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Past FBI surveillance provides rich source material for present & future historians

Cornell University Library has purchased access to two new digital collections from Gale Cengage Learning’s Archives Unbound. They are available to Cornellians via the links below or through the library catalogs by title.

 

Federal Surveillance of African Americans, 1920–1984

Summary
Between the early 1920s and early 1980s, the Justice Department and its Federal Bureau of Investigation engaged in widespread investigation of those deemed politically suspect. Prominent among the targets of this sometimes coordinated, sometimes independent surveillance were aliens, members of various protest groups, Socialists, Communists, pacifists, militant labor unionists, ethnic or racial nationalists and outspoken opponents of the policies of the incumbent presidents.

Date Range: 1920-1984
Source Library: FBI Library


A follower of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, waits outside a UNIA club in New York City.

Description
Black Americans of all political persuasions were subject to federal scrutiny, harassment and prosecution. The FBI enlisted black “confidential special informants” to infiltrate a variety of organizations. Hundreds of documents in this collection were originated by such operatives. The reports provide a wealth of detail on “Negro” radicals and their organizations that can be found nowhere else.

More detail at Gale Cengage Learning Unbound Archives

 

 

National Security and the FBI Surveillance of Enemy Aliens

Summary
This collection provides insight into the recent history of the surveillance of aliens and national security during World War II and the early postwar period.

Date Range: 1940-1978
Content: 29,061 pages
Source Library: FBI Headquarters Library

 


A letter discussing and listing some of the German-Americans suspected and arrested during WWII.

Description

The Custodial Detention Index (CDI), or Custodial Detention List was formed in 1939-1941, in the frame of a program called variously the “Custodial Detention Program” or “Alien Enemy Control.” J. Edgar Hoover described it as having come from his resurrected General Intelligence Division — “This division has now compiled extensive indices of individuals, groups, and organizations engaged in subversive activities, in espionage activities, or any activities that are possibly detrimental to the internal security of the United States. The Indexes have been arranged not only alphabetically but also geographically, so that at any rate, should we enter into the conflict abroad, we would be able to go into any of these communities and identify individuals or groups who might be a source of grave danger to the security of this country. These indexes will be extremely important and valuable in a grave emergency.”

From Gale Cengage Learning Archives Unbound

The Fiske Icelandic Collection in the Cornell University Library

A guest contribution by Patrick J. Stevens.

I don’t see your point as to [Ludvig Franz Adalbert] Wimmer’s book on runes. The runes form the oldest known form of the Icelandic language. You might as well object to any of the oldest skaldic lays, produced in Norway […] that they had nothing to do with Iceland because Iceland didn’t then exist. We are including the Old-Northern tongue & literature of whatever epoch. Ask Dr. Finnur [Jónsson].1

Daniel Willard Fiske

Daniel Willard Fiske (1831–1904), ca. 1880, about the time of his marriage in Berlin to Jennie McGraw

Thus commences one letter among the many Daniel Willard Fiske, indefatigable book collector and first university librarian of Cornell University, sent during his last years to a young Icelandic assistant, Halldór Hermannsson. The topic was, of course, the scope of Willard Fiske’s personal Icelandic collection, which at the death of its owner in September 1904 became by bequest the property of the young university still under construction above the small city of Ithaca and the southern extreme of Cayuga, one of the magnificent Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Fiske’s letter is remarkable not only because it testifies to the breadth of his vision as a collector2 but also because the name to this day of the collection – the Fiske Icelandic Collection – itself suggests a geographical circumscription when, in fact, Fiske’s fascination with the Norse Atlantic world embraced an entire cultural phenomenon from its dawn in the Dark Ages to the first days of the twentieth century.

In his penurious student days – Fiske withdrew from Hamilton College and wound up at the University of Uppsala in 1850–1851, achieving along the way fluency in German, Danish and Swedish3 – Fiske made the first purchases for what evolved into his Icelandic collection, notable among them a copy of Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar published in 1689 at Skálholt. Returning from Europe, Fiske worked inter alia for several years as a private librarian. In 1867 the newly chartered Cornell University offered him a post as “Professor of North-European Languages and Librarian,”4 which spoke aptly of his capacities and experience.

In summer and autumn 1879, Willard Fiske made his only visit to Iceland, whose literature he had been collecting slowly over the course of thirty years. Fiske’s field notes, preserved in the Fiske Icelandic Collection, are jottings on Icelandic vocabulary, idiomatic expressions and available books rather than a flowing narrative of his travels through the island, although there are several prose passages expressive of the landscape around him.5 While there he added to the number of friendships he was to sustain with Icelanders until his death. Widowed in 1881 after a year of marriage to the wealthy, cerebral but consumptive Jennie McGraw, Fiske resigned from Cornell in 1883 and lived thenceforward in Florence.6 The legacy from Jennie assured Fiske not only a comfortable existence but also his capacity to acquire for Cornell four remarkable collections: Dante, Petrarch, Rhaeto-Romanic and Icelandic.

Halldór Hermannsson, who was instrumental assisting Fiske in organizing his Icelandic collection during the latter’s final years in Florence, became curator in 1905, serving until 1948. During his tenure the collection nearly quadrupled, from 8600 to more than 24,000 volumes. As significant as the works on the shelves were Halldór’s unusual talents in bibliography. He published the catalogue of the collection in 1914 and two supplements, in 1927 and 1943; a Catalogue of Runic Literature in the collection appeared in 1918; and Halldór authored or edited the first thirty-one volumes of the Islandica series, beginning with a Bibliography of the Icelandic Sagas and Minor Tales in 1908. Six curators followed Halldór, three Icelanders through 1983 and three Americans thereafter. In a sense, the Cornell University Library grew in size and complexity around its early special collections, some of which were donated by the university’s first president, Andrew Dickson White, who was not only a scholar but a diplomat, serving in Germany and Russia; like Willard Fiske, long his friend, he was a discerning collector of books and manuscripts.

Davíþspsálmar. Manuscript, 17th century. Fiske Icelandic Collection. Icelandic translation of the Psalms by séra Jón Þorsteinsson (1570?-1627), bound with his Genesis sálmar. The Psalms of David are in one seventeenth-century Icelandic hand.

Davíþspsálmar. Manuscript, 17th century. Fiske Icelandic Collection.
Icelandic translation of the Psalms by séra Jón Þorsteinsson (1570?–1627), bound with his Genesis sálmar. The Psalms of David are in one seventeenth-century Icelandic hand.

Today the Fiske Icelandic Collection preserves its reputation as one of the chief repositories anywhere of literature on and from Iceland and the Norse world of the Middle Ages. Cornell scholars in Medieval Studies and researchers from the international academic community, including from Iceland, visit the collection regularly. Modern books and journals circulate from Olin Library, which houses the Cornell collections in humanities and social sciences, while antiquarian books and manuscript holdings are available through the reading room of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. The concentration of editions and criticism in Old Norse-Icelandic literature to be found in the Fiske Icelandic Collection is incomparable in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, allied historical and cultural studies of the Viking Age match the collection’s core literary strengths in every regard. Modern Icelandic literature, among the most active of belles lettres flourishing in Europe, occupies more than seventy shelves in the library. Dozens of other shelves are devoted to modern history, travel literature, the Norse exploration of America and theological works.

At the close of the twentieth century, the Icelandic National Library and the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland launched a digital initiative that, with extensive collaboration from the Cornell University Library and the generous support of, inter alia, the Mellon Foundation, became SagnaNet (or SagaNet) – a textual image repository for hundreds of Icelandic manuscripts. Þorsteinn Hallgrímsson, an engineer by training who had worked for some years in Germany before becoming deputy Icelandic national librarian, was the Icelandic leader for the project and manifested what I called at the time “the sheer vision and talent that Icelanders seem to have for applying the new to the ancient.”7

In recent years the successor to SagnaNet, which has incorporated its image and metadata archives, has emerged. Principally a collaborative effort between the Icelandic repositories and the Danish Arnamagnaean Institute, handrit.is perpetuates the high standards of its predecessor in terms of image quality, exactitude of cataloguing and repository expansion. The Fiske Collection component in SagnaNet, not yet accessible through handrit.is, was digitized microfilm of the remarkably extensive holdings in nineteenth-century criticism of Old Norse-Icelandic literature. The film, produced through a hefty grant from the US National Endowment for the Humanities in 1995–1997, was ideal (in its digital version) for conveying the intellectual value of a vast literature of established texts, translations and commentary.

The rising facility of digitization has been a significant factor in archiving and interpreting visual resources in the Icelandic Collection. The 416 Icelandic and Faroese Photographs of Frederick W.W. Howell, which include contributions by Henry A. Perkins and Magnús Ólafsson and document the landscape and people of Iceland at the close of the nineteenth century, are available via the Internet, including in flickr: The Commons. Scores of antique glass slides and stereoscopic images await scanning initiatives we hope to launch in 2014.

Reykjavík from the Tjörn [the Tarn, or Pond], ca. 1900. The view faces northeast and includes Parliament (center left), the national cathedral to its right and Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík, the country’s main high school at the time (to the right, with flag flying). The mountain Esja rises in the background. From the Icelandic and Faroese Photographs of Frederick W.W. Howell.

Reykjavík from the Tjörn [the Tarn, or Pond], ca. 1900. The view faces northeast and includes Parliament (center left), the national cathedral to its right and Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík,
the country’s main high school at the time (to the right, with flag flying).
The mountain Esja rises in the background.

From the Icelandic and Faroese Photographs of Frederick W.W. Howell.

Also under investigation is a large quantity of memorial brochures containing erfiljóð [memorial poetry] and the lyrics of hymns recited during Icelandic funerals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chronological and demographic data make this brochure collection a potential source for significant information on Icelandic society and the culture of commemoration just as the country was achieving autonomy and experiencing major internal migrations and the beginnings of a national economy.

Under way as well is an embryonic initiative to establish eventually, through the Fiske Icelandic Collection, an online database Concordance to the Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases of the Old Icelandic Sagas (currently accessible as a web site). The initiative, which envisions ongoing contributions and interactions from the community of Norse scholars, is the brainchild of Professor Richard Harris of the University of Saskatchewan, who recognized in Cornell’s Fiske Collection an optimal location for perpetuating the Concordance in proximity to the largest and deepest concentration of Old Norse research literature in North America.

 

The Story of Gisli the Outlaw. Edinburgh, 1866. Sir George Webbe Dasent (1817–1896) penned several scholarly translations of Icelandic sagas, including Gísla saga Súrssonar and Brennu-Njáls saga. Their illustrations—this portrait of Gísli has a background of improbably high, mature deciduous trees for the Icelandic environment—were intended to attract a growing readership from the Victorian middle class.

The Story of Gisli the Outlaw. Edinburgh, 1866.
Sir George Webbe Dasent (1817–1896) penned several scholarly translations of Icelandic sagas, including Gísla saga Súrssonar and Brennu-Njáls saga. Their illustrations – this portrait of Gísli has a background of improbably high, mature deciduous trees for the Icelandic environment – were intended to attract a growing readership
from the Victorian middle class. X
8

There are also initiatives under way within the Cornell Library to offer more description of the Fiske Icelandic Collection online. Currently a general introductory page directs researchers to four specific sites: an introduction to the rare component of the Fiske Icelandic Collection; information on Icelandic Studies collection development and the (circulating) Fiske Icelandic Collection at Why Icelandic?; the electronic version of a 2005 exhibition, The Passionate Collector: Willard Fiske and his Libraries, that celebrated the centennial of Fiske’s bequests to the Cornell Library; and the Islandica series site.

In recent years, the venerable Islandica series marked a quiet centennial by publishing two volumes of essays and, a few years later, a monographic study; all three works were dedicated to advancing Old Norse-Icelandic studies. All new volumes of the series are available both electronically and in print, and an initiative is under way to make older numbers (currently volumes 1 through 14) accessible through the HathiTrust Digital Library. More volumes are in preparation for publication next year in Islandica, whose scope will continue, as it has historically, to include all possible facets of Icelandic literary and cultural studies.


Patrick J. Stevens has been Curator of the Fiske Icelandic Collection since 1994. He is managing editor of the Islandica series of Icelandic and Norse Studies associated with the collection. He is also selector for the field of Jewish Studies in the Cornell University Library.

All images in this article are from the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library and are in the public domain.

 

 

“This article on the Fiske Icelandic Collection in the Cornell University Library initially appeared on NordicHistoryBlog = Nordeuropäische Geschichte im Netz, administered and edited chiefly by Dr.phil. Jan Hecker-Stampehl of the Nordeuropa-Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

 


  1. Daniel Willard Fiske to Halldór Hermannsson, 21 October [1903], Fiske Icelandic Collection, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. Finnur Jónsson (1858–1934) was a leading Icelandic literary scholar of the day. Fiske was in frequent contact with a range of scholars in the Old Norse-Icelandic field, among them the great German legal scholar Konrad von Maurer (1823–1902), whose letters to Fiske are preserved in the correspondence files of the Fiske Icelandic Collection. []
  2. In the preface to the 1914 Catalogue of the Icelandic Collection Bequeathed by Willard Fiske, Halldór categorizes the already considerable holdings (by then ca. 10,200 volumes) into two areas, the first having everything to do with Old Norse-Icelandic literature, including “all publications which, in one way or another, elucidate” these works; the second including all literature on all topics from the sixteenth century onward, “whether printed in Iceland or elsewhere […] dealing with Iceland, the nature of the country, and its affairs […].” []
  3. For Fiske’s own travel narratives, see Daniel Willard Fiske, Memorials of Willard Fiske, collected by his literary executor, Horatio S. White. 2, The Traveller (Boston: R.G. Badger, 1920). For Fiske’s sojourns in Scandinavia and Iceland, see also Horatio S. White, Willard Fiske: Life and Correspondence: a Biographical Study (New York: Oxford University Press, 1925). Kristín Bragadóttir has published an extensive study of Fiske’s relationship with Iceland and the Icelanders in Willard Fiske: vinur Íslands og velgjörðamaður [friend and benefactor of Iceland] (Reykjavík: Háskólaútgáfan, 2008); this work is currently being translated into English. []
  4. H.S. White, Willard Fiske, 26. []
  5. See H.S. White, Willard Fiske and especially Kristín Bragadóttir, Willard Fiske, for a description of Fiske’s time in Iceland, much of it spent on horseback traversing the country from Húsavík in the north to Reykjavík in the southwest. []
  6. There are various sources on Fiske’s widowhood and the subsequent controversial litigation that led to Willard Fiske’s entitlement as principal heir to his wife’s considerable estate. See Ronald John Williams, Jennie McGraw Fiske: Her Influence upon Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1949) for a sympathetic treatment of both Jennie and Willard. Andrew Dickson White (who witnessed the marriage of Jennie and Willard in Berlin) also wrote on the lawsuit in his autobiography; Morris Bishop is rather less sympathetic to Willard Fiske in his history of Cornell. []
  7. Patrick J. Stevens, “From Netting Sagas to SagaNet,” unpublished paper delivered at the conferences of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study and the Society of American Archivists, 1999. []
  8. The British scholar Andrew Wawn (among others) has researched the reception of Old Norse-Icelandic literature in the nineteenth century, and referred to the Victorian and English ideals in this illustration in a 2000 symposium on saga literature in Washington. The reference to the greenery invokes his more precise and scholarly description. []

Black Abolitionist Papers (1830-1865) –Trial until Oct 24 2013

ProQuest’s Black Abolitionist Papers (1830-1865) is a primary source collection detailing the extensive work of African Americans to abolish slavery in the United States prior to the Civil War. Covering the period 1830-1865, the collection presents the massive, international impact of African American activism against slavery, in the writings and publications of the activists themselves. The approximately 15,000 articles, documents, correspondence, proceedings, manuscripts, and literary works of almost 300 Black abolitionists show the full range of their activities in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Germany. This collection, when first published in microfilm, literally transformed scholarly understanding of Black activism during this period. Now it is available in a searchable, easily accessible format for research, teaching, and study (http://proquest.libguides.com/content.php?pid=451000).

TEMPORARY RESOURCE URL FOR THE PERIOD OF THE TRIAL: https://www.proquest.com/trials/trialSummary.action?view=subject&trialBean.token=EL90K9N4086PQKC2JPBN

WHAT ARE THE START AND END DATES OF THE TRIAL?  This trial ends on October 24, 2013; comments about the trial should be received within a week of the trial end date.

HOW SHOULD I TELL THE LIBRARY WHAT I THINK OF THIS RESOURCE? Email me (vac11) or any other librarian with your comments.

Easier path to online primary source collections

You asked for it, and we provided it. Kinda. But you will like it, we guarantee it.

We’ve made it easier to find online collections of primary sources. Here’s how:

In the upper part of the library home page, click on “Database Names” then click on the “Browse by Subject or Name” link that appears under the search box. Then click on “History: Primary Sources.”

Here’s the direct link for bookmarking: http://erms.library.cornell.edu/search~S4/m?History:Primary%20Sources

In this category, you’ll find a browsable list of  many of our large and important digital primary source collections. We’ve tried to provide something for everyone, all places and periods of history, but we might not be there yet. We’ll be adding to the list over time. If you think we’ve left something out, please let us know through the “send feedback” link on the bottom of every library page or contact me directly.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Not all collections appear in this browseable list, because, well, we wanted to keep it browsable and not a gazillion item long list like a Google search result.

Remember, all databases, digital collections (large or small), online journals, as well as books can be found through the Classic Catalog with a title search  (always drop initial articles in titles).

Founders Online is Here

Screen shot

It has been a long time coming (when the Archivist of the US first announced it, he promised a prototype site for Sept., 2011), but Founders Online is finally here.  It makes freely available online the historical documents of the Founders of the United States of America.  Professor Mary Beth Norton was one of a small group of outside experts that guided the development of the project.

Since Founders Online is powered by the University of Virginia software that drives its subscription product American Founding Era collection, you might be wondering whether you can stop using the subscription product and only use the free version.  The answer, unfortunately, is no.  There are still significant differences between them:

For the time being, therefore, students of the early republic will need to consult both online resources.  Perhaps one day the National Archives will elect simply to secure a national subscription to the American Founding Era collection, thus obviating the need to maintain two incomplete delivery mechanisms.

American Periodicals from the Center for Research Libraries

The Library has recently added to its digital collections  American Periodicals from the Center for Research Libraries (APCRL).  The collection consists of nearly 3 million pages of general interest magazines and trade journals from the period 1850-1920. Technology, industry, agriculture, medicine, and architecture are strongly represented. Most of them are not found in paper format in the library.

A full list of the titles in APCRL is downloadable from here; individual records for each title should appear in the library’s catalog by the end of May.  Here is a sample of the titles included that demonstrates the range of material in the set:

  • American Annual of Photography
  • American Artisan and Hardware Record
  • The American Builder
  • American Gas-light Journal
  • Concrete
  • The Craftsman
  • The Cultivator & Country Gentleman
  • Electrical Age
  • Hamptons Magazine
  • The Labor Journal
  • The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer
  • Woman’s Protest against Woman Suffrage

APCRL is included and cross-searchable with the Library’s existing subscription to American Periodical Series Online.  An uncredited essay entitled “The value of trade journals” is available on the site.

Two New Military History Resources

We have recently added two new resources in military history that are sure to be of use to many.

The International Bibliography of Military History is now available as an online volume.  It was first published by the International Commission of Military History as the Bibliographie internationale d’histoire militaire.  In 2012 Brill assumed publication responsibilities.  It indexes the international literature of military history, covering most world languages. The annotations to the bibliographical entries appear currently in German, French, Italian, Spanish and English. We have online access to all annual volumes starting with volume 1 in 1974.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History was recently added to the suite of reference tools included in Oxford Reference Online.  According to its web site, it “offers both assessment and analysis of the key episodes, issues and actors in the military and diplomatic history of the United States…. Entries are written by top diplomatic and military historians and key scholars of international relations from within the American academy, supplemented, as is appropriate for an encyclopedia of diplomacy, with entries from foreign-based academics, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.”

[UPDATE] Michael Engle in the Library Reference Department just reported that we may not have yet activated access to the content of the Oxford Encyclopedia.  Please let Michael or Peter Hirtle know if this is an important resource for you.]

[UPDATE, 6 March 2013] Electronic access should be working now. And we have added access to the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political and Legal History.

Free Access to Fold3′s Black History Records in February

In honor of Black History Month, Fold3 is providing free access in February to its Black History Collection.  The records, most of which have been scanned from the holdings of the National Archives.  Here is a sample of what is being made available:

  • Court Slave Records for Washington, DC
  • South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732–1872
  • US Colored Troops Civil War service records
  • Southern Claims Commission records
  • The Atlanta Constitution newspaper
  • WWII Draft Registration Cards
  • Military Intelligence files on Negro Subversion, 1917-1941

Some of the record sets, such as the Southern Claims Commission records (Southerners’ reimbursement claims for property Union troops seized during the Civil War) and WWII draft cards for older Americans, also cover non-African-Americans.

The Library investigated getting a site license to all of the Fold3 content, but the cost was remarkably high – especially considering that scans from the National Archives are scheduled to be added to Archives’s online holdings 5 years after they are made. The cost of an individual membership to Fold3 is quite low, however.  This free month is a good way to sample the type of material they have available.  You will have to register for a basic free membership to get access: just click on the blue box at the bottom of the Black History Collection homepage.

Everyday Life & Women in America, c1800-1920

As part of a concerted an on-going effort to rebuild its collection budget, the Library has dedicated some funds to acquire important resources that it has had to forgo in the past.  I am happy to announce the acquisition of the latest electronic primary source resource.  “Everyday life & women in America c.1800-1920” is drawn from the collections of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History, Duke University and The New York Public Library.  It comprises thousands of fully searchable images and transcriptions of monographs, pamphlets, periodicals, and broadsides addressing 19th and early 20th century political, social and gender issues, religion, race, education, employment, marriage, sexuality, home and family life, health, and pastimes.  With an emphasis on the conduct of life and domestic management literature, the collection is an important companion to Cornell’s own HEARTH database on the history of home economics.

It is hard to single out individual items among the rare books, pamphlets, and serials, but one of the most interesting titles is Town Topics, the society paper that “chronicled the New York social world during the height of the Gilded Age.”  In one of the useful essays that accompany the collection, Amy Blair notes that the journal “figures prominently in the fiction of Edith Wharton as both the public face (sometimes invited, often disdained) of the elite set and, more distressingly, as a “how-to” manual for the nouveaux riches.”

Pinckney papers online

The newest additions to the Rotunda collection of The American Founding Era are The papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry. Here is a summary from the catalog record:

The papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) and her daughter Harriott Pinckney Horry (1748-1830) document the lives of two observant and articulate founding-era women who were members of one of South Carolina’s leading families. Their letters, diaries, and other documents span nearly a century (1739-1830) and provide a window on politics, social events, and people of the late colonial and early national periods. They richly detail the daily life of maintaining family ties and managing households and plantations. Pinckney’s correspondence illustrates the importance of women’s social connections and transatlantic friendships. Horry’s correspondence documents the strength of personal ties that linked the elite families of the North and the South to each other even as connections were threatened by disputes over slavery, commercial differences, and political and constitutional conflict.

PinckenyHorry banner

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