1000 Words Isn’t Enough

Unidentified children, circa 1880-1900
Unidentified man holding accordion, circa 1880-1900.
Unidentified man holding accordion, circa 1880-1900.

Today we would like to share two photographs with you. These images come from a photograph album of tintypes out of a collection called the Lester-Gray Collection of Documents Relating to Joseph Glover Baldwin, 1838-1949.

This collection, including the photo album of tintypes, was received by the SHC in 1954. Very little is known about the album’s origins. Actually, not much is known about the album’s connection with the greater Lester-Gray collection. The album holds 17 tintypes and one carte-de-visite picturing African Americans — women, men, and children — well-dressed and formally posed. The album arrived with this curious label: “Negroes, born and Bred on Gen. Lee’s Land, 1862.”

Over the years, many people have inquired about the accuracy of this description and date on the album. More importantly people have often asked us about the identity of the individuals portrayed in these photographs. Could these individuals really have lived at Arlington House (the historic home of the Lee and Custis families of Virginia, and home to the Robert E. Lee Memorial)?

In fact, it was one of our researchers who helped us more accurately date these photographs. Several years ago a researcher, who is a maker of historically accurate dolls, agreed to give us her expert opinion of the dress and hairstyles. Her assessment dated the majority of these images to the time period between 1880 and 1900. Following additional research and consideration, our staff then updated our description to include the following statement: “Despite the label on the album, most of the images appear to date from 1880-1900, and there is no direct evidence of connection with Robert E. Lee.”

We have long believed that someone else out there might have additional knowledge that could help to identify some or all of these individuals. Or, perhaps, with some work between the archives at the Arlington House and these materials here in the SHC, more could be unearthed.

Any ideas?

Thar She Blows

We recently uncovered a single-item collection with this intriguing title: “Sailor’s Journal, 30 March-24 April 1847” (#5219-z). Although not completely unheard of, this is a bit of a strange one in that it’s totally unattributed.

19 April 1847: Entry from an unknown sailor's journal.
19 April 1847: Entry from an unknown sailor

Normally, our collections are tied to a definite creator (a person, or perhaps an organization), but here we have an example of one of our collections whose connection to its creator has been lost. The question of who penned this journal is only a part of the overall mystery of this 161 year old item. Why did the entries end on the 24th of April? Are the numerous empty pages that follow this last entry merely because he lost interest in maintaining a journal? If not, what happened to him? Here’s what we do know about it…

The writer was a sailor on the Memphis during its passage from New York to New Orleans between 30 March and 24 April 1847. The journal provides a daily record of the weather conditions at sea, the speed and position of the ship, the wildlife sighted around the ship, and other vessels encountered during the voyage. The sailor mentioned passing Cape Hatteras, Cape Florida, and Key West.

In one passage of the journal, April 19th, the sailor notes the damage that a hurricane had inflicted on Key West the previous year.

“…passed Key West a place belonging to the U.S. and used as a navel depot, was partly destroyed by the Water last year a blow from the South demolishing the lighthouse, also passed at 10 o’clock a.m. Sand Key light House on [Island] which was blow down in a tornado last year, part of the Is[land] is washed away and they have erected a liberty Pole in the Center of the Isl’d to show the spot on which it once stood. The U.S have now a Light ship placed, at Key West, also a substitute for the Light House, destroy’d.”

Any guesses on the author of this journal? Does anyone know anything about this hurricane that hit Key West in 1847? Know anything more about this lighthouse that was destroyed?  Of course, digging into the journal itself would be the best place to look for clues.  As always, it’s here in the SHC (carefully preserved) and we’d love to have you in to take a look at it!

Did you know we also have a minor in Public Health?

Circa 1890: Milton J. Rosenau in uniform.
Circa 1890: Milton J. Rosenau in uniform.

You may have heard that the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) has “a couple” of collections of manuscript materials relating to the Civil War, Civil Rights, Southern politics, literature, and business (among other bread and butter subject areas). But, you may not have known that we also preserve a number of great collections in several smaller subject nodes. These minor focuses have sprouted and thrived over the years due to a variety of reasons. One such minor subject strength is public health.

Due in large part to the prestige of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Public Health right down the road, and other strong connections, the SHC has been the beneficiary over the years of several great acquisitions of the papers of noted public health officials and organizations.  We were recently reminded of one very rich public health collection, the Milton J. Rosenau Papers. We thought we’d share a bit on Rosenau’s interesting life.

Milton J. Rosenau was commissioned as an assistant surgeon in the United States Marine Hospital Service (now the United States Public Health Service) in 1890. In 1899, he was appointed director of the Hygienic Laboratory of that service. He was instrumental in 1922 in the establishment of the Harvard University School of Public Health and, in 1940, became first dean of the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina. (In fact, the School of Public Health’s building is named for Rosenau).

Circa 1920: Milton Rosenau in laboratory.
Circa 1920: Milton Rosenau in laboratory.

The SHC’s collection of Rosenau material includes correspondence, writings, lecture notes, pictures, and other items documenting his career as a public health official, chiefly 1900-1924. His activities at the Marine Hospital Service, the Hygienic Laboratory, and Harvard University are covered, as is his work in such areas as milk hygiene, typhoid fever, other diseases, and relief to European Jews.

The one topic that comes up again and again throughout the Rosenau collection is: MILK! Rosenau was a bit of a milk connoisseur. No, that’s not quite right…he was more of a milk saint. The way we understand it, it was Rosenau that took the pioneering work of Louis Pasteur to a whole new level. It seems that the “Pasteurization” process of milk had a small flaw in that it made the end product taste like, well, cooked milk. Rosenau tweaked the process, reducing the temperature and advocating for slow-cooking.  Perhaps a little North Carolina barbeque played a role in this eureka moment? Anyway, the effect of such a change was a much more pleasing taste and, as a result, much wider adoption of consumption of pasteurized milk. We suppose “Rosenauzation” doesn’t have the same ring. Google Books has made available this copy of his landmark work on the subject, called “The Milk Question.”

So, if you feel the spirit move you today at lunch, raise a glass of milk, “To Milton Rosenau! To germ-free and tasty milk!”