During my tenure here at The Buffalo History Museum, I have had many interesting items and collections come across my desk. The vast majority are from generous donations and a select few are ones my boss has found. I’ve decided to pick out a few of my favorites to share with you.
1. McKinley Poem, 1899. Call number: Mss. A2013-33
This poem is written on the back of a note from Augustus Strong of Rochester to Wilson Bissell of Buffalo; however, the author of the poem is unknown. What is so intriguing about the poem is the prediction of President McKinley facing St. Peter and answering for his polices while holding office. The poem was written in 1899 and sent to a resident of Buffalo. As you all know, President McKinley was assassinated two years later in Buffalo.
2. Meldrum’s special Pinochle playing cards. Call number: GV 1235 .M4 1915
Library catalogers typically don’t encounter 3D objects; those are more frequently found in museum artifact collections. However, we received a donation of a deck of Pinochle playing cards from H.A. Meldrum and wanted to include these in the library collection due to the image of the department store on the cards. This was a unique challenge to accurately describe the cards, a 3D object, within the confines of a library catalog that typically deals with paper.
3. Exit 51W / by Kasia Keeley. Call number: Rare N 6498 .P37 B8 2012
This was another fascinating discovery by my boss and would more accurately be described as artwork than a book, as it contains no linguistic content. It proved to be another unique challenge for me as a cataloger. The artist created a serigraphy and cut paper book of scenes along I-90W from the East, Rt. 33 at Exit51W and Rt. 198. The book has a single piece of grey card stock holding it together that once opened, unfolds like an accordion. Over top of the card stock, the artist has cut paper scenes. They include the Statue of David, the Richardson Complex, the Buffalo History Museum, Niagara Street, the Electric Tower and the Liberty building to name a few. If you’re interested in seeing it, stop by the library or check out the artist website: http://www.kasiakeeley.com/Kasia_Keeley_Artwork/Exit_51W.html
4. Edward Cook Freedom Papers. Call number: Mss. A2013-110
Just like the many archives of the world, we too make our own discoveries. While only ‘lost’ for a short time, the needs of this collection were finally able to be met 10 years after acquiring it. The collection was donated in 2003 by Dr. Bruce Lee, a descendant of Cook. Edward was the son of Henry Cook, who came to Maryland in slavery from Africa. Henry escaped slavery and joined the Mohawk Indian tribe. He met and married Patty, an Indian woman, and together had Edward, making Edward a free man. Edward moved to Buffalo as a young man, where he made a living being a barber at the Mansion House. The collection includes a photograph of Edward, Baltimore County freedom paper certifying he was born free, baptism certificate for Edward, a permission note to travel at night and his obituary.
5. Queerie queers with hands, wings and claws with illustrations by Palmer Cox.
Call number: Rare PR 9199.2 .C69 Q84
This children’s book, illustrated by Palmer Cox, was published by John D. Larkin out of 663 Seneca Street. The book features many short stories, magic tricks to do at home and less than common nursery rhymes. For example, I grew up on the simple version of “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.” However, the version John D. Larkin helped to publish had a much longer introduction to Jack & Jill. “For an idle lad, as he was, Jack had no traits, after all, that were very bad. He was simply Jack with the coat on his back patched up in all color from gray to black. Both feet were bare; and I do declare that he never washed his face; and his hair was the color of straw.” Thankfully, his soap business was more successful than his publishing.
Assistant Librarian & Archivist