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Death of the card catalog (dun dun dun!)

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Cataloging card cabinets

Friday, October 2, 2015 marked the official end to the Online Computer Library Center’s (OCLC) printing of catalog cards for libraries. Yes kids, as seen in the haunted New York Public Library basement of Ghostbusters or the cabinets in the background of The Big Bang Theory. Nearly all libraries have now incorporated the use of an online catalog essentially rendering cataloging cards obsolete. While many libraries may still have ordered the cards as a back up to their online system, OCLC decided it would no longer supply the cards and could turn its attention to other prevalent issues libraries are facing. For those of you curious to see what was printed in the final batch of cards, check out this video and article from The Columbus Dispatch.

Examples of the Research Library catalog cards. The cards on the left side shows beautifully handwritten cards from our Old Book Catalog, which we still use. The cards on the right side are from our last batch ordered from OCLC. Notice the “end of life” statement on the first printed card.

Worry not my nostalgic friends; we at the Research Library still have a couple of card catalog cabinets that we use almost on a daily basis. Those of you who have visited us recently may have checked out our Obituary Index (1811-2001), or the Buffalo/Erie County Civil War Enlistees Index. So, if you’re in the mood for a trip back to your younger years, stop by and take in the sights of the card catalogs we still use. Just watch out for the Library Ghost!

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian & Archivist

The Birth of Journalism in Buffalo

BfloExpress18121013wm (2)October 3, 2011 went uncelebrated as a major anniversary in Buffalo’s history. Two hundred years earlier, Buffalo’s first newspaper, the Buffalo Gazette, began publishing on October 3, 1811. An annual subscription cost $2.50, equal to about $44 in today’s dollars.

The Buffalo Gazette was founded by the Salisbury brothers, Hezekiah A. Salisbury (1789-1856) and Smith H. Salisbury (ca. 1783-1832). Because of the difficulty of securing reliable supplies of paper, publication was irregular. The first paper mill west of the Genesee River did not open until 1817 in Batavia.

The first page of the issue of the Gazette devoted several column inches to listing books and pamphlets available for sale at the Buffalo Book Store and featured an excerpt from the Manual of the State of New York. Back then, “news” was what happened in the outside world, information that was in high demand in isolated frontier villages. What happened here was already known to Buffalo’s small population (1508 in the 1810 census). Local coverage was sometimes sparse in these early newspapers.

War of 1812 researchers will be disappointed by the Gazette’s lack of coverage of the Burning of Buffalo. Dec. 14, 1812, was the last time the Gazette was published before the press was moved for safety to Harris Hill in Clarence. The Salisbury brothers had assessed the risk correctly, for the British burned Buffalo to the ground on December 30, 1813. No reporters were at the scene; residents supplied eyewitness accounts, sometimes long after the event. The next issue of the Gazette appeared on January 18, 1814. It did not return to Buffalo until April 1814.

The Research Library has the Buffalo Gazette on microfilm, plus it owns a set of very fragile bound volumes of original issues starting in December 1812. The Gazette underwent a series of name changes (Niagara Patriot, Buffalo Patriot, Buffalo Patriot & Commercial Advertiser), ending its long journalism tenure in December 1924 as the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. We have all surviving issues of these newspapers on microfilm.

In 1812, the Salisbury press also published Buffalo’s first book, the French Convert, an anti-Catholic novel that had been popular in Europe for almost a century. The Research Library owns the sole surviving copy in Buffalo. The Salisbury press next published speeches by Red Jacket and Erastus Granger on the role of Indians in the War of 1812.

To see the Buffalo Gazette and the French Convert, visit the Research Library during our public service hours, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 1-5 pm, with special extended Research Library hours the 2nd and 4th Wed. of each month 6- 8 p.m. No appointments are necessary.

– Cynthia Van Ness, Director of Library and Archives

*This article was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of “The Album”

Favorite Library Acquisitions

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.

McKinley Poem1. 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   HA Meldrum Co Pinochle Cards

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 A2013-110 Edward Cook Obit

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.

Queerie Queers
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.

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian & Archivist

Secrets from the stacks: Erie County Penitentiary Prisoner Identification Cards

The “Secrets from the Stacks” is a program that is offered only a few times a year to spotlight items the Research Library does not typically get to show off. The program being held on June 6, 2015 will feature the Erie County Penitentiary prisoner identification cards (Mss. B85-6). The collection dates from 1896 to 1914, with the bulk of the photographs being from 1899 to 1905. This collection was donated to the Research Library by the Erie County Correctional Facility (Wende) in 1986 and just recently has been arranged, indexed and cataloged, making it accessible to interested researchers with a Scholar Pass.

Antwater Back WatermarkThe identification cards used by the Erie County Penitentiary are the precursor to modern day finger printing. The cards mimic the Bertillon system in order to identify repeat offenders by their physical features and dimensions, such as their head length, length of middle finger and the length of their foot. The cards also contain the offender’s name, aliases, age, nativity, occupation, charges and sentencing information. These cards were then arranged by a unique system and referenced upon their re-arrest. The Research Library greatly appreciated the donation due to the collections valuable genealogical, sociological, criminology and anthropological research potential.

The program will feature many of the identification cards for the attendees to view, along with photographs of the Erie County Penitentiary to help place the collection within context and other true crime resources. The program will run from 10 am to 12 pm on June 6, 2015. The completed index is available online, by going to http://tinyurl.com/TBHM-prisoners.

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian & Archivist

Spotlight Artifact: Pacemaker

From the TBHM Collection Medtronic Minneapolis, MN 1965

From the TBHM Collection
Medtronic
Minneapolis, MN
1965

In 1958, Dr. Wilson Greatbatch of Clarence, NY invented and patented the lifesaving cardiac pacemaker. Dr. Greatbatch worked alongside Dr. William M. Chardack and Dr. Andrew A. Gage to create the device and it was first used in humans at Millard Fillmore Hospital in 1960. The variable rate/variable output artificial implantable cardiac pacemaker and the fixed rate/fixed output artificial implantable cardiac pacemaker, which are shown in the photograph above, are on permanent display in the Bflo. Made! Exhibit. These two medical marvels are perfect examples of the ingenuity and inventiveness that Western New York has to offer.

Dr. Greatbatch founded Wilson Greatbatch Ltd. in 1970 to develop long-lived primary batteries to fuel pacemakers. He created the lithium iodide battery system to replace the mercury batteries that powered the early models that are on display in the museum. To this day, both the pacemakers and the special batteries that meet the particular needs of the pacemaker’s pulse generators are made by Wilson Greatbatch, Ltd. in Clarence. Dr. Greatbatch’s exceptional inventions maintain a profound, global impact in our lives.

– Rebecca Justinger, Registrar

*This article was featured in the Winter 2013 issue of “The Album”

Impact of the Library

TBHM LibraryIf you’ve taken up genealogy, you know the impact of finally finding a picture of your great-grandfather’s tavern. Or seeing a picture of the long-demolished corner deli where you bought Atomic Fireballs as a kid.

And then there’s the impact when a new fact upends your understanding of what happened back when. Gospel truth does gets demoted to urban legend, but first it puts up a fight. One of the just-will-not-die Buffalo urban legends is that in 1901, every house in Buffalo was supposedly photographed for the Pan-American Exposition and we have the pictures. If only it was true!

We do have an estimated 12,000 house pictures dating mostly from 1870-1970, but there was no campaign to photograph the entire city for the Pan-Am. We don’t have pictures of everyone’s house, then or now. There are another estimated 12,000 pictures of schools, factories, churches, hotels, office buildings, grain elevators, and so on. Our pictures are not online, so an in-person visit is needed to see them.

This extensive collection of architectural imagery has another kind of impact: economic.

How so?

Maybe you’ve noticed that Buffalo’s often deteriorated buildings are getting restored, repurposed, and re-occupied at an unprecedented rate. The Lafayette Hotel renovation was just the most celebrated of a long and growing list of rehabs. In Buffalo, existing buildings are attracting more private construction dollars than new-builds. This resurgence has a lot to do with the National Register and New York State’s preservation tax credit program.

In most Buffalo neighborhoods, getting listed on the National Register opens up tax credits for the restoration of old buildings, both residential and commercial. Property owners typically depend on professional architectural historians to write National Register nominations. In turn, professional architectural historians depend on the Library’s collection for historical evidence, visual and otherwise, to make the case for National Register eligibility. We have the region’s largest collection of period photographs, atlases, and architectural drawings.

TBHM LibraryInvestment = jobs, and not just for architectural historians. Bringing back old buildings means hiring architects, engineers, roofers, plumbers, plasterers, electricians, painters, carpenters, decorators, and more. Preservation is good for Buffalo’s economy because when you renovate an existing building, you typically spend about 60% of your budget on labor, which is usually supplied by local talent. In turn, those paychecks are spent mostly in the local economy on rent, groceries, etc. The remaining 40% goes to materials, which are usually manufactured elsewhere. For a new build, that ratio is reversed. Forty percent of your budget goes to labor and 60% leaves the local economy to buy materials made elsewhere.

We like to think that in our own indirect way, the Library is helping save Buffalo, one building at a time.

To learn more about New York State’s preservation tax credit program, go to: http://nysparks.com/shpo/tax-credit-programs/

To learn more about the National Register, go to: http://www.nps.gov/nr/faq.htm

To learn more about the economic impact of historic preservation, go to: http://www.achp.gov/economic-general.html

– Cynthia Van Ness, Director of Library and Archives

*Article featured in the Fall 2013 issue of “The Album”

Spotlight Artifact: Sholes & Glidden Typewritter

TypewritterC.L. Sholes, an American mechanical engineer, along with his colleagues Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule, invented the first practical typewriting machine in 1866. After many years of alterations, experiments, and patent applications, the Sholes & Glidden typewriter, pictured in the image above, was first manufactured in 1873. This was a drastically improved model from their first attempts and, in many ways, is similar to today’s typewriters. Sholes sold the rights to Densmore, who in turn approached Philo Remington, the maker of Remington rifles, to help produce and market the new device. The first “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer” was offered for sale to the public in 1874, but was not a commercial success until several years later when some improvements to the keyboard were made by the Remington engineers. This particular typewriter was sent by Sholes to Julius H. Dawes of Buffalo. It is a handmade prototype, one of only five created and the last known to exist. It was used in Dawes’ law office for 17 years before being donated to The Buffalo History Museum.

An important aspect of Sholes’ invention, one that is still with us today, is the creation of the QWERTY keyboard. So named because of the first 6 letters on the top left of the keyboard, the design was so important to the creation of the typewriter that it was included in Sholes’ patent applications. The placement of the keys was a specific choice on Sholes’ part so as not to jam the moving parts of his machine. In his very first model, Sholes placed the keys in two rows, in alphabetical order. The result was sluggish and the machine often halted whenever someone tried to use it. The early letters were placed on the ends of rods called ‘typebars.’ If two typebars that were located next to each other were used in succession, they would clash with each other. So Sholes figured out that if he took the most common letter pairs and made sure that their typebars were not next to each other, then the type writer was much less likely to jam. The QWERTY keyboard was the result of this design and has been with us ever since.

–  Rebecca Justinger, Registrar

*This article was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of “The Album”

Spotlight Artifact: 129 Year Old Piece of Cake

President_cleveland_weddingOn June 2, 1886, President Grover Cleveland and Miss Frances Folsom married in the White House’s first wedding ceremony. Folsom, only 21 years old, was well-educated, beautiful, and charming, endearing the new First Lady to her American Public. 2013 Valentine ClevelandWhile critics of the President considered the May-September marriage scandalous, the public was enamored by the First Lady’s youth and beauty, likening the White House romance to Royal nuptials. The President’s handlers also capitalized, using France’s age as a positive image for the 40-year-old Cleveland. Today, 129 years after America’s first “royal” wedding, the Buffalo History Museum shares in its memory by displaying a small slice of wedding cake. Guests attending the ceremony were given cake boxes, holding small groom’s cakes. These cakes were dark and soaked in alcohol which may account for its excellent state of preservation. grovercakeIn 1886 it was not uncommon to receive a piece of wedding cake as a parting favor from the wedded couple. Tradition dictated that if one placed the cake under their pillow they would dream of their future spouse. – Rebecca Justinger, Registar   *This article was featured in the Spring 2013 issue of “The Album”

 

Celebrate Grover Cleveland’s Birthday & learn more about our only president to serve two non-consecutive terms tonight at 6pm. 
Visit http://www.buffalohistory.org for more details. 

Buffalo’s Julius Francis and Mr. Lincoln

JuliusFrancisJulius E. Francis came to Buffalo in 1835 from Connecticut and ran a successful drug store business for nearly 35 years, mostly at 268 Main Street. The photo above is of his store at 16 South Division St. Beginning in 1865, with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Francis became absorbed in preserving and promoting the martyred President’s memory. He collected much Civil War and Lincoln memorabilia, but determined that there must be a national observance of Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. A bachelor, he declared that this cause was “my wife and my life.” At his own expense, Francis held the first of seven annual observances of Lincoln’s birthday. Each year until his death in 1881, he rented a hall, arranged the speakers, poets, music, essayists, and invited the public to attend free of charge and honor Abraham Lincoln.

PAB_11.14.2007 Lincoln-His two attempts to persuade Congress to establish a national Lincoln’s Birthday holiday failed and he died in 1881, having founded the Buffalo Lincoln’s Birthday Association which continued the work. In his will, he made the Association heirs to his house and lot at 145 East Eagle Street, and six $1,000 bonds. In 1901, the Association contracted with New York sculptor, Charles H. Niehaus, to create a statue of Lincoln that would grace the new Buffalo Historical Society in September, 1902. Their Francis legacy had grown to $10,000 ($221,556 in 2005 dollars), of which they spent $6,000 for the 1,200 pound bronze statue. At least one copy of this statue exists, in a park in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The chair is a copy of Lincoln’s “chair of state,” stored at the Smithsonian.

The original location of the statue was in a portion of the new Buffalo History Museum building named, “The Lincoln Room.” That room also contained the Francis Lincoln memorabilia collection. In the early 1930’s, the statue was moved outdoors in front of the South Portico of The Buffalo History Museum, where is remains today.

Lincoln’s Birthday was never designated as a national holiday (unlike George Washington’s), but was approved as a legal holiday in a number of states. Today, most people assume incorrectly that President’s Day nationally honors both Washington and Lincoln.

2006 is the 132nd year during which observances have been made in Buffalo for Lincoln’s birthday. The ceremonies are carried on in Julius Francis’ memory, also, for having the passion and the vision to celebrate one of the greatest American Presidents.

Article written by Susan Eck and featured in “Western New York Heritage Magazine”

Join us this Sunday, February 15th for President Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration!

Howard Beach Collection: Student Notes

Our project to research a portion of the Howard Beach is underway. My group and I have selected a number of glass slides. Some of us chose a theme, like military uniforms or wedding day portraits, or whatever they found interesting. My selections range from a high school hockey team portrait, to a gentleman outfitted in an elaborate tux, to a rather humorous baby. I look forward to researching these individuals and learning more about them and their lives.

Figure 1: 39837 Bishop Colton Negative

Figure 1: 39837 Bishop Colton Negative

Since our slides have been selected, we have photographed them so that they can be preserved digitally. Once these were digitized we were able to invert them, bringing the image to life. I must admit the first time I saw one of my slides inverted I shouted in excitement; the image was so much better than I had imagined. Here I have a sample of a slide of one Bishop Colton and what I assume was his cathedral. I have more research ahead of me to know for sure.

Figure 2: 39837 Bishop Colton Positive

Figure 2: 39837 Bishop Colton Positive

Helping in part of this research is the card catalog that was also found along with the slides. Having an archives in original order like this is incredibly important, this gives us a look into the mind of the archives creator, in this case, Beach himself. It shows us how he thought, how he worked, what a typical business day would be like for him. Once we located the associated catalog card for each of our slides, we digitized these as well, as seen in Figure 3 here. Another aspect I particularly like about the catalog card is that they were all hand written by Beach himself, this is just another of the rich connections to the past that this project has to offer.

Figure 3: 39837 Bishop Colton Catalog Card

Figure 3: 39837 Bishop Colton Catalog Card

From here I have hours of research to look forward to. I hope to uncover everything I can about the people in these images. I can only imagine the histories, mysteries, war stories, scandals, or family legends I may discover.

– Megan Barr
Museum Studies student at Buffalo State