Learning about the Library Profession

Dodd Hall Library, c. 1964
Dodd Hall Library, c. 1964.  See here for more information

In addition to my work as a Graduate Assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division, I’m a full time student studying for a Master of Science in Library and Information Science at The School of Information at Florida State University.  As a Graduate Assistant, I’ve been able to apply the academic knowledge gained from my library classes to the different projects I’ve worked on as a Graduate Assistant in Special Collections & Archives.  Additionally, my work in Special Collections & Archives has given me a richer, more practical understanding of the opportunities and challenges that librarians face today.

As a graduate student, I’m gaining the knowledge needed to succeed in the library profession.  I’ve taken a number of great courses, but some of the classes that have been particularly relevant to my work in Special Collections are the following:

LIS 5703 Information Organization

This is a required course in the School of Information’s Master of Science in Information Science program, and for good reason.  After taking this course, future librarians better understand the theoretical framework for organizing and accessing information.  Much of the first half of the course focuses on the organization of various systems–such as article databases, like JSTOR, and the FSU Libraries online catalog.  Understanding how records are organized in the library catalog means that I’m better able to help Special Collections patrons find the information they need.  Sometimes patrons only have a vague idea of what they need, or a topic they’re researching and are not aware of all the resources Special Collections has to offer.  And while I might not be an expert in every area that Special Collections encompasses, as a librarian, I am able to find you the resources that that you need.

This course also introduces the concept of metadata, or “data about data.”  Understanding the administrative role that metadata plays in the access and retrieval of a resource was essential for the work I did with the Digital Library Center, in which I digitized 12 issues of The Girl’s Own Annual , and made those issues available to the broader community through FSU’s Digital Library.  You can find out more about that project from this blog post.

LIS 5472 Digital Libraries

This is an elective in the School of Information, and provides students with the guiding principles behind the construction and management of a digital library.  This course also provides students with some “hands on” experience.  Using the open source platform Omeka, students in this class create their own small-scale digital library.  There has been a lot of overlap between my classwork for Digital Libraries and the work I’ve done as a Graduate Assistant.  For my second project as a GA in Special Collections, I created an online exhibit with the platform Omeka, which can be found at fscwscrapbooks.omeka.net.

HIS 5082 Introduction to Archives

Because it is my hope to continue working in a Special Collections & Archives department after graduating, I wanted to take the opportunity to take formal coursework in archival science.  This course is offered through the History Department, and is taught at the State Archives of Florida.  My work in Special Collections & Archives provided me with a solid foundation to start with, to which this course has given me a richer understanding of the principles that guide an archivist’s work.

LIS 5511 Management of Information Collections

One major focus of this class was the Collection Development Policy, the formal document which guides a library’s collecting policies.   As a GA, one of my projects this semester has been to make an initial assessment of various rare book donations, according to FSU Special Collections & Archives procedures.  Understanding the role and purpose of a Collection Development Policy has been helpful in understanding the process for donation to cataloged item.

This is just a sample of the coursework I’ve completed for my Master of Science in Library and Information Science.  It has been a privilege to apply the knowledge I’ve gained in my classes to my work as a Special Collections & Archives Graduate Assistant.  Moreover, working as a Graduate Assistant has given me a better understanding of the practical applications of the knowledge I’ve gained.

Rebecca L. Bramlett is a graduate assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division.  She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science at Florida State University.

The Poetry of Sacred Song

Cover, Hymns for Little Children, 1878
Cover, Hymns for Little Children, 1878

Within the John Mackay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection is a small but substantial sub-collection of sacred music books. From Sunday School primers to hymnals meant to be used at home, Shaw collected these as examples of what was often a child’s first introduction to poetry, hymns on Sundays.

In his bibliography which lists the Sacred Music portions of his collection, compiled in 1972, Shaw noted that “when hymns are examined without benefit of music, it becomes clear that much of the best poetry written for children, and perhaps also some of the worst, has been the production of the hymnwriters.”

Hymn, Praise to God from The Lyre, 1820s.
Hymn, Praise to God from The Lyre, 1820s.

We recently completed a digitization of 64 books from this sub-collection, culled from the 450 books listed in Shaw’s original bibliography. These books were selected for their rarity and also because no other repository found had a digital copy available currently.

These are some of the smallest materials we’ve digitized to date as well as some of the most beautiful. Hymnals were often decorated with lovely artwork and etchings, some on an incredibly small and intricate scale such as The Lyre from the 1820s, which is just shy of the same length and width as an iPhone6.

You may explore the new collection of Sacred Music books in the Florida State University Digital Library.

Judging Books by Their Covers

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Fig 1. Back cover. Leather binding, tooled in blind over wood boards, c. 1450 (BT769 .A56)

When it comes to studying the history of the book, the study of bookbinding presents a unique set of challenges to scholars. While today we might be tempted think of a book as an all-in-one package, whether we buy it in a bookstore or download it to an e-reader, historically the process of creating a book from conception, to publishing, to binding has been anything but neat and tidy. Prior to the mechanization of printing in the early nineteenth century, books were often bound years, even decades, after publication. Some books were bound by binders associated with publishing companies, some were “bespoke” by wealthy patrons according to their personal specifications, and others were shipped as unfolded, uncut sheets to be bound in distant countries. Since a book can be bound and rebound any number of times in its life, associating a bookbinding with a particular place, time, and bindery is at best a game of educated guesswork. Even so, bindings have a lot to tell us about the history of the book, and the FSU Special Collections & Archives rare books collections contain many notable examples of bookbinding materials and techniques.

Materials

bookbindings_fabric
Fig 2. 18th century embroidered binding with metal clasp (BR1705 .A2 V526 1547)

The most common coverings for books through the nineteenth century were those made out of animal skins, either leather or vellum.¹ One of the oldest leather bindings in our collection is on a fifteenth century Italian manuscript (fig. 1), believed to be in its original binding. Although much of the leather has worn with time, a pattern of knot-work stamps worked in blind around a filleted central panel is still visible. A manuscript like this would have taken considerable time and labor to produce, and its binding reflects its preciousness.

Leather was the material of choice for monastic and university libraries, but books owned by private (i.e. wealthy) collectors were often covered in embroidered fabrics or velvet. It is difficult to determine just how widespread the use of fabric bindings was because so many of them were not made to withstand the test of the time as well as their leather counterparts.² The embroidered binding in fig. 2 is believed to date from the eighteenth century, and it covers a 1547 Italian printed book on the lives of the Saints (Vite de Santi Padri). It is precisely these types of devotional works that were often given special coverings by their owners.

bookbindings_paper
Fig 3. Paper covering on an 18th century almanac (PQ1177 .A6 1767)

On the other end of the spectrum, increased book production after the Renaissance led to a shortage of binding materials, and cheaper methods of binding came into use to meet growing demands. By the eighteenth century, simple paper wrappings had become a common cover for inexpensive pamphlets and small-format books, such as the almanac in fig. 3.³ This copy of the 1767 Almanach des Muses, a serial of French poetry published annually from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century, is comprised of seven quires with untrimmed edges sewn together and wrapped in decorated paper, which is glued to the first and last pages of the volume. The use of blue paper was often characteristic of French paper bindings.³  Unlike modern day book jackets, these paper coverings bear no relation to the text within. Since these bindings were not designed for longevity, they often do not survive intact or are removed when the books are rebound and the pages are trimmed.

The FSU Special Collections & Archives rare book collections run the gamut from medieval manuscripts bound in tooled leather with gilt edges to untrimmed almanacs wrapped in publishers’ scraps. Their value, form, and function may vary, but they all contribute to the same history. Prior to the mechanization of book production in the early 1800s, each book was constructed by hand, and, as such, each can be thought of as a miniature work of art, just waiting to be discovered.

Katherine Hoarn is a graduate assistant in Special Collections & Archives. She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science degree at Florida State University.

Notes

1. D. Pearson, English bookbinding styles 1450-1800, London, 2005, p. 20-21

2. P. Needham, Twelve centuries of bookbindings 400-1600, New York, 1979, p. 107.

3. M. Lock, Bookbinding materials and techniques 1700-1920, Toronto, 2003, p. 48.

Claude Pepper and the Lend Lease Act of 1941

Committee to Defend America event flyer. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 204D.
Committee to Defend America event flyer. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 204D Box 4 Folder 17.

This year marks the 74th anniversary of the passing of the Lend Lease Bill, which allowed the sale of arms and material to the Allied Nations during the Second World War, aiding the fight against the Axis Nations until American involvement in the war helped to turn the tide fully. The President as well as like-minded Senators such as Pepper and others, knew that American involvement in the war was inevitable and that American Neutrality would last for only so long. It was to this end that President Roosevelt created the Lend Lease Act to “Further promote the defense of the United States” and it was vigorously promoted by Senator Pepper during 1940 and 1941 leading up to the act’s passage into law on March 111941 with aid lasting until September of 1945. In a press release put out on the third anniversary of the passing of Lend Lease on March 111944, Senator Pepper reflected on the benefits of its passage, which provided some $50 billion dollars in aid to Free France, Great Britain, China and the USSR:

“Secretary of War [Henry L.] Stimson has defined Lend Lease as the “program designed to hasten the day of victory by permitting us to put the weapons of victory into the hands of our allies with a flexibility based on strategic considerations.” All over the globe lend lease material and skills supplied by the United States are slowly but surely bringing the enemy to his knees preparatory to the final blow which will forever free the world from the crushing force of aggression. Everywhere that the Nazis and the Japanese are being defeated in battle, lend lease is playing a vital role.” (Claude Pepper Papers, Series 204D Box 4 Folder 17)

Telegram from Pepper to the US Senate urging aid to the Allies. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 431A.
Telegram from Pepper to the US Senate urging aid to the Allies. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 431A Box 14 Folder 18.

Up to this point, 21,000 aircraft had been furnished to the Allies along with 4,700 tanks and tank destroyers, 100,000 sub machine guns and over one million tons of steel and other metals.  Throughout the year of campaigning for the act, the young senator from Florida worked tirelessly for its eventual passage and routinely spoke at events put on by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. During one such speech given on June 28, 1941, just a few months after the act passed, Pepper called attention to the dire need to continue American support for its allies abroad:

“They [isolationists] are those who said there would be no war in Europe, if Roosevelt did not cause it. They are those who denounced Roosevelt when he said, at Chicago, that the aggressors must be quarantined. They are those who refused to repeal the Arms Embargo and incited Hitler to unloose the dragons of war. They are those who opposed the Selective Service Act; those who fought against the Lend Lease Bill; who have thrown every possible obstacle in the path of the President, the Congress, and the people who have thus far made some contribution to the cause of stopping Hitler.” (Claude Pepper Papers, Series 203 Box 8 Folder 4)

Pepper hung in effigy, August 22, 1940. Image courtesy of the Washington Post.
Pepper hung in effigy, August 22, 1940. Image courtesy of the Washington Post. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 205 Box 1 Folder 15.

This vocal support of Lend Lease as well as the Selective Service Act earned Pepper the dislike of groups such as the Congress of American Mothers, who, fearing that their sons would be called off to fight, gathered in front of the halls of Congress and hung the Senator in effigy. The passing of the Lend Lease Bill is widely regarded as an important piece of legislation with regard to helping shorten the Second World War, which exacted a terrible cost on the world from 1939 to 1945. To learn more about Claude Pepper’s involvement during the War Years and beyond, please visit the Claude Pepper Library online, at our Facebook page or in person from 9 AM-5 PM Monday through Friday.

Defining (and Challenging) the Book

The Poems of William Shakespeare from the Kelmscott Collection, published 1893
The Poems of William Shakespeare from the Kelmscott Collection, published 1893

How do you define “the book”?

What functions do books serve?

What are the essential qualities of a book?

How have these characteristics changed over time?

Those are a sample of the questions raised during the Special Collections & Archives instruction sessions for the “Introduction to the History of Text Technology” classes (ENG 3803) and the “What is a Text” class (ENG 4815).  For each class, we pull a variety of relevant materials from the Rare Books Collection, encouraging students to interact with the materials during the class session.  The visit to Special Collections is an opportunity for students to explore in-depth the specific class themes by engaging with the rare and unique materials in Special Collections & Archives.

"Venus and Adonis," from The Poems of William Shakespeare, published by the Kelmscott Press, 1893
“Venus and Adonis,” from The Poems of William Shakespeare, published by the Kelmscott Press, 1893

The concept of the codex (as seen above and left with The Poems of William Shakespeare) dominates initial discussion on the form and function of a book.  But for the “Introduction to the History of Text Technology” class, we’ve placed nineteenth century ledgers alongside Babylonian cuneiform tablets that detail temple transactions from 2350 BCE, illustrating a continuity in the function, if not form of the text (see the FSU Digital Libraryrare booksrare for more information on the Cuneiform Tablet collection).  For the “What is a Text?” class, students’ notions of what constitutes the essential characteristics of a book is challenged by materials from the Special Collections & Archives Artists’ Book Collection.

From the Artists' Book Collection, Fam-i-ly:  a Book by Rita MacDonald, for more information, see here
From the Artists’ Book Collection, Fam-i-ly: a Book by Rita MacDonald, for more information, see here

An artist’s book plays with the form and function of a book.  By reinterpreting the text, images, or the very structure of the codex, an artist’s book pushes at the boundaries of what the essential qualities of a book should be.  According to Johanna Drucker, artist and critic, the artist’s book “interrogates the conceptual or material form of the book as part of its intention, thematic interests, or production activities.”1

Many of the artists books from Special Collections & Archives abandon the structure of the codex entirely (as seen in the artist book, Fam-i-ly: a Book by Rita MacDonald, pictured right and Julie Chen’s A Guide to Higher Learning, pictured below).  Other artists books play with the connection between text, image, and structure, such as in Emily Martin’s More Slices of Pie.

Special Collections & Archives has a rich collection of artists’ books, from a portfolio containing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali to books created in the last decade that expand our notions of the essential qualities of a book.  Each artist book contained in the collection is unique.  Through the artist’s interpretation of text, image, and structure, the question of how to define a book is given new meaning.

For more information about artists’ books, check out this Research Guide here.

From the  Artist's Book Collection, Julie Chen's A Guide to Higher Learning.  For more information,  see here.
Julie Chen’s A Guide to Higher Learning. From the Special Collections & Archives Artists’ Books Collection.  For more information on this book, see here.

1 As cited by Megan L. Benton, “The Book as Art,” in A Companion to the History of the Book, eds. Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007: pg. 505.

Rebecca L. Bramlett is a graduate assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division.  She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science at Florida State University.

The Travels of a Fox on His Way to the Grapes

The Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection has just received the gift of a crocheted representation of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Grapes.”

A Seychelles Crochet, “The Fox and the Grapes,” ca. 18th C. Gift of Jacqueline Dupont, PhD 1962 FSU, to the Shaw Collection, March 2015.
A Seychelles Crochet, “The Fox and the Grapes,” ca. 18th century. Gift of Jacqueline Dupont, PhD 1962, to the Shaw Collection, March 2015.

Sometime many years ago, an industrious native of The Seychelles, a country of islands nearest to Africa in the Indian Ocean, used a crochet hook to knot this piece of fabric art. Early in the 20th century, Louise Dupont, another native of The Seychelles, immigrated to England and then to Florida. In 1938, on a return holiday to her birthplace, she obtained this piece of fabric and brought it back to the United States with her.

Detail of an illustration designed by Thomas Bewick in the 18th century, from the book Bewick’s select fables of Aesop and others . . .with wood engravings by Thomas Bewick; Longmans, Green 1878.
Detail of an illustration from the book Bewick’s select fables of Aesop and others by Thomas Bewick. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1878.

In the 1960s Louise was living in Plant City, Florida near her son’s family when her granddaughter, Jacqueline Dupont, came to Florida State University to study for her Doctorate. When she graduated, Jackie arranged for her family members to stay with local Tallahassee friends. She chose John and Lillian Shaw to host her Grandmere Louise. By this time, John Shaw had given his Childhood in Poetry books, including editions of Aesop’s Fables, to Florida State.

From Aesop's Fables, Coblentz and Syverson. Norwalk: C.R. Gibson Co. 1968.
From Aesop’s Fables, Coblentz and Syverson. Norwalk: C.R. Gibson Co. 1968.

Having worked closely together, Jackie and her major professor Harvye Lewis remained friends after she graduated and Harvye moved to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Her Grandmere Louise presented this piece of Seychelles crochet to Harvye in 1974 in gratitude and respect for Harvye’s mentoring and friendship with her granddaughter. Harvye had it framed and wrote a note on the back of it indicating that it “should be given to Jacqueline L. Dupont.”

When Harvye died in 1998, Jackie, recognizing that “The Fox and the Grapes” would appear often in the Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, gave it to John Shaw’s daughter, Cathmar Prange, in whose Iowa home it hung ever since Harvye’s death.

After traveling halfway around the world and thousands more miles within the United States, this fox has been delivered to his final stop in Strozier Library’s Special Collections & Archives at Florida State. He is yet to get the grapes however.

Illustration from Aesop's Fables by Percy J. Billinghurst. Ware: Omega Books Ltd. 1984.
Illustration from Aesop’s Fables by Percy J. Billinghurst. Ware: Omega Books Ltd. 1984.

Cathmar Prange is a long time volunteer and donor to Special Collections & Archives and every winter, shares her time in helping to curate and grow her father’s, John Mackay Shaw, collection.

Always a Harding at Florida State

mary
Mary Agnes Harding was a member of the Home Economics Club
winnifred_yearbook
Winnifred Harding, class of 1945

In 1938, Mary Agnes Harding transferred to FSCW from Florida Southern College. Little did she and her family know that she would be the first in line of Harding siblings to attend Florida State – her four sisters Winnie, Doris, Lena, and Lucy, and her brother Edward, would also attend Florida State over a 17 year period. From 1938 through 1955, there was always a Harding at Florida State.

lena_yearbook
Lena Harding, class of 1947

When Mary first moved to Tallahassee, she lived in an off campus house for college students. She recalled a time in winter, when it was particularly cold out, leaving a heater near the bottom of the stairs and a fire breaking out. Because the students weren’t able to go down the stairs to exit the building, they jumped out the windows or climbed onto tree limbs. Mary remembers that she jumped into a ligustrum that was just outside her window. After the fire, FSCW found room for everyone on campus, and Mary moved into Reynolds Hall. Aside from studying for her major in home economics, Mary enjoyed going to Camp Flastacowo on the weekends, and walking to see movies at the theatre with her friends.

lucille_yearbook
Lucille Harding, class of 1949

The Harding family tradition of attending Florida State was carried on by Winifred (or “Winnie”) who went on to be a laboratory technician; Lena, who taught business education; Lucille (or “Lucy”), who taught physical education; Doris, the sister they all called “the brain” (Mary remarked that Doris “graduated Cum Laude – the rest of us just graduated”) worked for the U.S. Geological Survey; and Edward, the last Harding sibling to graduate from FSU studied industrial arts education.

doris_yearbook
Doris Harding, class of 1951

After graduating in 1940, Mary married Ken Galbreath, and they started a dairy farm in Fruitland Park, FL, and also taught for over 40 years. She continues to live on the farm they started with her family.

edward_yearbook
Edward Harding, class of 1955

To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

 

Maps of the Caribbean

The Florida State University Digital Library (FSUDL) has been a contributing member of the Digital Library of the Caribbean (DLOC) since its formation in 2004. Since then, the FSUDL has uploaded historic and rare maps of the islands to DLOC. These maps were created by some of the world’s most talented cartographers and explorers and our oldest map, created by Abraham Ortelius, dates all the way back to 1584.

IMG_20150223_161831
Abraham Ortelius’ map, Pervviae avriferæ regionis typvs

The FSU Digital Library Center was asked by DLOC to contribute to the collection by selecting and photographing some of the unique maps held here in Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. The intention was to expand the scope and geographic area of the existing DLOC collection and, once the maps were uploaded to the Digital Library, they would be made viewable to the public. The availability of these digital images will help reduce the wear-and-tear caused by repeated handling of these fragile maps.

wholemap
Carte du Golphe du Mexique et des isles Antilles

In addition to adding more maps to the collection, the Digital Library Center at FSU decided to re-photograph its previously digitized maps that were originally captured on a now-obsolete piece of scanning equipment. The updated images were photographed by a more powerful overhead, medium-format camera and lighting kit which ensured the maps were digitized at a higher resolution. Now these high-quality images in the collection accurately represent the true detail and colors of these works of art.

Phase One overhead camera and map of Trinidad
Phase One overhead camera and map of Trinidad
Closeup of Trinidad map
Closeup of Trinidad map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the maps in FSU’s previous contribution consisted mainly of the West Indies, Eastern Caribbean, Cuba and the Bahamas. However, the Digital Library Center has since included some areas of the Western Caribbean as well as parts of Central and South America.

Artwork detail on Kaarte van de Golf van Mexico
Artwork detail on Kaarte van de Golf van Mexico

Some of the images in the Caribbean Maps collection display detailed drawings, etchings and engravings printed with vibrant colors. Other maps are equipped with informative, color-coded keys that show which countries controlled the islands at the time. In these maps, each island is painted according to the colors in the key.

Color key showing ownership
Color key showing ownership

To view the maps in our Caribbean Collection, click here. To view other FSUDL material, including historic books, photographs and ephemera, head over to the Florida State University Digital Library.

Stuart Rochford is the Digital Library Center manager at FSU and has worked with Strozier Library since 2011. He graduated from FSU with a BFA in graphic design and is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Library Science.

West Florida Seminary Cadets at the Battle of Natural Bridge

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge, we are re-posting an entry that was originally published on March 6th, 2013 by Eddie Woodward.

Almost from its inception, there had been a military and cadet component at West Florida Seminary (1851-1901), predecessor to Florida State University. With the commencement of the Civil War in 1861, this aspect of the school’s curriculum increased in importance, so much so that the State Legislature proposed changing the name of the institution to the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute. Throughout the War, the students served as something of a home guard, occasionally guarding Union prisoners of war and always on call in the event of a Federal threat to the capitol. In early March 1865, that threat was realized when word came that a Union fleet had landed troops on the Gulf coast at the St. Marks lighthouse with the probable intention of capturing the capitol in Tallahassee.

West Florida Seminary Cadet Corps, circa 1880s
West Florida Seminary Cadet Corps, circa 1880s

The invading forces, commanded by Brigadier General John Newton, moved northward from the coast, hoping to cross the St. Marks River at Newport and attack St. Marks from the rear. Local militia was called out to delay the Union advance, and among those were cadets from West Florida Seminary. At noon on March 5, the cadet corps assembled at the school and marched to the state capitol where they were enlisted and sworn into Confederate service. The cadet’s principal, Captain Valentine M. Johnson then led them to the Tallahassee train station for their journey southward to meet the invaders. Johnson was a veteran and had served honorably in the Confederate Army until 1863 when he was forced to resign for health reasons. It is nearly impossible to accurately determine the number of cadets that participated in the campaign. However, reasonable estimates put the number at around twenty-five, with their known ages ranging from eleven to eighteen. At the train station, Johnson filtered out those cadets, mostly the youngest of the corps, that would not participate. Others were left behind to continue their home guard duties and to man fortifications as a last line of the capitol’s defense.

VMI Cadet Photograph of Valentine Mason Johnson, circa 1860
VMI Cadet Photograph of Valentine Mason Johnson, circa 1860

The cadets and other Confederate troops boarded a train in Tallahassee which carried them south to Wakulla Station on the St. Marks Railroad. From there, they marched six miles to the small village of Newport. There, in the late afternoon on March 5, they joined forces with a portion of Lieutenant Colonel George Washington Scott’s 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion and a small contingent of Confederate marines and militia. Scott’s men had skirmished with the Federal troops the previous day, gradually falling back from the East River Bridge toward Newport. It was at that bridge that the Union forces hoped to cross the St. Marks River, enabling them to move against St. Marks and perhaps Tallahassee. At Newport, the cadets occupied a line of breastworks running parallel to the river along its west bank. From there, they commanded the approaches to the East River Bridge, which Scott’s men had partially burned. Federal troops on the opposite side of the river still hoped to force their way across and a skirmish soon developed. By nightfall, the firing diminished, and everyone waited in their positions to see if the Federals would resume the conflict the next morning. It was in those trenches on the banks of the St. Marks River that the young cadets from the West Florida Seminary received their baptism of fire.

Map of Natural Bridge from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/143922)
Map of Natural Bridge from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/143922)

Newton, frustrated in his efforts to cross the St. Marks River at Newport, learned of another crossing upriver at Natural Bridge. At that location, the St. Marks River ran underground for a short distance, creating a natural crossing point. In anticipation of such a move, the Confederate General William Miller positioned Scott’s cavalry at Natural Bridge with orders to delay a crossing until reinforcements could arrive. At dawn on March 6, a battle erupted with the Federal forces unable to force their way across the span. The cadets were soon ordered out of their entrenchments at the East River Bridge and marched along the Old Plank Road to reinforce Scott’s men at Natural Bridge. One mile from the battlefield, two cadets peeled off to aid the wounded at a field hospital. The rest continued on, all the while the sounds of cannon and musket fire growing louder.

When they reached the battlefield, the cadets were positioned near the center of the Confederate line, a giant crescent enveloping the Natural Bridge. There they immediately dug trenches to protect them from enemy fire and were instructed not to fire unless a charge was made on an adjoining Confederate battery. In these early stages, the battle was primarily an artillery engagement and the cadets could do little more than wait it out with the rest of the defenders. All attempts by the Federal troops to cross at Natural Bridge were stymied with heavy losses. The worst fighting occurred in front of the Confederate line in a dense hammock that covered the crossing. The cadets were not heavily involved in this action but remained under constant artillery and musket fire. Cadet Lieutenant Byrd Coles credits the Seminary’s teachers on the battlefield with the safety of the cadets: “no doubt many of the cadets would have been struck if our teachers had not watched us constantly and made us keep behind cover.”

With the arrival of reinforcements, the Confederate troops counterattacked, charging across the bridge and driving the Federal troops a short distance. At this instance, the Union General Newton, realizing that Natural Bridge, like the East River Bridge at Newport, was too heavily defended to cross, ordered a retreat back to the St. Marks lighthouse and the protection of the Federal fleet. The cadets were then ordered to return to Newport to guard against another attempted crossing there. However, the Federal forces had had enough, and the cadets’ active duty had come to an end.

Confederate General William Miller (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/28524)
Confederate General William Miller (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/28524)

The Confederate victory against the Federal invasion was complete. Confederate casualties numbered three killed and twenty-three wounded (three mortally), with Federal losses totaling 148. The cadets from West Florida Seminary suffered no casualties. With the battle won, some of the cadets returned to Tallahassee, while others remained at Newport where they guarded two Confederate deserters that had crossed over to the Federal army and had been captured during the campaign. After the cadets witnessed their trial and execution, they escorted a group of around twenty-five Federal prisoners of war back to Tallahassee. On their return to Tallahassee, the cadets were welcomed as conquering heroes. A ceremony was held in the State House of Representatives chamber of the state capitol, where the cadets were presented with a company flag. Cadet Hunter Pope accepted the flag in the name of his comrades. It is uncertain what became of the flag, and it is thought that it returned with the cadets to the Seminary and was probably taken by Federal troops when they occupied Tallahassee after the War.

The Confederate victory at the Battle of Natural Bridge had no effect on the outcome of the War, and in less than a month, Robert E. Lee would surrender the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The terms of Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender of the Army of Tennessee seventeen days later, included the surrender of Confederate troops in Florida as well. On May 10, Federal troops under the command of Brigadier General Edward McCook took possession of Tallahassee. The Federal army captured and paroled approximately 8,000 Confederate soldiers, including twenty-four cadets. It is thought that some of the cadets simply returned home after the surrender and before being formally paroled.

Natural Bridge Battlefield State Monument (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/29939)
Natural Bridge Battlefield State Monument (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/29939)

Tallahasseeans fondly remembered the service provided by the West Florida Seminary cadets. Beginning in 1885, the state of Florida granted pensions to Confederate veterans, and two years later, they were also extended to home guard units, which included the cadets. Sixteen former cadets applied for pensions, while several others endorsed the applications of their comrades. The Tallahassee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy issued Southern Crosses of Honor to the former cadets who applied for the award, and they received tributes as “The Youngest of the Young Who Wore the Gray.” That phrase, forever associated with their participation in the battle, is inscribed on a monument at Natural Bridge Battlefield, which is today a state park.

As a result of the cadet/students participation in the engagement, on February 28, 1957, the FSU Army and Air Force ROTC units were officially presented with battle streamers by Governor LeRoy Collins in a ceremony at Doak Campbell stadium. Today the Florida State University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps detachment is permitted to fly a battle streamer as a result of the School’s participation in the action at Natural Bridge. It is one of only three colleges and universities in the United States which is permitted to do so. In the 1990s, the campus ROTC Building was renamed the Harper-Johnson Building in honor of Captain Valentine M. Johnson and a twentieth century Air Force ROTC graduate who rose to the rank of general.

naturalbridgeexhibitRecently, the Museum Objects course installed an exhibit in Strozier Library commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge, and will is open until late March. There is also a digital companion to the exhibit which can be viewed at http://naturalbridge150.omeka.net/.

For a fuller account of the battle, see David J. Coles,  “Florida’s Seed Corn: The History of the West Florida Seminary During the Civil War,” Florida Historical Quarterly 77, no. 3 (Winter 1999): 283-319.

Cataloging “Prizes”

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A few found items within ARC books.

Cataloging Special Collections is like digging through a box of Cracker Jacks. You purchase a snack hoping that an additional prize is contained inside. After picking through your edible treat, you fingers grasp a hidden prize- maybe a decoding ring, a sticker, or some other trinket. Sometimes that prize has value, other times it is simply fun to find the prize, even if it has no value; and then there are times when the Cracker Jack assembly line forgot to put a prize in your box. A similar thing happens in cataloging. The university purchases old items and special collections, and many times, there are unexpected objects to be found in the collections. Sometimes, you find an academic’s notes, an old photograph used as a bookmark, or some newspaper clippings. Other times, you find less rewarding prizes, like spiders, dust, cobwebs, and more spiders.

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Found notes and articles.

Recently, through the cataloging of the Asian Religions Collection (ARC), catalogers stumbled upon some of fun finds. While the Asian Religions Collection was purchased by FSU, it previously had many homes. One of these earlier owners was Galen Eugene Sargent. As a professor of philosophy and comparative literature at Indiana University, Sargent kept multiple notes and bookmarks in his ARC books. Many of these items managed to remain inside the books throughout the years. Cataloger Elizabeth Richey was lucky enough the stumble upon many of these hidden treasures.

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Found bookmarks and notes.

The most commonly found items within these books were annotations and handwritten notes. In fact, we found enough notes to fill a small box. These notes appear to be written by Sargent, and they provide us with a glimpse into his work and research interests. There was also a small collection of bookmarks. Actual bookmarks from the Indiana University bookstore and Lagniappe Book Shop in New Orleans were found, while other items used as bookmarks were found. A few favorite bookmark finds include cigarette cards, bookstore receipts, a sleeve of Rokusei Ryokan tissues, and a photograph of actress Marianne Hold.

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A pressed flower.

While these found items within the collection were used for more academic purposes, like annotating and marking passages of note, other finds were more aesthetically pleasing. Hidden in the pages of some books were pressed flowers. Others included pressed butterflies. While we cannot pin an exact date to these pressed pieces of nature, we can guess that some date back to the 1960s.

When cataloging older, previously owned materials, you never know what you will find. You’re sure to come across a lot of dust and spiders, but that just makes finding notes and photographs all the more rewarding.