Revolutionary War Documents Discovered in Special Collections

April 29th, 2014 by Jessica Lacher-Feldman

Fifty-seven original letters and other signed documents related to the American Revolution have been discovered in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. The materials include documents signed by or sent to several members of the Continental Congress, three signers of the Declaration of Independence (Samuel Huntington, George Read, and Benjamin Harrison), and other politicians, diplomats, and military leaders, including Generals Henry Knox, Arthur St. Clair, and Benjamin Lincoln, Washington’s second in command, who formally accepted the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.

Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books for the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections, discovered the materials. He says that an unidentified collector added them to a large set of facsimile reproductions of Revolutionary War manuscripts produced by the American bibliographer B. F. Stevens in the 1890s. The original documents went unnoticed, Taylor believes, because they were interspersed among the 2,107 document facsimiles, which were published in 24 volumes as B.F. Stevens’s Facsimiles of Manuscripts in European Archives Relating to America, 1773-1783. The collector also added more than four hundred engravings to the volumes, depicting individuals and events associated with the Revolution.

“In the 19th century, people often ‘extra-illustrated’ books by inserting prints, letters, autographs, newspaper clippings, and anything else that supplemented the text,” Taylor says. He adds that the materials are a good example of how people collected “relics” of the Revolution. “Some of the letters are interesting in themselves, but I think they are more interesting as a group. How did the people who fought the Revolutionary War go from being ordinary men and women to national icons? How did America create its own mythology? These materials can help teach students about that process.”

Press copy of a document produced for Benjamin Franklin, ca. 1782

Taylor notes that even mundane items in the collection shed light on America’s founders. His favorite document is thought to have been made for Benjamin Franklin, probably by one of his secretaries. Known as a press copy, it was a precursor of the photocopy. “The paper is highly absorbent and as thin as tissue paper,” Taylor explains. “When it was pressed against a letter that had been dampened, it soaked up some of the ink, producing an exact copy.” The technique was invented in England around 1780 by James Watt, who is best known for his work on the steam engine. Franklin, a famous inventor himself, was among the first to use it. The document in LSU’s collection (a passage copied out by hand from a contemporary news magazine, the Maryland Gazette) has a watermark indicating that the paper was made by James Watt.

“This is just one example of the many exciting surprises that Special Collections staff and our visiting researchers find almost every day when working with our collections,” Jessica Lacher-Feldman, Head of Special Collections, commented. “Whether for teaching, research, student and faculty recruitment, or just personal curiosity, the library is a remarkably rich resource that benefits the university, the broader community, and in fact the world. While the collections are processed, and guides are available, the collections are not usually described to the item level.  Exploring and researching a specific collection can yield great things that might be of special interest to the researcher based on their topic, interests, and background.  We plan on digitizing this small group of documents and making them available online through the Louisiana Digital Library in the near future.”

The LSU Libraries Special Collections, in Hill Memorial Library, is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the library at (225) 578-6544 or by email at

May 2nd – Lecture on Coastal Communities

April 25th, 2014 by Leah Wood Jewett

On Friday, May 2 at 3:30 pm, Hill Memorial Library will host a talk by Dr. Don Davis as part of the Friday Forum Series of the LSU Department of Geography and Anthropology.

Dr. Davis of the Louisiana Sea Grant Program, an expert on the diverse coastal communities in the Louisiana wetlands, will present the topic: “In Louisiana’s Coastal Zone, the ‘Folks’ are the same as the ‘People.’”

The talk will be held at Hill Memorial Library in association with the travelling exhibition “I Remember: An Art Show of Environmental Significance,” a project of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Task Force and LSU Libraries T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History.

For more information about the Friday Forum Series, contact Kent Mathewson at 578-6073 or

Image: Shrimpers, c. 1920. From the Colonel Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album, Mss. 4963.

Planting the Seed of Commemoration: 100 Years of Cooperative Extension

April 24th, 2014 by Leah Wood Jewett

Assembled in front of the original Hill Memorial Library in downtown Baton Rouge, these attendees, agents, and instructors of the Fourth Annual Short Course for Boys and Girls travelled to LSU as part of an Agricultural Extension Service program in 1917. The original panorama photograph, made by Jasper Ewing, is housed in LSU Libraries Special Collections.

This image and related items are currently on display in the lecture hall in a preview of the Fall 2014 exhibition commemorating the centennial of Cooperative Extension at LSU.

“To me, fair friend, you never can be old”: Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

April 23rd, 2014 by Michael Taylor

Although historians are not 100% sure of the exact date of William Shakespeare’s birth (all that is known is that he was baptized on April 26, 1564), his birthday is usually celebrated on April 23.  In honor of the bard, we’ve pulled out two Shakespearean treasures from our Rare Book Collection…

Second Folio

Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1632) was the second collected edition of Shakespeare’s theatrical works.  It is now known as the Second Folio, the word folio referring to the way the book’s pages were folded after printing.  The First Folio, or first edition, was printed in 1623 and has become one of the world’s most valuable and highly sought after books—without it, many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays probably would have been lost.  Although the Second Folio is less prestigious, it is arguably a better text, since it contains corrections and revisions, as well as a preliminary poem, “An Epitaph on the admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare,” by John Milton, his first published work.  More research is needed, but LSU’s copy of the Second Folio is thought to trace its provenance to the Earl of Newport, son of Penelope Rich, the “Stella” of Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella.


Another important Shakespeare item in Special Collections is A Collection of Prints, from Pictures Painted for the Purpose of Illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakspeare.  Published in London in 1805, it grew out of a project initiated in 1786 by the engraver and entrepreneur John Boydell, who opened a gallery that featured paintings by contemporary artists of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. 


The mid eighteenth century had seen a revival of interest in Shakespeare, led by the leading actor of the day, David Garrick. This in turn created a demand for literary art. John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery became a fashionable gathering place, and reproductions of the originals served as conversation pieces in people’s homes. Many of the images demonstrate an exotic and even risqué proto-Romanticism that makes it easy to understand why they were so popular with audiences in the nineteenth century, over the course of which the prints were reissued several times.


To learn more about the library’s holdings of Shakespeare, as well as other works by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British writers, check out these handy guides…

English Literature and Philosophy, 1550-1700

Eighteenth-Century British Literature


Audubon Day May 3rd! Fly on By!

April 22nd, 2014 by Jessica Lacher-Feldman


The LSU Libraries will host a special viewing of the famed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (London, 1827-1838).  The viewing will be held in the McIlhenny Room of Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus, on Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 10 am until 2 pm, and is free and open to the public with a reservation.

In addition to the viewing of Birds of America (and a few selected illustrated rare books), this year during Audubon Day, visitors will have the opportunity to view the new travelling exhibition which will be of interest to Audubon and bird enthusiasts. “I Remember: An Art Show of Environmental Significance,” produced by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Task Force in partnership with LSU Libraries’ T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History. The exhibition features oral histories, photographs and original art depicting individuals who work, live, and play in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.  Archival materials from LSU Libraries Special Collections complement “I Remember.”  A full description of the exhibition is available here:

A renowned masterpiece of natural history art, the Birds of America records the rich bird and plant life Audubon saw and drew first-hand when he lived in Louisiana in the 1820s. The edition is known as the “elephant” folio because of its large size, with each of its 435 pages measuring 39 by 27 inches. Publication took eleven years, from 1827 to 1838. LSU’s copy of the Birds was purchased with a grant from the Crown Zellerbach Foundation in 1964, and it has been shown in various venues over the years.

In 2007, it was determined that LSU’s copy could no longer be shown safely due to structural damage to the bindings caused by their large size and other problems with individual plates.  In 2008, the Coypu Foundation made a donation of $99,000 to enable conservation of this work by Etherington Conservation Services.  Over the course of more than a year, the work was painstakingly completed. The final volume returned to the library on December 28, 2009. Thanks to the Coypu Foundation, one of the Libraries’ greatest treasures is now restored to fine condition and can again be shared with our community.

As part of the Audubon Day festivities, participating artists Lane Lefort (photographer) and Marian Brister Martinez (painter) will be on hand in the exhibit gallery to discuss their work currently on display as part of the “I Remember” exhibition. A representative from Marsh Dog will be available to talk about the company’s nutria-based dog food products, and its founding as a creative economic solution to address coastal wetlands loss.

CWPPRA is federal legislation enacted in 1990 that is designed to identify, prepare, and fund construction of coastal wetlands restoration projects.  Since its inception, 151 coastal restoration or protection projects have been authorized, benefiting over 112,000 acres in Louisiana.

For more information on CWPPRA, visit

It is with pleasure that the Hill Memorial Library shares these remarkable volumes with the community. Audubon Day events are free and the public is welcome, but reservations are required and space is limited.  Viewings of the folio volumes are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 noon, and 1 p.m. Only 40 people can be admitted for each showing.  Parking is readily accessible in the Indian Mounds lot, directly behind Hill Memorial Library.   To request a reservation, visit the Libraries’ Special Collections website at or call 225-578-6544 during business hours.

As an additional related lagniappe, on Sunday, May 4th, the day after LSU Libraries Special Collections’ Audubon Day, Bike Baton Rouge will lead a Vélo des Oiseaux (bird ride) under the guidance of Professor Phil Strouffer, ornithologist and ecologist at the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources.

The group will meet at 4th Street and Spanish Town Road (the State Museum) at 8.00 AM, Sunday, May 4th. They will ride to the Capitol lakes to see what birds are active on the little lake across from the Governor’s mansion then head to the lake on the north side of the Capitol to see what’s there. From the Capitol we’ll head to the Levee Path and LSU. They will stop along the way where bird life is acitve. They may continue all the way down to the eagle nest by Farr Park. From the Levee they will come back to town via the University/City Park Lakes. Expect at least two and a half to three hours for the ride, though not continuous riding. Anyone under the age of 12 is required by law to wear a helmet. Bring water and a snack to share with others. Binoculars are useful though there will be a spotting telescope on hand.


May I Have This Dance? Nineteenth-Century Louisiana Dance Invitations

April 10th, 2014 by Michael Taylor

In his book Sketches, Historical and Descriptive, of Louisiana (1812), the Northern traveler Amos Stoddard observed that dancing was one of the most popular pastimes in Louisiana. It was a place where men and women were “particularly attached to the exercise of dancing, and carry it on to an incredible excess. Neither the severity of the cold, nor the oppression of the heat, ever restrains them from this amusement, which usually commences early in the evening, and is seldom suspended till late the next morning. They even attend the balls not infrequently for two or three days in succession, and without the least apparent fatigue. At the exercise the females, in particular, are extremely active, and those of the United States [Louisiana was still a territory] must submit to be called their inferiors.”

Dancing was still a popular social activity later in the nineteenth century. In this post, we feature a selection of dance invitations from the J.M.B. Tucker Family Papers. Mr. Tucker, a judge, and his wife Caledonia lived in Natchitoches, near Louisiana’s western border with Texas. Their daughter Callie was born in 1858. Many of the invitations date from the 1870s and 1880s, when Callie was a young woman, and shed light on the social life of rural northwest Louisiana.

Invitation to a “hop” given by the Natchitoches String and Brass Bands at Lacoste Hall, October 1879:

Invitation to Natchitoches Brass Band Hop, December 1871:

Invitation and dance card to the Calico Ball, December 1879:

Grand Mardi-Gras Ball, given by the Natchitoches Brass Band and Acme Baseball Club, 1882:

Grand Ball and Supper for the benefit of the Touro Infirmary of New Orleans, “under the auspices of the Hebrew Ladies’ Society,” January 1881:

King’s Ball / Festivities of the Grand Pa-Di-Shah of the Princes of the Orient, February 1899:

Making a Difference in Coastal Restoration: CWPPRA Travelling Exhibition at Hill Includes Archival Materials from Special Collections

March 31st, 2014 by Leah Wood Jewett

What do Father Louis Hennepin (member of La Salle’s first expedition), naturalist John James Audubon, celebrated poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and former U.S. Senator John B. Breaux all have in common? Evidence of their work documenting, illustrating, and preserving the Louisiana coastal wetlands are all on display at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library as part of the exhibition, “I Remember: An Art Show of Environmental Significance.” The exhibition is open from March 31 – August 30, 2014, and is free and open to the public.


The travelling exhibition “I Remember” is the product of a partnership between the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Task Force and the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, LSU Libraries. “I Remember” is composed of oral histories, photographs and original art depicting individuals who work, live, and play in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The exhibit features environmental portraits and landscape photographs by Lane Lefort and oil paintings by Marian Brister Martinez (pictured above). Both artists are Louisiana natives and have used their artistic talents to capture the culture and heritage of the communities in coastal Louisiana. This interactive art show also includes QR codes that allow visitors to hear the stories of 11 coastal stewards on their smart phones and an interactive kiosk that includes video and audio clips from wetlands steward.

Click here to access oral histories and links to the artists’ works online.

The travelling exhibition is supplemented with materials from the holdings of LSU Libraries Special Collections, among them Hennepin’s Description de la Louisiane (Paris, 1683), an octavo edition of Audubon’s Birds of America (Philadelphia, 1840; pictured above), Longfellow’s Evangeline (Boston, 1847), and Senator Breaux’s speech and first issue of the federal legislation that would eventually become known as the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (1986). For a full description, visit the exhibitions page at

For information on visitor parking, visit:

Humorous Maps of Europe in 1870

March 19th, 2014 by Michael Taylor

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “map”? Most of us would probably think of road maps. There are, however, many different kinds of maps, ranging from maps of historical events and time periods to maps of plant and animal habitats, maps of the moon and stars, and even maps of places that exist only in our imagination. Our latest blog post features two humorous maps from the Rare Book Collection.

Since at least the eighteenth century, artists have used Europe’s geographic features to evoke national characteristics (or, more often, cultural stereotypes). Good examples of this are the two maps shown here. They were published in Berlin during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, a brief but bloody conflict in which the German kingdom of Prussia defeated France and sowed the seeds of resentment that eventually led to World War I.

Humoristische Karte von Europe im Jahre 1870 (version 1)

The French emperor, Napoleon III, was unpopular and received no aid from other European countries, some of which thought the war might work to their advantage. England is shown here as detached and aloof, with its “slave” (Ireland) on a chain. Sweden and Norway watch from afar with binoculars. Russia is sharpening a blade and eyeing the Balkans, which, although mostly Slavic, were still part of the Ottoman Empire (represented by a man with a hookah). Italy is characterized as one of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s revolutionaries, crushing the pope in Rome. Austria, recently defeated by Prussia, lies flat on its belly watching the scene unfold, while Prussia grabs the French by their coattails.

 Humoristische Karte von Europe im Jahre 1870 (version 2)

A second, related print makes the same point. England turns a blind eye to the conflict. Spain and Turkey sit idly by, smoking. A corpse-like Austria-Hungary is being kneed in the chest by a husky German soldier, while the Balkans wake up with a yawn (symbolizing the move towards independence from Turkey) only to find Austria’s rear end in their face! Neutral Switzerland is a locked, snow-covered chalet.

These maps are part of a large collection of caricatures related to the Franco-Prussian War. Need a topic for a research paper or creative project? Have a look (and a laugh) at this collection! It is cataloged as Sammlung von Caricaturen, Illustrationen, und Bilder zur Geschichte des Krieges und der Revolution von 1870-1871 (Rare DC291 .S3 Flat) and De Berlin à Paris: A Collection of Prints, Sketches, Caricatures, &c., formed in Berlin during the Period of the Franco-German War, 1870-71 (Rare DC291 .D4 Flat). See also the library’s guide to published materials on the Franco-Prussian War and Paris Commune.

Lacher-Feldman’s New Book Receives Accolades

March 6th, 2014 by Michael Taylor


Jessica Lacher-Feldman, Head of LSU Libraries Special Collections, is the author of a recently-published book entitled Exhibits in Archives and Special Collections Libraries (Society of American Archivists, 2013).  The book is a culmination of years of actively developing and executing exhibits, as well as years of research and teaching about exhibit development in archives.

Exhibits in Archives and Special Collections Libraries  is both a practical guide and a pedagogical tool, seeking to inspire, motivate, and educate archivists about how to develop exhibits and how to draw inspiration from their collections, colleagues, and experiences.  It includes several mini case studies drawn from Lacher-Feldman’s own experiences as well as three case studies by colleagues across the country who took on archival exhibits on controversial subjects with success – namely, Stonewall, Slavery, and Three Mile Island.

The book has received high praise in reviews that have been recently published.  A review in the Metropolitan Archivist (Volume 20, Issue 1) says: “The book inspires confidence and encourages archivists to step away from comfort zones and reach more people.  Exhibits in Archives emerges as a new standard that will be required reading for archivists working on any type of exhibition.”  The Journal of Western Archives’ review (Vol. 5, Issue 1) says: “Ms. Lacher-Feldman has a charge for each of us in exhibition creation: ‘Proceed and Be Bold!’  Her hope that this book ‘gives ideas, energy, and permission to strike out in new directions when working with exhibits. Given this advice, Exhibits in Archives and Special Collections  probably has something for us all.”

Exhibits in Archives and Special Collections Libraries  is available through the Society of American Archivists’ website:

Collection Spotlight: The Papers of Civil Rights Leader Dr. Dupuy Anderson

February 19th, 2014 by Tara Laver

WWII-portraitWorld War II veteran, dentist, civil rights activist. Dr. Dupuy Anderson’s biography reads like that of many African American civil rights leaders of the mid-20th century. That common history, however, does not diminish his extraordinary contributions and accomplishments, and his papers, now available for research in Hill Memorial Library, provide an important resource for the study of that chapter of Baton Rouge and indeed American history.

Anderson graduated from McKinley High School, Baton Rouge’s earliest African American high school and anchor of the city’s black community for much of the 20th-century. He received a B.S. degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, and a D.D.S. from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. Anderson enlisted in 1941 and served with the U.S. Army Air Force, rising to the rank of major. He participated in the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott, ran for mayor of Baton Rouge in 1960 (when African Americans did not run for such offices), and filed suit to desegregate the undergraduate division of Louisiana State University. As a result, his daughter Dr. Freya Anderson Rivers was one of six African-American undergraduates to integrate LSU in 1964. Dr. Anderson passed away in 1999.

campaign-letterThe papers, which were donated by Dr. Rivers last year, date from 1935-1996 and include personal photographs, speeches and printed items from his run for mayor-president and correspondence, printed items, and other documents related to his community service, professional activities, and involvement in education and social issues and desegregation of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System and LSU. A full description of the collection is available online. Oral histories conducted with Anderson and Rivers in the 1990s under the auspices of the T. Harry William Center for Oral History are also housed in Hill Library.

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