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An Artist in Pictures: Photographs of Grace Hartigan

By Tiffany Miller, Reference Assistant

I am a process artist. You start off with an idea and then ideas keep coming as you’re creating and eventually the painting tells you what it wants . . . I paint things that I’m against to try to make them wonderful very often, to give them the magic they don’t have . . .

Grace Hartigan, Smithsonian American Art Museum documentary

In the Grace Hartigan Papers held at SCRC, the vibrant Abstract Expressionist paintings Hartigan is best-known for are rendered almost exclusively in black-and-white photographs. Rather than tempering or restricting our understanding of Hartigan, these photographs illuminate aspects of her life that I, as an art history student, had not been fully aware of prior to studying her papers.

Grace Hartigan, born in 1922 in Newark, New Jersey, was an Abstract Expressionist artist in New York City, active primarily in the 1950s and 1960s. Her papers include photographs of the artist painting on canvas and spending time with friends on trips. As an art history student, I have studied and been fascinated with the art of the Abstract Expressionist movement for its dynamism, color palette, and artist personalities. However, the female artists identifying with the movement and their bright, mesmerizing works have remained my primary interest.

Recently, I was able to research the Grace Hartigan Papers for a patron, and found myself in awe of Hartigan’s personal and professional letters and photographs. Her letters to dear friends and fellow renowned artists captured my attention through her casual writing style and her group of correspondents. Then, I noticed photographs of Hartigan painting dynamically and gracefully as well as photographs of her laughing with friends and playing games in parks. As art historians, we learn about, look at, and research different art movements, but by seeing the artists make the art that we study and their personal lives, we can relate to these artists on a closer level.

Woman painting on canvas
A young Grace Hartigan painting in her studio in the 1940s at the beginning of her artistic career.

The first photograph (above) that strikes me portrays a young Hartigan painting an abstracted female figure in a room with foliage. Likely taken in the 1940s before her move to New York, Hartigan appears to be painting inside her studio or in her home with her materials. The combination of a peasant top and billowy skirt was Hartigan’s primary uniform for painting in the early stages of her career. Even though she is associated with a dynamic and masculine art movement, this photograph renders herself, her space, and her art as gentle. Although it is unclear if this photograph is posed, this photograph was taken before her publicity images of the 1950s and 1960s when she was largely active in the Abstract Expressionist movement. This photograph serves to show an early glimpse of Hartigan’s artistic style and how she could be rendered as an artist. She was only in her twenties here, and this action scene shows her creative process and early style as an emerging artist.

Grace Hartigan moved to New York City during the 1940s, and made a name for herself amongst the thriving New York art scene. She made friends with the most well-known Abstract Expressionists, including Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning, and through her papers here at the SCRC, we are able to better understand her relationships and exhibits. Hartigan often exhibited as George Hartigan instead of using her first name. Her paintings are mostly oil on canvas that primarily depict energetic, expressive lines and blocks of color and later paintings depict recognizable figures of specific men and women.

Grace Hartigan with self-portrait.
Grace Hartigan posing with her painting, Self Portrait in Fur, at a 1953 art show.

The second photograph (above) is a posed image of Hartigan with her work in 1953, likely taken by her boyfriend at the time, photographer Walter Silver. Silver took many of the professional and personal photographs that exist of Hartigan. Here, she stands alongside her self-portrait in a gallery setting in front of works on display. The painting in the foreground is titled Self Portrait in Fur, a very colorful piece in shades of blue, brown, yellow, and white, which is unfortunately lost with the black and white image, but one can imagine the hues based on the other bright and abstracted paintings in her oeuvre. This photograph was taken at an exhibit entirely of Hartigan’s works, and by 1953, Grace began using her real first name to exhibit. As a publicity shot of Hartigan taken with one of her famous portraits in her exhibit space, this image provides some insight into art and commerce in the 1950s. Hartigan and other artists relied on and participated in the traditional art market in order to sell their works. Life magazine featured Hartigan and other female Abstract Expressionist artists in 1957, and Jackson Pollock earlier in 1949, and Hartigan was also featured in Newsweek in 1959. This image, along with the first, directly connects Hartigan with her works in different stages of creation and output.

Woman laughing with kite
A carefree Grace Hartigan flying a kite in the 1950s.

The third photograph (above) of Hartigan is my favorite. She is outside flying a kite in a park with other kite flyers. Her flailing arms and wide smile express her happiness in the moment. The smile on her face says it all. This kind of photograph is my favorite because it is relatable. You can look at this image and remember when you flew a kite or when you were in a park during the summer. If the image were in color, we would be able to see the green grass, the blue sky, the color of her top and skirt, and the kite.

The photographic materials in special collections serve as visual evidence of the real lives of people from the past that otherwise would not be revealed through words. With these three photographs, we get a glimpse of Hartigan’s professional and personal life, including precious memories with friends and Hartigan exhibiting her own work. The emotions, interactions, and relationships of artists shape their artistic output. We as viewers, students, and researchers can place ourselves in their footsteps, just like we can with Grace Hartigan flying a kite with her friends.

The Grace Hartigan Papers (Grace Hartigan Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


Curtis, Cathy. Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter (Oxford University Press, New York, 2015).

“Grace Hartigan.” Guggenheim, 20 May 2013,

“Grace Hartigan: MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art,

La Moy, William T., and Joseph P. McCaffrey, editors. Journals of Grace Hartigan, 1951-1955. (Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York, 2015), xiv.

“Meet the Artist: Grace Hartigan.” Smithsonian American Art Museum, Meet the Artist video media series, 16 January 2009,

Quilter, Jenni. “The Real Thing by Jenni Quilter.” London Review of Books, 21 April 2016,

“Self Portrait in Fur by Grace Hartigan.” Self Portrait in Fur by Grace Hartigan on Artnet, Christie’s Hong Kong,

Shure, Alice, Janice Stanton, and Grace Hartigan. 2008. Grace Hartigan: shattering boundaries. San Francisco: Microcinema International.

Valdes, Olivia. “The Life and Work of Grace Hartigan.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 18 January 2019,

Wagner, Grace. “Ninth Street Women and New Books at SCRC.” Special Collections Research Center, 7 February 2020,

A Century of Syroco

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

I work in SCRC’s Public Services department and, by far, the collection that we receive the most questions about is one of our smallest. Less than one linear foot, the Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) Collection consists of two document boxes and a handful of product catalogs, documenting the company’s century-long history.

Whenever I or one of my colleagues sees a question about Syroco arrive by email, we call out, “SYROCO!”, and the question is promptly sent my way. My interest in — one might say my affinity for — Syroco comes from years of discovering the signature black and gold circular logo on the back of estate and garage sale finds.

It is not surprising that so many researchers assume Syracuse University must hold a robust collection of Syroco materials. After all, Syracuse, NY, is where the SYRacuse Ornamental COmpany was originally founded and, in part, where the Syroco Company derived its name. The company was founded in 1890 by Austrian immigrant Adolph Holstein, and continued operating locally for over one hundred years. Its headquarters were located in downtown Syracuse in a factory on South Clinton Street, and, at the company’s height, it employed approximately 400 workers in the area.

Gold lettering on tattered cover
An early Syracuse Ornamental Company catalog, circa 1908 from SCRC’s collections.

One of the hallmarks of the Syroco Company was its astounding ability to invent and reinvent itself numerous times over more than a century of business. Syroco products are distinct, but each era of production is marked by certain hallmarks of the day. In this way, the company serves as an interesting benchmark for trends and progress over time. When Syroco first started manufacturing its unique product, the focus was primarily on ornamental decoration. The earliest catalog in our collection, dating to 1908, features pages of fancy scrollwork, hand-carved from wood.

By the 1920s, Syroco began to shift from this more laborious craftsman style of production to one that was more practical and quickly became the company’s signature. In a 1923 catalog from our collections, the company is still advertising wood carvings and moldings for home decor, but denotes that Syroco is now producing a “90% wood product,” in hopes that their “rare and superior” product would “now [be] made practical.”  The advertised “wood product” was composed out of a mixture of wood pulp from the Adirondacks, flour, and other binding agents, which were poured into moldings to create decorative home goods. The moldings resembled traditional wood-carved objects.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the company put forth their “SyrocoWood” line of novelty items. This is perhaps my favorite era of Syroco design. Among the novelty items manufactured, there was a significant amount of decorative wall art in religious and seasonal themes, as well as shaving kits, tie holders, corkscrews and cigar boxes in traditionally ‘masculine’ themes, like sailboats, dogs and horses.

Women in color-coded outfits with bathroom accessories
Syroco catalog circa 1968-1969: “Discover the colorful world of…Lady Syroco Accessories for Bath & Boudoir.”

The relatively sedate, still-recognizably-wood designs of the 1930s and 1940s began to transform into brightly colored products that were frequently finished with gold by the 1950s and 1960s. A line of “Lady Syroco” products were also introduced in the 1960s, complete with color-coded mod-models hawking bathroom wares, as well as a line of “Syroco Art” in 1970, featuring contemporary and classic works of art in Syroco frames. It might not be surprising to hear that the company was also expanding its production to include more plastic products at this point in time. 

Gold frames and mirrors.
A page from a mid-1970s Syroco catalog, featuring the gilded style of later years of Syroco.

Eventually, the failing company began manufacturing plastic furniture in the 1980s and 1990s, before officially closing its doors in 2007. Still, interest in the company has not waned. In particular, estate sales, garage sales, antique stores, and uncleared garages and basements have given the company a second life. Frequently, researchers who contact us in search of information about their Syroco object are individuals who have discovered their piece in one of these places.

Although I have become relatively familiar with the pages of the catalogs in our Syroco Collection, having reviewed them a number of times for different research requests, I still enjoy helping people discover if their object is a Syroco product. I understand their excitement, because I’ve felt the same way upon discovering Syroco objects I own in the pages of one of the original catalogs. I picked up a Scottie dog tie holder, a “SyrocoWood” product, at an estate sale a few years ago that now holds some of my jewelry. Although the tie holder has only been hanging on my wall for a few years, many mid-century homes in Syracuse and across the United States never removed their Syroco decorations since they were first hung on the wall.

Woman sitting at table in the 1950s.
My Grandma Lou sitting at her kitchen table in the 1950s with a piece of SyrocoWood art likely hanging on the opposite wall just out of sight.

Recently, I realized that my grandma fell into this category. As long as I have visited her Ohio home, and likely since her house was first built in 1956, she has had one of Syroco’s products, a depiction of The Last Supper (also part of the “SyrocoWood” series), hanging over her kitchen table. I have a picture of this object, thanks to my uncle, and I can confirm that it was manufactured by Syroco in the 1930s, thanks to a picture in one of our collection’s catalogs, but I can’t seem to find a family picture documenting its familiar presence on her kitchen wall. I can only rely on my memories for this confirmation. Even so, I am certain that it is hanging just out sight of the camera’s lens in the above picture of her sitting at her kitchen table from the 1950s.

The Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) Collection (Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) and the Plastics Artifacts Collection (Plastics Artifacts Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.

March Wrap Up

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

In Syracuse, we hope that the old proverb, “March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb,” will prove true when it comes to winter weather. This year, however, the expression takes on a different meaning.

The March SCRC had planned for, complete with events for celebrating Syracuse University’s sesquicentennial (and official 150th birthday!) on March 24, and the Brodsky Conservation Lecture and Workshop on March 25 and 26, has drastically shifted, in the wake of the COVID-19 national emergency. Public events have been postponed, and we are ending March on a quieter note, as Syracuse University and SCRC shift to operating remotely.

Looking Back at February & March Events:

Wednesday, February 26, 2020: Black Arts Movement Popup Exhibit ENCORE, 5:15 – 6:15 pm, Hillyer Room (606 Bird Library). Popup exhibit complementing the Humanities Center’s “Black Music and Black Power in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter” lecture. Check out SCRC’s blog post here.

Friday, March 6, 2020: Unfaithful Mini-Seminar with Carol Faulkner, 10:00 am-12:00 pm, Lemke Seminar Room (Bird Library). Mini-seminar led by Professor of History and Associate Dean Carol Faulkner, discussing her recent book, “Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America.” Check out SCRC’s “Unfaithful” book review here.

Newly Processed Collection:

Highlight from Social Media:

Upcoming Public Events:

Brodsky Lecture Series Postponed: Anna Laganà from The Getty Conservation Institute will be speaking on “The Conservation of Plastics in Museum Collections: a challenging path” at a later date. Please check our Brodsky Series page to learn more about past speakers and workshops.

Upcoming Opportunities:

2020 SCRC Faculty Fellows Program Deadline Extended: SCRC has extended the deadline to Friday, April 17th at 5 p.m. for two faculty fellows interested in providing students with an opportunity to handle, analyze, and interpret SCRC’s primary source materials in their classes.

Happy Birthday, SU!

If you’re looking for more ways to celebrate the big 1-5-0 with SU, check out this roundup of sesquicentennial coverage:

  • The Orange in National Orange Day: And, if you didn’t catch our blog post on the SU school colors the first time around, Meg Mason leads the discussion here as well.
  • Finally, we’ll let the 1970s music and campus footage featured in the video below, posted by SCRC’s University Archives Facebook page, play us out:

Happy National Orange Day! Although we can’t be together to celebrate Syracuse University's 150th birthday, you can still join the Archives in a long-distance dance party to celebrate what it means to be #4EverOrange. Our soundtrack for the day is the groovy tunes of this film of campus from the early 1970s, right around the time of our centennial. Here’s to the next 150 years, Orange family! #SU150

Posted by Syracuse University Archives on Monday, March 23, 2020

The postcard featured in the header image of this post is from our Syracuse University Postcard Collection (Syracuse University Postcard Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries). This collection is part of our University Archives collections.

The Orange in National Orange Day

By Meg Mason, University Archivist

Syracuse University was founded on March 24, 1870, when its Board of Trustees signed the University charter and certificate of incorporation. The day is now known as National Orange Day, so today is a great time to explore how the University adopted the color orange.

Orange wasn’t the University’s first color. According to the University Herald, “after an uproarious time, the students adopted Rose Pink and Pea Green, as the University colors” on June 24, 1872. Apparently, there was much disagreement at the time over the color green since many preferred sky blue. That opinion appears to have eventually won out, since the colors were changed to rose pink and azure, a fancy way of saying pink ‘n blue, just a year later.

Black text on white background
“University Colors,” University Herald, 28 September 1872, from the Syracuse University Student Publications Reference Collection

In really old collections in the University Archives, you may come across evidence of SU’s earlier colors – or at least pink and blue. I’ve yet to find the pink and pea green color combination in our collections, but the Archives does hold old diplomas bearing pink and blue ribbons, and the colors appear elsewhere, although they’re difficult to find.  Howard Dixon Mitchell, Class of 1887, kept a scrapbook that has proven to be a rich resource of late 19th century student life at Syracuse University. One of the first pages of this scrapbook reveals a beautifully preserved set of pink and blue ribbons, along with Mitchell’s poem about his college years.

Handwritten poem over crisscrossed pink and blue ribbons.
Page from Howard Dixon Mitchell’s Scrapbook, circa 1880s, highlighting the pink and blue school colors of Syracuse.

Pink and blue seemed to hold out for a while, but SU students came to find them unsuitable and babyish, especially for athletic events. At the Class of 1890’s 50th reunion, alumnus Frank J. Marion recalled how his class was responsible for the color change. That spring of 1890, the seniors were celebrating SU’s track meet victory over Hamilton College. Marion described how the men students carried canes bedecked with pink and blue ribbons. But when they tried to “whoop it up” after the meet, the pink and blue colors deflated their enthusiasm:

“What kind of ‘whoopee’ can be made with pink and blue, the pale kind you use on babies’ what-do-you-call-thems? It just couldn’t be done!”

Frank J. Marion quote from Syracuse University, The Critical Years, v. 3, 1984 (Wilson, Galpin, Barck).

Soon after, members of the senior class received permission from Chancellor Sims to form a committee to change the University colors. Professor J. Scott Clark was chair of the committee, and he consulted Baird’s Manual of American College Fraternities, which listed college and university colors. They discovered that no other college or university had claimed the singular color orange and it was up for grabs. By June 1890, the color orange had been adopted by Syracuse University.  

Black text on white background
Approval of color orange by the SU Alumni Association, June 24, 1890 Syracuse University Alumni Association minutes from the Syracuse University Alumni Associations and Clubs Records

SU students embraced the new color, but very early instances of orange are challenging to find in the University Archives. A Glee and Banjo Clubs program from 1891 has been the earliest use of orange I’ve found in the collections so far – once again, tucked away in an old student scrapbook.

Orange design on white background
Cover of Syracuse University Glee and Banjo Clubs program, 1891, from the Gertrude A. Shepherd Scrapbook

This is not to say we don’t have a lot of orange in the University Archives’ collections – we do! The color has become such an emblem of the University, saturating its history, from pennants and athletic uniforms to Otto the Orange, and even the name of the student newspaper, The Daily Orange.  We find orange all over the place in the University Archives: memorabilia, such as reunion buttons and beanies; publications, posters, yearbooks, and color photographs; and even letterheads on University correspondence.

Even we archivists get in on it. At special events like National Orange Day and Orange Central, the University reunion and homecoming weekend, we break out our orange cardigans. We’re always on the lookout for professional orange-wear!

Two women wearing orange cardigans
Vanessa St. Oegger-Menn and Meg Mason at the University Archives table during Orange Central.

We wish you all a very orange day as we mark the official date of Syracuse University’s sesquicentennial on National Orange Day!

The Syracuse University Student Publications Reference Collection (Syracuse University Student Publications Reference Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Syracuse University Alumni Associations and Clubs Records (Syracuse University Alumni Associations and Clubs Records, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Gertrude A. Shepherd Scrapbook (Gertrude A. Shepherd Scrapbook , University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), and Howard Dixon Mitchell Scrapbook (Howard Dixon Mitchell Scrapbook , University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of our University Archives collections.

Bringing Art to the People

By Courtney Asztalos, Plastics and Historical Artifacts Curator and Jana Rosinski, Curatorial Assistant for Plastics and Historical Artifacts

The political revolution would only be achievable through a demonstrable form of cultural remaking. In other words, culture was the soil on which politics were played out. In this sense, perhaps culture played a more central role in revolutionary imagining than it is given credit for…

Christopher M. Timson, New Breeds, Old Dreams: Liberator and Black Radical Aesthetics

On February 19th, Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) hosted a special pop-up exhibit on the Black Arts Movement. The Black Arts Movement was an African American-led arts movement that occurred approximately between 1965 and 1975. In the wake of Malcolm X’s assassination, African Americans were redefining their relationship as citizens of the United States. Through the sister movements of Black Arts and Black Power, many institutions of Pan African and African American education were birthed from the labor of the artists and activists who created the works and taught from them. The Black Arts Movement represented Black life amidst, and in reaction to, the vast cultural, political, and social upheaval of the times, through poetry and small press publications, plays, illustrations, artwork, and more. In this post, we will highlight a selection of materials that caught visitors’ attention at the pop-up.

An essential means of bringing art to the people was through music performance. One resource unique to SCRC is an audio recording of musician Gil Scott-Heron’s Live Session at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel on February 8th, 1973. Heron was a poet, musician, and spoken word performer, best known for his famous anthem, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. We discovered this rare recording within SCRC’s WAER Collection, which consists of non-commercial recordings, all off-air dubs on reel-to-reel tapes. WAER is a local Syracuse radio station that was student-run until 1983. Recorded around the time of the release of Scott-Heron’s second studio album, Free Will, the themes of the performance reflect his centering of the Black experience, including respect for natural Black hair, Black pride, and the fight for the visibility of Black culture in white-dominant mainstream culture.

Paramount to the Black Arts Movement was the social activist, poet, playwright, editor, novelist, music critic, and credited founder of BAM, LeRoi Jones, who became known by his adopted name Imamu Amiri Baraka during the 1960s and 1970s. SCRC holds the papers of LeRoi Jones (inclusive dates 1957-1968), a collection that permits researchers a unique perspective into the early years of BAM. One selection from Baraka’s papers included in the pop-up was Baraka’s take on “The Task of the Negro Writer As Artist,” published in a 1965 issue of Negro Digest. The importance of Negro Digest to BAM was crucial as it was the only journal of the movement that could be purchased at major newsstands. In this largely circulated essay, Baraka speaks to the necessity of centering the Black experience within Black consciousness:

The Black Artist must draw out of his soul the correct image of the world. He must use this image to band his brothers and sisters together in common understanding of the nature of the world (and the nature of America) and the nature of the human soul.

LeRoi Jones (Imamu Amiri Baraka)

Baraka’s writing is an early example of the emergence of BAM’s new Black consciousness and his essay sits among a range of intergenerational dialogues and perspectives in this issue.

Baraka was also foundational part of the opening of the Black Arts Repertory Theatre and School (BARTS) in Harlem, authoring plays alone and collaborating with other artists like Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, and Sonia Sanchez. Black theater was expanding in new directions motivated by the imperative to bring the full depth of the Black experience to Black audiences. BARTS inspired many other Black theaters and performances, like this spoken word performance by the Young Spirit House Movers.

In The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones, Baraka writes, “Bringing art to the people, black art to black people, and getting paid for doing it was sweet. Both the artists and the people were raised by that experience.” One specific example is found within SCRC’s Grove Press Records. It is no surprise that this handmade manuscript of Black student voices growing up in the Movement was submitted to Grove Press, known for its progressive publications.

The cover features an illustration of James Brown and, in fact, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”, seems to be echoed in the opening poem by student Rhonda Brown. Within the manuscript is poetry and prose, short stories, plays, slogans, statements and questions from contributing students showcasing their own art contributions.

I am Black and that’s
I am Black and that’s
I am Black and
you can’t change it
I am Black and
my mother arranged it
I am Black and
I have my rights
I am Black and
I will fight
I am Black and
still will be
when I’m buried
in my grave 
I am Black and
I’ll say it again
I am Black until the end.

“Blackness” by Rhonda Brown

Bessie Frazier, a teacher at Broadway Junior High School, submitted this collection of student work (as editor and author) to Grove Press. Prior to being a teacher, she was a member of Fisk University’s Writer’s Workshop where she studied with important Black voices, mainly those of Nikki Giovanni and John O. Killens. This incredible snapshot into the lived experiences of Frazier and her students helps us to better understand actual perspectives of students and teachers learning during the time of the Black Arts Movement.

Though not planned, the pop-up coincided with the #NotAgainSU student protests on campus, making the exhibition particularly poignant. Prompted by a series of acts of hate late in the fall 2019 semester, that have continued surfacing into the spring 2020 semester, BIPOC students have called for administrative action to support vulnerable students through the creation of spaces, funding and programs for students of color, and faculty and staff hires that better reflect student identities. This call for the condemnation and elimination of oppressive campus culture, and the vital need to make space for the sowing and proliferation of BIPOC cultures for themselves, could have come from the very pages of materials featured in this exhibition. The student movement can be followed on their social media accounts: @notagain_su on Twitter, and on Instagram.

If you’re interested in learning more about the SCRC Black Arts Movement resources available, you can further explore the resources through an earlier SCRC online exhibition here.

The WAER Collection (WAER Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) Collection (Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), and Grove Press Records (Grove Press Records, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


Baraka, Amiri. The autobiography of LeRoi Jones. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1997.

Fenderson, Jonathan. Building the Black Arts Movement: Hoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s. University of Illinois Press, 2019.

Tinson, Christopher M. “New Breeds, Old Dreams: Liberator and Black Radical Aesthetics.” Radical Intellect: Liberator Magazine and Black Activism in the 1960s. Chapel Hill:University of North Carolina Press, 2017. pp. 185-234.

Music in the Stacks

By Nora Ramsey, Reference Assistant

As a musician, I look for music wherever I am. I certainly did not expect to find a manuscript by one of the world’s most famous composers in SCRC’s special collections. When I first found the Franz Liszt Manuscript, I was most interested in contextualizing the music with Liszt’s life and where this piece fits in with the rest of his works.

As soon as I pulled the manuscript from the stacks, I immediately set out to find a recording of the piece. Astonishingly, I had a difficult time finding any reference to it during my first search. There was no record of the piece in any scholarly compilation of Liszt’s works, nor any reference to the piece in any biographies on the composer. After spending too long searching for an easily accessible recording, I asked my friend to sight-read through the music and I was finally able to listen to the piece. From that point on— I was dedicated to learning more about the piece.

Music notation on parchment paper
The first page of Franz Liszt’s Marche Funebre.
Handwritten music on parchment paper.
The second page of Liszt’s Marche Funebre.

The manuscript consists of two separate paper leaves in different sizes. Each leaf has music inscribed on one side only. The first and larger page consists of five musical systems, or lines of music, while the other smaller one contains only two. The title, Marche Funebre, is written at the top of the page. On the second and smaller leaf, Franz Liszt has signed and dated the bottom of the page. The back of the first leaf has an inscription written in handwriting vastly different from Liszt’s writing on the other side. The inscription in French reads “Cette marche funebre fur improvisee par Litz [sic] le surlendemain de la mort de son pere qui fut enterre a Boulougne.” In English, the writing reads “This march was improvised by Litz [sic] two days after the death of his father who was buried at Boulogne.” The piece is accompanied by a letter from Sotheby’s, attesting to its authenticity.

Unsurprisingly, it was Adam Liszt who first introduced his son to music, emphasizing sight-reading, memorization, and improvisation. Adam Liszt cultivated and nurtured his son’s musical talent by taking him on a “Grand Tour” of Europe to display his virtuosity. Thanks to his father, Franz Liszt was one of the most celebrated pianists in Europe by his mid-twenties.

Liszt’s father, Adam, was born on December 16th, 1776, in what is now Slovakia. While not a virtuoso like his son, Adam Liszt worked as a clerk on the estate of the noble Esterhazy family. The Esterhazy family is mostly recognized as the employer of the famous Franz Joseph Haydn. Although Haydn died two years before Franz Liszt was born, Adam Liszt boasted about playing cello in the Esterhazy orchestra under the baton of Haydn himself. Interestingly, Adam Liszt also performed in the Eisenstadt orchestra under Beethoven in 1807. There is no doubt that music played a large role in his life. 

In mid-August of 1827, while recuperating with his son from their intense international tour, Adam Liszt fell victim to typhoid fever. On the morning of August 28th, 1827 Adam Liszt died at 50 years old in Boulogne-sur-mer, delivering a crushing blow to his 15-year-old son. This would be the first of Franz Liszt’s many losses. His son, Daniel, would die at the age of 20 in 1859 and his daughter, Blandine, would follow at the age of 27 in 1862. His mother, Anna Lager, would pass only four years later in 1866. After each loss, his natural reaction was to compose memorial music. Les Morts for orchestra and male chorus was composed for his son Daniel; ever-beautiful La Notte for orchestra was composed for Blandine; and the Requiem for two male voices, organ, brass and timpani was finished two years after his mother’s death to commemorate all of his lost family members.

Note written in French about music piece.
The inscription in French reads “Cette marche funebre fur improvisee par Litz [sic] le surlendemain de la mort de son pere qui fut enterre a Boulougne.”

Prior to Adam’s death, Franz Liszt and his father had been inseparable. Liszt’s father was often responsible for every minute detail of his schedule from the beginning of their tour. Liszt’s improvisation, Marche Funebre, is likely the first piece to begin the trend of composing memorial music for those close to him. Franz Liszt’s grief over his father’s death and his overwhelming new responsibilities caused a spiritual crisis within the composer. While the pair had a close relationship, Liszt’s diary from 1827 also indicates the tension he felt between his father’s ambition and his own need to make choices for himself. He withdrew from most public performances and stopped corresponding with his friends and family members for close to 3 years after his father’s death. Researchers have little information about his activities from this time.

Liszt’s composition, Marche Funebre, has never officially been published and, until recently, had never been cataloged among his works. Until its arrival at Syracuse University’s Special Collections Research Center, the manuscript had remained in private hands with no effort to display or publish the work. The manuscript’s journey can likely never be fully re-traced. Before Sotheby’s sale of the manuscript in 1986, the piece was listed in the Maggs Brothers auction catalog in 1921. For a time, the manuscript also belonged to the founder of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, William Andrews Clark Jr.. Clark bequeathed the manuscript to the orchestra’s concertmaster, Sylvain Noack, after his death. The manuscript remained in undisclosed ownership in California from this point until it reappeared at Sotheby’s.

At first listen, Franz Lizst’s Marche Funebre is not as dramatic as other, more recognizable memorial compositions, like Frederick Chopin’s famous Funeral March. However, the complexity of chords and major tones in Liszt’s work create a more subtle and intimate piece of music. The battle between major and minor chords are an source of extreme tension and confusion not only for the listener, but the performer as well. 

With the history of the piece in mind, we invite you to take some time to listen to one of Franz Liszt’s most intimate works, performed by Robert DiPasquale.

Liszt Marche Funebre, S226a

The Franz Liszt Manuscript (Franz Liszt Manuscript, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.

Works Cited

Liszt, Franz. Marche Funebre. 1827. Andrei Anghel, 2019. Digital.

Nugent, George. “The Heroic Idiom in Early Works of Liszt.” Liszt Saeculum, 1993, pp. 46–60.

Quinn, Erika. Franz Liszt : A Story of Central European Subjectivity. Brill, 2014. (37).

Happy International Women’s Day!

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

International Women’s Day is Sunday, March 8th, 2020 this year. To celebrate the upcoming holiday, SCRC staff members and students have contributed materials highlighting groundbreaking and interesting women or aspects of the women’s rights movement from our collections. Take a look at the contributions below!

Brisbane Family Papers

Dane Flansburgh, Assistant Archivist

Political cartoon of woman holding flag
The New York Evening Journal circa 1915.

The clipping is a political “cartoon” that ran in the New York Evening Journal circa 1915 advocating for issues that would benefit women. The banner reads, “Political equality: Improved social conditions; Equal wages for equal work; Protection for the home; Abolition of child labor; Purer politics; Unfair legal discrimination; Protection for working women.” The cartoon is contained in a scrapbook of Women’s Suffrage editorials in our Brisbane Family Papers.

The Brisbane Family Papers (Brisbane Family Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.

Howard Bond Negatives

Tiffany Miller, Reference Assistant

Old woman leaning out window.
A silver gelatin print from the Howard Bond Negatives depicting an elderly Greek woman (1985).

This photograph depicts an elderly Greek woman in the town of Naoussa in Paros, which is a southern island in the Cyclades above Crete and to the left of Turkey, known for its beaches, white stone buildings, and tourism. The woman has a soft smile on her face as she peers out from the window at her house. She wears a paisley-printed outfit, likely a long dress down to her ankles, earrings, and a ring on her right ring finger as she leans against her windowsill with her hands joining. There is a small glimpse into the interior of her house with the wooden shutters and white curtains, allowing for some curiosity of the viewer.

The Howard Bond Negatives(Howard Bond Negatives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.

Mary, Queen of Scots Letter

Nora Ramsey, Reference Assistant

The Mary, Queen of Scots letter holds a special place in my heart. This item was one of the first items I was able to see when I started working at SCRC. In the letter, Mary Stuart, or Mary I of Scotland, proclaims her tolerance for religious worship to quell the opposition of the Scottish church regarding her upcoming marriage to Lord Darnley.

She writes: “The effect is to certifie and assure you that as hitherto we have never permitted stop stay or molestation to you or any others in using your religion and conscience, so may ye look for the same good will and clemency in time coming…”

The Mary, Queen of Scots Letter (Mary, Queen of Scots Letter, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.

Syracuse University Portrait Collection

Vanessa St. Oegger-Menn, Pan Am Flight 103 Archivist

Syracuse University has been a coed institution since its founding in 1870. The University’s first commencement was held at Wieting Opera House in downtown Syracuse on June 27, 1872. Among the 19 graduates – nine with a Bachelor of Arts, 10 with a Bachelor of Science – was Mary L. Huntley, the only female member of the Class of 1872.

Sarah Loguen was one of the first African American women to earn a medical degree from Syracuse University’s College of Medicine, graduating in June 1876. She went on to be one of the first African American women to become a physician in the United States and the first woman licensed to practice medicine in the Dominican Republic. Loguen’s name is listed in 1875-1876 Annual, held by the Syracuse University Archives.

Kate E. Stark was Syracuse University’s first woman faculty member. She was hired as an instructor of vocal music in the College of Fine Arts in 1883, and later became a professor in the same field in 1884.

The portraits of Huntley and Stark are part of our Syracuse University Portrait Collection (Syracuse University Portrait Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of our University Archives collections.

Marguerite Higgins Papers

Nicole Westerdahl, Reference and Access Services Librarian

Marguerite Higgins
Marguerite Higgins working at her typewriter in the midst of the Korean War.

Marguerite Higgins (1920-1966) was an American reporter and war correspondent. Higgins is here pictured in Korea, where she covered the Korean War for The New York Herald Tribune. In 1951, she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

The Marguerite Higgins Papers (Marguerite Higgins Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


Unfaithful: Marriage Reform and Utopian Dreams

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

In the nineteenth century, contradictions ran rampant in the state of New York in regards to the question of marriage. At this time and after, New York’s marriage laws were among the strictest in the country, but the state also became the site of radical reform movements, including the Oneida Community in upstate New York and the Free Love Club and the Unitary Home in New York City.

Carol Faulkner’s book, Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America, explores this contradiction by taking a wide lens to the ‘marriage question,’ which was central to multiple reform movements in the nineteenth century. The notion of what a marriage meant, in terms of love, partnership, freedom, and womanhood, was vital to the construction and consideration of reform groups and the women’s movement at this time in history.

The Oneida Community was one of the earliest proponents of the free love movement. Many of the papers and documents from the Oneida Community are held in SCRC’s Oneida Community Collection, including documents detailing the founding of the community by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848 and the early adultery scandal that rocked the collective, involving the fallout from Abram Smith’s relationship with Mary Cragin and her husband, George Cragin’s, subsequent disapproval. Even in a free love community, sexual partnership was still controlled under patriarchal rules.

The actions of the Oneida Community, which questioned the mores and prescribed social conditions of legitimate society, underpinned many of the actions and decisions of later reform movements and individuals trying to understand the morally correct tenets of marriage. Sometimes, like Oneida, individuals absented themselves entirely from the systems they chose not to follow.

Other reformers, like Mary F. Davis and Andrew Jackson Davis, did not agree with the legal constrictions surrounding marriage, but still held that marriage was a sacred, spiritual institution and lectured on the benefits of a true marriage. Similarly, many women’s rights activists were invested in shaping the future definition of marriage to be more equitable. In fact, Faulkner references a phrase from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1848 Declaration of Sentiments, spoken at Seneca Falls, multiple times in her text:

“All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. . . He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments, 1848

Stanton declares that a woman is “civilly dead” in the eyes of the law once she is married, a position held by a number of reform groups at this time. The similar descriptive language used by women’s rights activists, free love reformers, and spiritualists, often linked them together in the common discourse. Frequently, these links were created between reform groups that did not seek to be bound together. Ultimately, the women’s movement largely abandoned marriage issues in favor of pushing for suffrage and radical free love experiments like the Oneida Community failed to succeed long-term.

Faulkner’s study of marriage reform illustrates that movements do not occur in isolation of one another. One cannot consider questions of marriage reform without understanding the changing connotations surrounding these terms. How do we define consent, adultery, equability, and love, in nineteenth century America? This terminology and the discourse that surrounded the efforts of marriage-based reform movements shaped how these individuals were seen by society as well as the ultimate direction and success of their efforts.

TheOneida Community Collection (Oneida Community Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.

Please join us as we welcome Carol Faulkner, Professor of History and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, as she leads a mini seminar in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), 6th Floor, Bird Library, on Friday, March 6, 2020, from from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.

Faulkner will be discussing her recent book, “Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America,” which examines how an interconnected group of feminists, spiritualists, communitarians, and free lovers used the act and concept of adultery to challenge the legal institution of marriage.