THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

2 posts from November 2015

26 November 2015

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

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In terms of presidents, we normally think of FDR rather than TR when it comes to Thanksgiving; indeed, the portmanteau 'Franksgiving' coined by an Atlantic City mayor in 1939 is a reminder of the president's decision to move the holiday a week forward in a late effort to boost retail sales in the face of the Great Depression. American presidents had declared an annual day of Thanksgiving since Abraham Lincoln in 1863, but Teddy Roosevelt's 1905 proclamation, shown here (shelfmark 1865.c.7.(30.), image in the public domain), was the first to attribute the custom to the 'first settlers'. Before this date (and, indeed, until long after), States celebrated Thanksgiving in different ways, with by no means all invoking the story of Puritan settlers and American Indians.

Perhaps appropriately, the Declaration shown here (which now I've seen it, will be recommended for some conservation assessment) is bound in a large volume of similar proclamations from around the world, including announcements of days of mourning for British kings, the inauguration of the Second French Republic of 1848, and this reminder (in facsimile) of the backstory of the relations with the native peoples that Thanksgiving (yes, we always think of that scene in The Ice Storm).

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By the King. A Proclamation forbidding the disorderly Trading with the Saluages in New England in America [24 Nov 1630. A facsimile] 1865.c.7.(54.).

More straightforward holidaying is, however, available in the Souvenir of Thanksgiving Day (London, 1896), shelfmark 8176.de.13, produced by the American Society in London.

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Members included Henry S. Wellcome and the 'patriarch of the American colony in London', Benjamin Franklin Stevens (whose brother, Henry, helped us build our collections). Typical of the souvenirs published by such societies at the time, it contains a menu for the main event, including, of course, turkey with cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, as well as an amusing history of the colony and a series of cartoons reflecting on Anglo-British connections. The volume is also bound in leather, with a remarkable embossed roundel, shown here: souvenir

Not much fun if you're a turkey, of course:

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But however, and whatever, you celebrate, 'Happy Thanksgiving' from us.

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[Matthew Shaw]

19 November 2015

Theatre in Video

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Having briefly alluded to the wonderful Theatre in Video database in the recent blog on Arthur Miller, we thought it merited a little more coverage and are combining that here with information about another excellent resource, the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive.

Theatre in Video contains over four hundred videos of documentaries and definitive performances of some of the world’s important plays. Full performances of American plays include Mourning Becomes Electra, Beyond the Horizon and The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill; Thornton Wilder’s Our Town; Fifth of July and The Rimers of Eldritch by Lanford Wilson; All Over by Edward Albee; a 1979 production of Wendy Wasserstein’s Uncommon Women and Others, starring Meryl Streep; Dragon Country by Tennessee Williams; and John Steinbeck’s Burning Bright.

The vast majority of interviews with actors, directors, writers and designers are episodes of the television show Elliot Norton Reviews which ran for 1,100 episodes from 1958-1982. Based in Boston, Norton was one of the nation’s most important drama critics and his reviews – which frequently included suggestions for improvements – as well as informal advice supported numerous writers and directors whose shows were undergoing pre-Broadway trials. Interviews included in this collection include: Mickey Rooney (1971); James Earl Jones (1980); Al Pacino, when he was playing Richard III with the Theatre Company of Boston (1981); Jack Lemmon (1972); Gloria Swanson (1971); Edward Albee (1966); Neil Simon (1981); New York Times theatre critic, Walter Kerr (1968); film critic for the New Yorker, Pauline Kael (1973); and director Arthur Penn (1970).

For any researcher studying the film and entertainment industry from vaudeville and silent movies through to 2000, the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive offers the most comprehensive collection of US and UK trade magazines covering music, film, theatre, television and radio as well as film fan magazines and music press titles. All of the publications have been scanned cover-to-cover in high-resolution colour and the contents have been indexed to enable searching by article, covers, ads and reviews. Major American titles which have effectively provided the main historical record for their subject area include Variety (1905-2000), Billboard (1894-2000) and Broadcasting (1931-2000), while consumer and fan magazines include Picturegoer (1911-1960), American Film (1975-1992) and Musician (1976-1999). Bringing these titles and many others together, this database offers a unique opportunity to find comprehensive information on specific films, plays, theatres, actors, directors, TV series as well as youth movements and subcultures.

See more at: www.bl.uk/eresources/dbstptitles/eresourcest.html#T and www.bl.uk/eresources/dbstptitles/eresourcese.html#E (n.b., most of these resources are only available within the reading rooms on Library computers)

[Jean Petrovic, bibliographer, Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library]