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Magical Momentos: Houdini Scrapbook
The future "Genius of Escape Who Will Startle and Amaze" ran away from home when he was 12 years old. A postcard from "Your truant son, Ehrich Weiss," to the mother he adored is the earliest example of Harry Houdini's handwriting at the Library of Congress. Houdini was born Ehrich Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874. Throughout his life, the man who became the famed Harry Houdini fervently explored the history and practice of the illusion arts. He kept record of his own career with equal passion, and, ever the self-promoter, maintained scrapbooks of all of his promotional advertising, replete with photographs, postcards, posters, playbills and news clippings. He willed his entire collection to the Library of Congress. His autobiographical scrapbooks have posed a serious conservation challenge. His keepsakes were glued to the acidic pages of cheap, store-bought scrapbooks. In order to preserve the items, the items were removed, treated and housed in appropriate archival storage.
Harry Houdini Collection
Rare Book and Special Collections Division
The Man Who Discovered an Icon: Branch Rickey Scouting Reports
These two letters written by baseball's Branch Rickey illustrate his incredible instincts when it came to evaluating talent and the close relationship he developed with Jackie Robinson.
Scouting Don Drysdale
Throughout his career Branch Rickey was known for his recognition of baseball talent and its subsequent development, especially through the farm system, which he pioneered. He joined the Pittsburgh Pirates relatively late in life, but in the evidence of his 1954 scouting report on the 18-year-old Don Drysdale (1936-1993), his baseball instincts were as sharp as ever. Rickey wrote that Drysdale had "a lot of artistry" and a fastball that was "way above average." He deemed the young pitcher "a definite prospect." Drysdale went on to meet and even exceed Rickey's expectations—he was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1984 (but never played for the Pirates). As the handwritten annotation at the bottom of the report indicates, Drysdale signed with the Dodgers, for whom his father was a scout.
Scouting Report on Don Drysdale, June 15, 1954. Branch Rickey Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
Jackie Robinson's Career
Branch Rickey recognized the stellar qualities of Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) as a person and player. He fostered Robinson's career, and helped end racial segregation in Major League Baseball. Rickey hoped Robinson might help break barriers in the administrative side of professional baseball as well. When Rickey left the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, Robinson wrote a warm letter thanking Rickey for his friendship. In this response, Rickey returned the sentiment and suggested that Robinson should be "considered for administrative work in baseball, particularly in the direction of field management." However, when Robinson retired in 1957 he became a baseball broadcast analyst and entered into various business ventures. Speaking shortly before his death, Robinson urged that African Americans be hired as managers of major league teams—a break-through that would not occur until 1975. For his achievements, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, two of the highest honors in the United States.
Branch Rickey. Letter to Jackie Robinson, December 31, 1950. Sender's copy (carbon). Branch Rickey Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
More from the Library of Congress:
Jackie Robinson & Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s
Branch Richey Papers
A Legend is Born: Original "Spiderman" Drawings
The character of Spider-Man first appeared in Marvel Comics' Amazing Fantasy #15 in August, 1962. The chemistry of Stan Lee's script and Steve Ditko's art made the tale of a high school outcast accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider an instant success. An anonymous donor gave the first Spider-Man drawings—an icon of comic book literature—to the Library in 2008. The Prints and Photographs Division collects, preserves and makes accessible tens of thousands of examples of original cartoon art, among other achievements of American visual creativity, and offers an annual fellowship to graduate students studying cartoon art in any academic field.
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A Picture of Humanity: Migrant Mother Photo
The photograph popularly known as "Migrant Mother" has become an icon of the Great Depression. The compelling image of a mother and her children is actually one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made in February or March 1936 in Nipomo, California. Seeing the photograph in the context of related images, understanding the purpose for which it was made, and knowing something of the photographer's and subject's views of the occasion amplify our perspectives on the image, and, at the same time, suggest that no single meaning can be assigned to it.
Lange made the photographs toward the end of a month's trip photographing migratory farm labor for what was then the Resettlement Administration, later to become the Farm Security Administration. Her work was part of the Administration's larger effort to document economic and social distress among the nation's agricultural workers and to advertise the agency's relief programs and the measures it was taking to address the underlying causes of the dislocation.
Destitute peapickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. Dorothea Lange, March 1936
The unlikely rebel: Lucy Burns Suffragette Photo
Suffrage leader Lucy Burns (1879-1966) was imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia, in November 1917, after she and others were arrested for picketing the White House in support of a federal amendment granting women nationally the right to vote. The authorities initially tolerated the picketing, which began in January 1917, but after the United States entered World War I, criticism became less acceptable, especially when it exposed the government's hypocrisy of supporting democracy abroad while denying voting rights to women at home. Among the first two picketers arrested on June 22, 1917, Burns served more jail time during her six sentences than any other suffrage prisoner, and she helped instigate hunger strikes to protest the suffragists' treatment and demand recognition as political prisoners. At Occoquan she was brutally restrained and forced fed. As this British poster shows, forced feeding involved inserting a tube in the prisoner's mouth or nostril, into which a solution of milk and eggs was poured. The result was often vomiting, pain, and lacerations. As one victim reported in 1909, "The drums of the ears seem to be bursting and there is a horrible pain in the throat and breast. The tube is pushed down twenty inches; [it] must go below the breastbone."
Photograph of suffragist Lucy Burns, [November 1917]. Harris & Ewing photographers, Washington, D.C. National Woman's Party Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
"Torturing Women in Prison. Vote Against the Government." London: National Women's Social and Political Union, ca.1909-1914. Color lithograph, printed by David Allen & Sons, London. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
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