastic. Plastiquarian. Plastics Historical Society.

Detroit Free Press. (1937, March 19). U.S. Newspapers Obituary Index, 1800s-Current. Ancestry Operation Incorporated. https://www.newspapers.com/image/97622815/?article=9a8e215d-a3a6-4176-9ec0-3d4987ceefc7&focus=0.25421575,0.8469208,0.3744949,0.9664477&xid=3355.

Stenning, W. (1927). Stenogravure of Parrot. Oversize Box 466. Accession Number 2010.032.17. Plastics Collection. Special Collections Research Center. Syracuse University Libraries.

Suazo, C. (1991, September). Photo of “Armand Winfield.” Armand Winfield Incorporated. Special Collections Research Center. Syracuse University Libraries.

Winfield, A. (1962). Crystopal Sample. Oversize Box 451. Accession Number 2003.1318. Plastics Collection. Special Collections Research Center. Syracuse University Libraries.

Winfield, A. (1992). Plastics: 1942-1992 – A Personal Overview of the Past Half Century. The Papers of the 50th Annual Technical Conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers.



Reconstructing Racial Equality in Syracuse

By Krystal Cannon, SCRC Curatorial Instruction Assistant

The history of roads and highways may not immediately seem contentious, but Syracuse’s Interstate 81 has played a major role in the racial, social, and economic landscape of the city. With social justice coming to the forefront of popular discourse throughout this past year, it’s important to understand how the injustices of history have impacted the realities of the present. SCRC is fortunate to hold a bit of this history within the Congress of Racial Equality (Syracuse Chapter) Collection. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1942, with chapters forming across the country throughout the next two and a half decades. Though their national impact had dissipated by the end of the 1960s, they played an important part in the Civil Rights Movement at the height of their influence, focusing on empowering Black communities to demand an end to racial injustice through boycotts, demonstrations, and other forms of nonviolent direct action.

Black text on white background
Description of CORE from the first issue of their newsletter “In the Wind.”

I-81 was erected in 1957 and ran directly through Syracuse’s 15th Ward, leading to the destruction of people’s livelihoods and upending the culture and relationships that neighbors had built with one another. Prior to the emergence of CORE’s Syracuse chapter, residents of this district protested the highway’s construction by picketing outside of buildings in danger of being demolished, which were sometimes their own houses. This area was home to a majority of Syracuse’s Black residents, many of whom had relocated here after World War II to find better employment opportunities than existed further south. Due to the increase in personal vehicle ownership and travel, highways were being built nationwide, and it was common that Black redlined neighborhoods were sacrificed as part of this initiative. There was little representation in government on local and national levels to protect these communities from the federal investment in racist infrastructure, and attempts to stop it went unheard.

A few years later, urban renewal programs endeavored to gentrify what remained of the 15th Ward. Homes and recreational landmarks in this community were destroyed to make way for newer housing, as well as businesses and offices. CORE advocated for these displaced Black residents as discriminatory practices continued to ensue in less visible ways. As Black families sought new housing in other parts of the city, they were often lied to about availability and pricing in predominantly white neighborhoods. CORE activists and community members tested this by sending white families to inquire about the same properties, who were given different information and treated as welcomed customers.

This also led to a need for 15th Ward residents to find new employment. Black individuals were often denied job opportunities in this so-called renewed area, which inspired CORE’s Christmas boycott in 1963. This call to action discouraged shopping in Syracuse’s downtown area in support of Black-owned businesses and services. This boycott also pushed a list of demands prompting businesses to take action against racial injustice by changing their hiring policies and speaking out in support of civil rights legislation.

Black text on white background
Christmas 1963 boycott guide distributed by CORE.

Additionally, CORE tirelessly worked to find justice for Black individuals who had been mistreated by police officers in a fashion strikingly similar to what we’ve seen throughout the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Press releases were used to encourage the community to take part in contacting officials and joining demonstrations. Countless other social and systemic issues were tackled by the group, who, on top of their press releases, produced pamphlets and booklets to educate the community about the many different ways in which racial discrimination and half-measures towards equality were leaving a huge population of Syracuse underserved. Unfortunately, because the previous residents of the 15th Ward had become scattered around Syracuse and its surrounding areas, activist momentum in Syracuse inevitably wavered. The ability to organize against injustice collectively became increasingly difficult and CORE was unable to continue its advocacy effectively.

Black text on white background
Call to action organized by CORE to protest police brutality in 1964.

The 15th Ward may no longer exist, but I-81 continues to wreak havoc on residents living along the elevated highway. Some homes are mere feet away from the busy thoroughfare, making exhaust fumes and traffic noise inescapable. This interstate was not designed to be permanent, and, in passing its expiration date, has jeopardized its structural integrity and safety. Many have hoped for the seizure of this opportunity to devise a better plan, and activists and city officials have been attempting to find new ways to move forward that do not include the reconstruction of this highway. Proposals have been put forth to improve the quality of life for nearby residents and communities, including more green space, greater walkability, and better access to local businesses. Details for how the city plans to proceed have not yet been finalized, but it’s clear that Syracuse residents deserve some form of amends to honor the struggles of past activists and meet the needs advocated for by current ones.


The Congress of Racial Equality (Syracuse Chapter) Collection (Congress of Racial Equality (Syracuse Chapter) Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


75 Years of Benjamin Spock’s Common Sense Parenting

By Paul Barfoot, Library Technician

2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Benjamin Spock’s Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce. Selling for 25 cents, the book’s 500 or so pages were arranged by topic and age so that it could be used as a reference guide for parents. At a time when most baby books were written by authorities with the assumption that the reader needed to be taught how to be a parent, the book begins with Dr. Spock’s now-famous advice to parents:

“Don’t be awed by the experts. Trust your own common sense. Bringing up your child doesn’t have to be complicated if you take it easy and rely on your instincts. The natural loving care that parents give their children is a hundred times more important than knowing how to make a diaper fit tightly or just when to start solid foods.”

Benjamin Spock, Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care

There was little thought at the time that the book would become so popular, but in its first six months, it sold more than 500,000 copies. The book’s practical advice has become indispensable to millions. There have been 10 editions (the 10th edition was published in 2018) in 40 languages, each revised to fit the times, and total sales are now more than 50 million.

Black text on white background
The inside cover of a first edition copy of The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock. Dedicated “For Syracuse University. Benjamin Spock. Dec 16 1966.” Rare books.

1946 was a pivotal year in the United States. World War II was over and years of economic turmoil were coming to an end. Even though there were still hardships, there was a general feeling of optimism and an openness to innovation.

GIs were returning from the war ready to start or resume their lives and families. The post-war baby boom had begun. It was a time of great anxiety for first-time parents.

The prevailing philosophy of child rearing had been a strict authoritarian approach that saw children as needing to be trained and disciplined into proper behavior. Parents were discouraged from showing too much affection to their children for fear of making them weak. 

Dr Spock’s Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care was revolutionary. It took a different approach that fit the era of new possibilities and a move away from unquestioned expert authority. 

Benjamin Spock graduated first in his class at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and begun private practice in New York in 1933.  He had also undergone training at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and completed a residency in psychoanalysis at the Payne Whitney Clinic. It was this combination of Freudian psychoanalysis and pediatrics that led Spock to search for a kind of preventative child psychology. His observation of adult psychotherapy to heal issues rooted in childhood trauma led him to consider the ways in which that trauma might be minimized in early childhood. In addition, his pediatric practice became a rich source of practical information. He kept extensive notes on the problems that parents experienced and how they dealt with them.

“As he conscientiously worked with the families in his practice, Spock noted that intelligent and concerned parents were often very anxious about doing the right thing for their children. He also noticed that the medical establishment paid little heed to these general concerns. He thought that if the knowledgeable parents in his practice, such as anthropologist Margaret Mead, worried about how to handle her child, the legions of parents who lacked her education and financial resources would certainly need help. Obviously, here was a fertile field for a person who wanted to influence lives in a positive manner.”

Pickett, Robert S. “Benjamin Spock and the Spock Papers at Syracuse University.” The Courier 22.2 (1987): 3-22.
Benjamin Spock speaking to a child on a bench
Spock talking with a patient at the health center. Benjamin Spock and Mary Morgan Papers.

In 1938, collaborating with Dr Mabel Huschka of the New York Hospital and Department of Psychiatry of Cornell University Medical College, Spock had written a chapter titled, “The Psychological Aspects of Pediatric Practice,” for Appleton Century’s “Practitioners Library of Medicine and Surgery” (Volume XIII). This article was published separately for the New York State Committee on Mental Hygiene of the State Charities Aid Association [see Box 403 BSMMP]. The success of this article convinced Spock that there was an audience for his writing.

In 1943, Ben Spock and his wife, Jane, began compiling the meticulously kept notes from his practice and research into a practical guide for parents dealing with the day-to-day issues of having young children. It was a long slow process made more difficult by his time in the US Navy during the war, but by the end of the war, the book was ready and Pocket Books had agreed to publish it.

The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, first published 75 years ago, was the right book at the right time. The combination of practical advice and encouragement spoke to the parents of the Baby Boom Generation in a way that parents in previous generations had not been addressed before and Benjamin Spock, through his commitment to social change, his training in both pediatrics and Freudian psychology, and his skill as a writer, was the right person at the right time to create it. The Benjamin Spock and Mary Morgan Papers at Syracuse University Department of Special Collections contains correspondence, writings and medical reference files that all tell the story of the creation of this book that had, and continues to have, a profound effect on modern culture.

The original Benjamin Spock Papers, as described by Robert S. Pickett in the Syracuse University Library Associates Courier Volume XXII, number 2 (Fall 1987), was about 150 linear feet of material. In subsequent years, Dr. Spock’s widow, Mary Morgan, donated additional material about his career and her own. The Benjamin Spock and Mary Morgan Papers is now approximately twice the size of the original collection.

Mary Morgan (neé Wright) met Benjamin Spock in 1975 following his divorce from Jane (neé Cheney).  Mary “had been involved with the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) campaign as well as the Transactional Analysis movement, among other issues. They married in 1976. They built a home near Rogers, Arkansas, but spent a great deal of time on their boats Turtle and Carapace, and later moved to the British Virgin Islands. For the last two decades of his life, in addition to being Benjamin Spock’s constant companion, Mary helped him manage his career and health and encouraged his adoption of a macrobiotic diet and yoga.” (Biographical History, Finding Aid, Benjamin Spock and Mary Morgan Papers)

She continues to be actively involved in overseeing his legacy.

A personal note: Getting to know Ben and Mary
Older couple sitting in a boat on the water.
Photo of Ben and Mary in boat. Benjamin Spock and Mary Morgan Papers.

Processing someone’s collection of personal papers is a journey. The destination, of course, is to make primary source material available to researchers by arranging and describing it in a meaningful way while still retaining as much of the original arrangement as possible and refraining from over-describing. The journey toward that goal can be an intensely personal, some might say intimate, walk with the person whose collection is being processed. Details of their lives and friendships and even romances are revealed. One becomes familiar with their style of expression and handwriting. Sometimes, honestly, I have ended up truly despising the person – and sometimes I have fallen in love.

Let me share with you some of my walk with Dr Benjamin Spock and his wife Mary Morgan.

Like many of my generation, I was a Spock baby. Our parents used the Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care as the go-to authority on parenting. In 1946, when the first edition was published, Dr. Spock’s approach of advising parents to “…take it easy and rely on your instincts…” was considered radical, and I was one of the beneficiaries of that more relaxed upbringing.

But it was Dr. Spock’s political activism that made him one of my heroes. In an era of “your friend the atom” and “Duck and Cover,” he was one of the first to declare that nuclear weapons were a children’s health issue. His opposition to war, in particular, Vietnam, fit with my own opinions and I have heard him speak at rallies many times. So, when I was given the opportunity to work on his papers, I was delighted.

Meeting and working with Dr. Spock’s widow, Mary Morgan, not only helped me understand the man who was one of the most influential people of the 20th century, but became a warm personal connection as well.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have gotten to know Ben and Mary and for being able to take part in sharing their remarkable story.


The Benjamin Spock and Mary Morgan Papers (Benjamin Spock and Mary Morgan Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.