Monday, September 22, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years Spotlight: Hormel Center Archives

It is unlikely that there was any expectation of GLBT archives at the library in 1964 when the San Francisco History and the Book Arts & Special Collections departments were established. However, the library’s commitment to recording and celebrating the events and people of the City anticipated that additional kinds of archives would be acquired eventually.

The James C. Hormel Center was founded in 1991 to document the GLBT experience, especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Center includes books, recordings, periodicals, and archives. While the bulk of the Hormel Center’s book holdings are available on the 3rd floor of the Main Library, the GLBT archival collections call the 6th floor their home.

The first archival collection, the Peter Adair Papers, was accessioned in 1991. Since that time, the GLBT archives has grown with the addition of dozens of collections, such as the Harvey Milk Archives—Scott Smith Collection, and the Barbara Grier—Naiad Press Collection.

The newspaper clipping pictured here is from the Evander Smith—California Hall Papers (GLC 46). It documents an event that will soon mark its own 50th anniversary: police harassment at the January 1965 New Year’s dance hosted by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. This incident served as a rallying point for San Francisco’s emerging GLBT community. It’s worth noting that this was four years before New York’s more well-known Stonewall riots.

These rich and exciting archival collections are used on a daily basis by researchers, filmmakers, authors, students, and the general public from the Bay Area and beyond. They add immeasurably to our understanding of the City’s diverse communities, and to the Library’s Special Collections.

50 years of special collections

Monday, September 8, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years Spotlight: SF History Center Maps

Maps of San Francisco form a substantial part of the San Francisco History Center collections. Formerly the town of Yerba Buena, the city blossomed from a single residence built by William Richardson in 1835 to a population of over 825,000 sharing 49 square miles. The Center’s map collection is a rich source for historians, artists, and others curious about the development of San Francisco.

While street maps predominate, the collection includes topographic maps, fanciful picture maps, and property maps. Sanborn fire insurance maps and various “block books” complement property maps formerly held by the City Recorder. Views of the entire city, as well as distinct neighborhoods and aspects, can be found here. Maps are stored in various ways: rolled, folded, flattened and encapsulated, or framed. Some are still bound into the books in which they were originally published.

The Commercial, Pictorial and Tourist Map of San Francisco, created by lithographer August Chevalier and printed by Galloway Litho in 1904, is one of the special maps which are located in the San Francisco History Center. The map combines a fairly accurate representation of streets, but highlights significant landmark buildings of the time, as well; in 1904, high-rises were new to the landscape.

Chevalier followed up this map with the Chevalier Illustrated Map Guide of San Francisco, “The Exposition City” in 1913, in preparation for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, to be held two years later.

San Francisco History Center librarians can help patrons locate these and other materials, including specific maps, whether searching by date, subject or publisher. Many of the materials in the Center are rare or fragile and most are kept in closed stacks. Not all items are catalogued, so please ask for help if you are unable to find a specific item.

50 years of special collections

Monday, August 25, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years: Spotlight on the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor

Nat Schmulowitz reading in the Rare Book Room,
Old Main Library, circa 1960s

This week the spotlight is on the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor (SCOWAH), which is actually sixty-seven years old! One of the earliest special collections to be included in the newly formed Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in 1964, SCOWAH began with ninety-three jest books, presented to the Library on April 1, 1947 by attorney and Library trustee Nat Schmulowitz, as a measure of his interest in the library and the people of San Francisco. His bibliophilic activities began considerably earlier, though, perhaps by chance. In a letter to the Saturday Review's Jerome Beatty (2 June 1958), Nat wrote: “You have asked how I happened to get involved in ‘this business of humor.’ It started with a reading excursion in which I was engaged about thirty years ago, when I happened to note in Much Ado About Nothing that Beatrice said “I had my good wit out of the Hundred Merry Tales.” --(Act II, Scene I).

Nat Schmulowitz letter to Jerome Beatty, June 2, 1958

"I became curious about the reference and decided to discover whether Shakespeare was engaged in an inventive literary allusion or whether there really was a book of anecdotes entitled Hundred Merry Tales.”  

Indeed there was, and so the Hundred Merry Tales was practically the first book in Nat’s collection and among the first to be presented to the San Francisco Public Library. Throughout his lifetime, Nat took a lively interest in the collection, acquiring for the Library more than 13,000 books on the many facets of wit and humor. By the end of 2013, the collection numbered more than 23,600 items, and is considered the largest collection of its kind in the world.
Comedian Phyllis Diller and Nat Schmulowitz, circa 1962

50 years of special collections

Monday, August 11, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years Spotlight: Grabhorn Collection

While Edwin Grabhorn was still printing in Indiana under the press name The Studio Press, he began using a pressmark featuring a horn and dolphin which was designed by Mark Harvey Liddell. It wasn’t until 1924—several years after the move to San Francisco and after Robert had joined Edwin in the venture--that they began referring to themselves as The Grabhorn Press. The Grabhorn Press used many different pressmarks over the years and various versions of the horn and dolphin theme--this featured image is just one example. It is from The Discovery of Florida printed in 1946 for The Book Club of California with type set by Robert and Jane Grabhorn, press work by Edwin Grabhorn and Sherwood Grover, and initials and decorations by Malette Dean. This book is part of the Robert Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing and the Development of the Book on the 6th floor of the Main Library.

 50 years of special collections