American Trade Bindings and Beyond

The Ace up a Designer's Sleeve: Cloth Color part 1

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:25:00 +0000

For our next two posts, let’s talk about color.  Cloth color.  It’s one of the three inescapable features of trade bindings from their beginnings in 1820s England through the 1920s, and one of two that continue to this day.  The other two are cloth graining, which was seldom done after the 1910s (I’d say never but there might be some holdovers), and stamping, which today is almost completely reduced to title, author and publisher lettering on the spine.  Stamping on the covers is a topic which comes up in every post; cloth graining has made appearances in past posts and is will be covered in more detail in the future.

I’ll be breaking down my remarks on color into two parts:  in this first I’ll be considering it in the context of designs on several individual titles and how color alone can vary the impact of a design.  In a later post we’ll look at the use of cloth color in designs for “series” or “editions,” that is, series of books by individual authors with different designs on each volume, as well as series with identical designs for different titles.  In both, most examples will be taken from the work of Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944) who frequently appears in this blog.(1)  She is one of the best (many would say the best) cover designer of the late 19th and early 20th century, and is certainly one of the most collected, thanks to the work of Charles Gullans and John Espey. (2)

Let’s start with a probably long-overdue glance at the term “trade binding.”  Trade binding is another term for edition binding, in which the bindings are identical, made by or for a publisher or distributor, are generally in hard covers, and produced using automation (3).   You might encounter a number of variations of “trade binding” which appears in the title of our blog:  case binding, edition binding, and wholesale trade binding.  If you’d like to explore short definitions of these terms I wholeheartedly recommend Matt Roberts and Don Etherington’s Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books:  a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, which is available online.  For our purposes, an understanding of the term “case binding” is sufficient. 

Case binding is a method of bookbinding where the case (the book covers) are made separately from the text block.  The text block is then glued to the book’s cover using the endpapers to attach the two.  Paperbacks are made in a similar way, except the back edges of the text block are glued to the spine of the paper covers, called “adhesive binding.”  Case binding materials can be almost anything:  paper, wood, leather, flexible or stiff cardboard, or cloth.  Several critical factors in the rise and continued use of case binding are 1) they are made separately from the “book” (i.e. text); 2) they can be made very quickly through mechanization of the various processes involved; 3) they can be made in large quantities; 4) they are identical.  All of these factors bring down the cost of book production and enable attractive products (sometimes) to be made quickly and in large numbers, critical to meeting the increasing demand for reading materials in the 19th century and after.(4)    

Embossing press used to stamp designs on case bindings

Cutaway view of the Harper establishment in the third quarter of the 19th century

The binding operation on the 6th floor at Harpers, with detail below

Now that we’re all case binding masters let’s get back to color.

We’ve looked at cloth color in the past:  

in December 2016, with Drifted In

In March of last year, with The Legatee

And in February of 2016, with Heart’s Desire

In all three cases the choice of cloth color was not random (“we’ve got a lot of this yellowish-brown cloth on hand; let’s use some of that up”).  Rather, the cloth color was a conscious choice which served several purposes.  The color helps to establish a mood on each of these covers, whether it’s a feeling of cold and oppressive weather for Drifted In, the dramatic darkness of The Legatee, or the dry, open western desert on Heart’s Desire.  The cloth color is also incorporated as part of the design.  We can see this in the snowflakes and window details on Drifted In’s cover, The Legatee’s silhouetted branches, and the desert ground the stagecoach crosses on Heart’s Desire.  The color was also used to grab a shopper’s attention, even if a bookseller shelved his wares spine out (although one suspects that many, if not most, covers were not visible as most books were issued with dust jackets). 

After our long detour we return to Margaret Armstrong.  Armstrong's total output was at least 314 covers according to Gullans and Espey's checklist (more have been discovered since its publication), of which nearly half, 145 titles, were designed for Scribner, with Putnam coming in a distant second with 42 titles.  Only three Armstrong designs were for Houghton, Mifflin, which is not surprising as Sarah Wyman Whitman provided most of their cover designs until 1899.  Nevertheless, it is one of these three that we’ll feature:   John Greenleaf Whittier’s The Tent on the Beach (1899).  It is one of Margaret Armstrong’s many masterpieces, and is ideal as an exemplar of what can be done with only one color, gold, in addition to the color of the cloth. 

Gullans and Espey devote a full page to this design and describe it in this way

“Between side panels, each with marine ornaments of a crab at the base and cockle shells alongside the stem of an iris in full bloom, the design is strongly banded in recessive parallel lines, thick and widely spaced at the bottom, and diminishing in height and distance between them as they rise toward the top.  The illusion which is created of recession and distance from the front to the back by the incoming waves of the tide is powerful and is achieved without invoking the rules of perspective; consequently the flat surface of the cover is not broken.  The device is one well known from Impressionist paintings and graphic works, both in Europe and America, and is in keeping with the aesthetic that regarded the flatness of the canvas surface as inviolable.”

Indeed.  They also reference Laurie W. Crichton’s Book Decoration in America, 1890-1910, the catalog of an important exhibition at Williams College in 1979, and her “impenetrable discussion” of the cover:

“Armstrong’s binding decoration for The Tent on the Beach … is a study in geometric progression and mathematical ratios, a blending of disparate natural forms whose curved and horizontal lines form bands that gradually change in weight from bottom to top and in color from bright gold to dark blue.  Unlike most of her decorations, this essentially asymmetrical binding was designed to be viewed along a vertical rather than a horizontal line, though the balanced, nearly identical side panels may be the first element noticed.  Below the title lettering wavy, widening horizontal bands of gold against a dark blue cloth ground subtly evoke the rolling tide.  In the side panels, crabs and scallop shells flank the waves to complete the reference to the seashore.” (5)

Impenetrably true.  The cover also appeared in an influential exhibition at Harvard’s Houghton Library.  The author of the exhibition catalog, Nancy Finlay, considers Armstrong’s design to be

“… one of her most striking and beautiful compositions.  The almost hieratic pattern of symmetrically placed irises with little crabs at their roots and a stylized wave motif between them is stamped in low relief in gold on green cloth.  The color combination is typical of the publications of Houghton Mifflin and Company and particularly characteristic of their favorite designer, Sarah Wyman Whitman.” (6)

What can I add to that?  We can quibble with some of the description, such as whether the shells are cockles or scallops (I think the latter), or just how hieratic the design is, or what is in high relief and what is not (the cloth between the gold waves is actually in relief; the only gold features in relief are the embossed crabs).  And are the gold “waves” (or tops of waves) “diminishing in height and distance between them as they rise toward the top,” or is the distance between them growing?  But there’s no question that the design produces strong and favorable reactions.  Gullans and Espey mention that the title was issued in four cloth colors in their description, and five in the checklist entry:  brown, blue, dark blue-green, olive green, or red.  The design is not illustrated in their checklist, however, and both Crighton and Finlay, alas, reproduce the design only in black and white.  I have not seen a copy in “blue” cloth and don’t know if it’s dark, medium, or light blue (booksellers’ descriptions are certainly not clear on this), but we can take a look at the other colors.

Gullans and Espey presumably saw all color variations and pronounced the book “astonishing.”  Nancy Finlay described the design on green cloth as “one of her most striking and beautiful compositions.”  Laurie Crichton considered a copy on dark blue cloth to be “a study in geometric progression and mathematical ratios.”  The subtlety and complexity of the design are enhanced by Armstrong’s use of three kinds of gold stamping:  gloss, matte, and embossed, with the background all in matte, the flowers, shells, and lettering in gloss, and the two embossed crabs. 

I find myself most attracted to the greenish blue cloth copy in the lower right, but I also very much like the brown and red cloth copies and am not at all adverse to the green.  Do you have a favorite?--that’s what comments are for!  The point being that they are all attractive and that different purchasers might be drawn to one over another, with their opinion perhaps changing over time.  Publishers knew this, of course, and could issue a book in a variety of formats (paper wrappers, cloth, leather) or cloth colors. 

Or perhaps there is a deeper bibliographical significance to variant cloth colors; perhaps they indicate a conscious decision on the publisher’s part to re-issue a title in new dress while retaining a familiar design.  A third possibility is that cloth color could simply indicate that the publisher/bookbinder was temporarily or permanently out of a certain cloth color.  A complete edition of a book was usually bound over time, it being easier and cheaper to store printed sheets than bound books.  So if 1,000 copies of a novel were printed, the publisher might only bind 500 books for the initial issue.  As stock diminished more copies could be bound, usually in the same color, but the cloth could come from a later lot with minor variations in color.  Books could be kept in print indefinitely in the later 1800s and into the 20th century by the use of electrotyping.  As type had always been the principle cost to a printer, this completely changed the economics of printing, as there was no need to keep a book in “standing type”; rather, electrotyped plates could be used many times, were easily stored, and allowed type to be reused immediately.(8)

Workers electrotyping "pages" of type

Although any of these three possibilities could explain the multiple cloth colors for this title, one is far more likely than the others.  John Carter (1905-1975), author and bibliographer, gave a cautionary note on using cloth color to try and establish primacy in issues or states of books: 

“It is well known that certain books were issued in different colours at the same time.  And where two bindings are identical in every respect save this, it is generally safe to assume (in default of some specific external evidence) that the variation was a deliberate one.
This practice flourished far more extensively in the United States ... A claim for priority on difference of colour only must be effectively substantiated to be acceptable.” (8)

Margaret Armstrong’s name and cover designs were by this time well known to publishers and to the public.  She began using her distinctive monogram in 1895, and by 1899 it appeared on virtually all of her books.  Its presence on a cover was a mark of distinction, and books were advertised as having a “cover design by Miss Armstrong.”  We can be almost certain that the four (or five) color variants of The Tent on the Beach were issued at the same time.  This is supported by another example of a Houghton, Mifflin publication by another classic American author:  Last Poems, by James Russell Lowell, published in 1895.

Sarah de St. Prix Wyman Whitman (1842-1904), the designer of the cover, was a Boston artist and socialite whose binding designs, chiefly for Houghton Mifflin, revolutionized the field.(9)  The bindings of the 1870s and 1880s were generally cluttered, awash in mixed styles, lettering, images, and ornamentation.  The following images contrast a typical binding from the period with Sarah Whitman's first known design from 1881, published a year before the first book.

Cuyler, Theodore L.  Golden thoughts on mother, home, and heaven. New York: E.B. Treat, 1882.  A typical binding of the period.

Whitman, who began her career as a cover designer in the early 1880s, eliminated all of this excess and replaced it with simple, elegant designs, often floral, on carefully chosen cloth.  Her distinct lettering is usually rustic and calligraphic and as recognizable as Margaret Armstrong’s.  A generation older than Armstrong and other prominent designers of the 1890s, she pioneered the role of “artist-designer” in book cover design.  She was the house designer for Houghton, Mifflin for around two decades and infrequently signed her work with the letters SW within a heart or flaming heart.
Sarah Wyman Whitman
The Queen's Twin.  Houghton, Mifflin, 1899

Turning back to Lowell’s Last Poems, we can see all of the hallmarks of Whitman’s aesthetic.  A simple floral device in the form of a flowering bush or tree with leaves and flower petals drifting down—not a lot but more than enough to suggest the last blossoms and leaves from a beloved poet that we will have.  A dove is placed discretely in the branches and the tree seems to be rooted in a heart, a common Whitman motif.  This is also a subtle reminder that the cover is Whitman's work, as it echoes the heart in her monogram.

The stylized heart shape at the root of a floral element appears far more often than a monogram in Whitman’s designs, but it just as surely identifies her as the designer.  Another characteristic that Whitman often used is acknowledging and emphasizing the shape and structure of the book, in this case by putting a thin rule border on the cover with the rules extending to the edges of the cover and the resulting squares filled with gold.  Finally, the cover is lettered in her distinctive rustic font.  All three covers are restrained, elegant, pleasing to the eye, and eminently sellable.

We’ll end with another Margaret Armstrong design, this time for the publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons.  From 1896 to 1899 Armstrong created one design a year for a holiday edition of a work by Washington Irving.  In 1896 it was the two volume “Surrey edition” of Bracebridge Hall, followed in 1897 by the two volume “Tacoma edition” of Astoria.  The next year brought the “Pawnee edition” of The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, also in two volumes.  The series concluded in 1899 with Rip van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which shared a single design and were advertised as a set.  Bracebridge Hall was issued in either dark blue or cream cloth; Astoria on cream, red, or white cloth; Captain Bonneville in either cream or dark blue cloth; and Rip van Winkle in white or red cloth, or “ooze” leather (a soft calfskin with a finish like suede).  Pictured is the Rip van Winkle, in both colors, from 1899.

The cloth used on both copies is a coarse buckram.  On the red cloth, only the line die was used, giving us an opportunity to study the outlines of the design, with its twenty-one swirling stylized tulips, two clay pipes with their fantastically long stems intertwined with the tulip stems, lettering which takes "whimsical" to a new level, and a border of dots and rectangles.  Six tulips above and six below form an irregular cartouche for the lettering, pipes, and nine remaining tulips.  The delicacy of the lines used for the tulips contrast sharply with the much heavier lettering, pipe bowls, and border.
A closer look at the lettering.

When we turn to the copy in white buckram the design is, at first, almost unrecognizable.  The gold fades back, the tulip flowers move front and center, almost leaping out of the design, whereas on the red cloth they appeared more as a hidden picture (“how many tulips can you find?”)  There seems to be more than three colors used, and in combination with the gold, the book has a lavish appearance.  The red cloth copy looks like an engraving (as it is), whereas the white cloth copy looks like a painting.  Central to all of these impressions is the switch from red cloth to white.

Cloth color is the cover designer’s ace up the sleeve.  It’s the designer’s not-so-secret weapon.  It can provide variety for the book purchaser; it can be subtly integrated into a design; it can make a, I won’t say cheap but thrifty publisher’s provision that only black and one color of ink can be used on a cover less of an artistic burden by allowing the designer to incorporate the cloth color into her design.  Color can establish a mood, catch and hold the eye, or show that the book’s owner is quite the sober and thoughtful fellow.  Long live colored bookcloths, in all their varied hues.

Don’t forget to visit our American Publishers Trade Bindings digital collection for cloth in all colors; and because I can’t resist, here is Irving’s Astoria (1897) in two cloth colors to close the post.

1) If you need to refresh your memory on Armstrong, Wikipedia has a short article on her under the title “Margaret Neilson Armstrong.”

2) Gullans, Charles and John Espey.  Margaret Armstrong and American Trade Bindings: With a Checklist of her Designed Bindings and Covers. Los Angeles: UCLA, Department of Special Collections, University Research Library, 1991.  Available online.  The cover of The Tent on the Beach is not reproduced in this checklist.

3) Roberts and Etherington.  Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books. “Edition binding.”

4) Images from “Visitors’ Guide to Harper & Brothers’ Establishment,” in Harper & Brothers’ Descriptive List of Their Publications, with Trade-list Prices.  New York:  Harper, 1880. P. ix (establishment) p. xiii (the bindery) p. xiv (embossing press).  Viewed online.

5) Crichton, Laurie W.  Book Decoration in America, 1890-1910: a Guide to an Exhibition.  Williamstown, Mass.:  Chapin Library, Williams College, 1979, p. 55. 

6) Finlay, Nancy.  Artists of the Book in Boston, 1890-1910.  Cambridge, Mass.:  Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, The Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, 1985, p. 57. 

7) “Visitors’ Guide to Harper,” p.  vii-viii.

8) Carter, John.  Binding variants in English publishing, 1820-1900.  London: Constable, 1932 (reprinted by Oak Knoll Books, 1989), p. 82.  Carter also wrote the very useful, gently sarcastic, and quite funny ABC for Book Collectors (1951, now in its 8th edition), and, with Graham Pollard, An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets, a devastatingly polite and scientific exposure of the famous book collector and bibliographer, Thomas James Wise (1859-1937), as the co-forger of numerous fake literary “rarities.”

9) A great deal of information on Whitman is readily available.  Start with the Betty Smith’s article “Sarah Wyman Whitman: Brief Life of a determined artist, 1842-1904,” that appeared in the Harvard Magazine.  There is also an entry in Wikipedia, which includes the portrait reproduced above.  Finish, or better yet start, with the Boston Public Library’s amazing Flickr page, which includes 325 pictures of Whitman bindings.


Lynda Kellam Elected as an ALA Representative to the IFLA

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 19:27:00 +0000

Lynda Kellam, Librarian for Data, Government Information, History, Political Science, and Peace & Conflict Studies and Assistant Director of International and Global Studies has been elected as an ALA representative to the International Federation of Library Association's (IFLA) Standing Committee for Social Science Libraries. IFLA is the leading international body representing library and information services. The Standing Committees provide programming and resources as well as represent the interests of their constituents during the annual IFLA World Library & Information Congress. She will serve from 2017-2021 starting at the end of the annual meeting in Wroclaw, Poland.

Books Are Fun

University Libraries hidden secret collection

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 17:43:00 +0000

It is widely known a book can offer the pleasure of a good reading together with the enjoyment of exploring its author’s deepest thoughts. But let me tell you, there is a hidden, a secret delight, not visible to the beholder, that can give pure artistic fruition. They are called fore-edge paintings. They are concealed on the edge, or edges, of books and have been available for our enjoyment the last couple of centuries. They are only visible when pages are fanned and the fortunate perceiver can discover a variety of themes, including historical landscapes, heraldry, portraits, religious scenes, private life, with the list not being limited to these subjects.

The Jackson Library holds in its special collection some of these unique books. Below we share some of their hidden charms for your own appreciation. 


Want to learn more and read about fore-edge painting?

- Fore-edge painting; a historical survey of a curious art in book decoration.

- Hidden treasures: the history and technique of fore-edge painting

Watch a video!

Fore-edge Painting 1947 - Unusual Occupations Series

Visit an English fore-edge artist!

Are you ready for painting your own fore-edge?

Books with painted fore-edge 
Hodges Special Collection and University Archives  
UNC Greensboro

      The lighted valley; or, The closing scenes of the life of Abby Bolton

-         The dramatic and poetical works of Joanna Baillie.

-          The poems of Winthrop Mackworth Praed

-          The border antiquities of England and Scotland : comprising specimens of architecture and sculpture, and other vestiges of former ages, accompanied by descriptions

-          The works of James Thomson : with his last corrections and improvements : to which is prefixed the life of the author

Last, but not the least, a Wikipedia resource on fore-edge painting and its history

UNCG Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Blog

LGBTQ+ Pride Month at UNCG

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:57:00 +0000

The Office of Intercultural Engagement is celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride throughout the month of April with a variety of events, many of which are collaborations across campus! 

Friends of the UNCG Libraries

The Friends of the UNCG Libraries are advocates and supporters of the Libraries. Our Friends make a real difference in our ability to serve the campus and the local community.

Jenna Townend Awarded Special Collections and University Archives Research Travel Grant

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:19:00 +0000

Jenna Townend is pursuing her Ph.D. at Loughborough University and was recently awarded the Special Collections and University Archives’ Research Travel Grant. She visited UNCG's University Libraries earlier in 2017 to study the seventeenth century literary borrowings from George Herbert’s “The Temple” (1633) and to conduct comparative bibliographic research into the watermarks and ornaments of six texts published by Philemon and Robert Stephens. University Libraries offers one research travel grant per year to support the work of a researcher who utilizes the holdings of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives. Collections include rare books, manuscripts, women’s literature, cello music, University archives and Betty Carter Women Veterans Historical Project. The research travel grant is intended to pay for travel and lodging costs associated with a research trip to Greensboro, North Carolina. Graduate students, post-docs, teaching faculty and independent scholars are encouraged to submit a grant application. Applicants must live outside of the North Carolina Piedmont area to be eligible and have a clear research plan that involves the on-site use of UNCG’s Special Collections and University Archives.

New DVDs at UNCG

Check-in to see which new DVDs are hitting the shelves in Jackson Library!

New DVDs

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:45:00 +0000


Rules don't apply

I am Michael
Collateral beauty
Manchester by the sea


Miss Sloane
Nocturnal animals

The wire. The complete first season
Master of none. Season one
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
The Inspector Lynley mysteries. Volume two.

North Carolina Literary Map Blog

NC Writers' Network 2017 Spring Conference

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:42:00 +0000

The North Carolina Writers' Network 2017 Spring Conference is coming up on April 22!  Fred Chappell, a North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee, as well as an award-winning novelist and poet, will give the keynote address.  Other writers and professors will teach and lead various classes in this all-day event held in the MHRA building on the University of North Carolina at Greensboro campus.  For more information, please check out the NC Writers' Network website.  Preregistration is currently open until April 16.  Spaces are filling up fast so sign up now if you are interested in attending!  We hope to see you there!

UNCG Special Collections & University Archives

SCUA collects, preserves, and makes accessible rare, unique, or otherwise significant materials outside the scope of the general UNCG library collection. We also deliver presentations, classes, tours, and exhibits. Our collections include official records, personal manuscripts, rare books, textiles, A/V materials and artifacts. Subject strengths include women's history, literature, theatre, music, and dance.

Paul Tobias becomes the 16th cellist represented in the UNCG Cello Music Collection

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 17:09:00 +0000

Paul Tobias has been called a "master of the music and his instrument" by the New York Times, while the San Francisco Chronicle hailed him as "a fired-up, brilliant cellist in the great romantic tradition of Casals". He studied under Gregor Piatigorsky, Margaret Rowell and Bonnie Hampton, and under Leonard Rose, Zara Nelsova, and Claus Adam at The Juilliard School.
Among the many orchestras with which Tobias performed are the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, and Seattle Symphony. Following his debut under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, he performed with conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Sergiu Comissiona, Raymond Leppard, and Zubin Mehta.
The many awards bestowed on Tobias included a Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Prize and the Gregor Piatigorsky Award (presented by the Violoncello Society which proclaimed him "outstanding young American cellist"). Following his first performances with the New York Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez (broadcast over the CBS Television Network), he was given the honor of performing the American premiere of the Pederecki Cello Concerto at the Kennedy Center with the composer conducting the Polish National Radio Symphony. Particularly noteworthy, Paul Tobias championed uncommon and difficult cello works that he believed should be more widely heard.  For example, Tobias was recognized as a pre-eminent interpreter of Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto and of the autograph version of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, which he edited for its premier publication by Edwin F. Kalmus.
In addition to solo performances in Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the Philadelphia Academy of Music, and the Metropolitan Museum, Tobias also participated as a chamber musician at the Aspen Festival and the Marlboro Festival (for five consecutive years at the personal invitation of Rudolf Serkin). Paul Tobias can be heard on recordings for CBS and the Marlboro Recording Society. His performances have been broadcast over NPR, PBS, CBS Television, and numerous European radio stations.  A one hour documentary on Paul Tobias has been broadcast throughout the U.S. over various PBS Television stations.
Additionally, Paul Tobias was Artistic Director of New Heritage Music, a non-profit organization that commissions new works in honor of people, events, and themes central to history. Among composers designated to date are Chen Yi, Michael Daugherty, David Ott, Behzad Ranjbaran, David Sampson, Peter Schickele and Dan Welcher. The American Symphony Orchestra League calls New Heritage Music "a success story in creating new audiences with new music.”
A former Lecturer in Music at Harvard University and pre-concert lecturer for the New York Philharmonic, Tobias also served on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the University of California at Berkeley. A member of the faculty of the Mannes College for Music, New School University in New York, he was the recipient of its Distinguished University Teacher of the Year Award. Tobias authored numerous articles for American String TeacherThe Juilliard Journal, the Journal of the Conductors GuildStrings, and The Strad.
Paul Tobias is the 16th musician to be represented in the UNCG Cello Music Collection. Consisting of the archival music collections of Luigi Silva, Elizabeth Cowling, Rudolf Matz, Maurice Eisenberg, János Scholz, Fritz Magg, Bernard Greenhouse, Laszlo Varga, Lev Aronson, Lubomir Georgiev, Marion Davies, Douglas Moore, Ennio Bolognini, Nicholas Anderson, Margaret Rowell, and Paul Tobias, the Cello Music Collection at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro constitutes the largest single holding of archival cello music-related material worldwide.

UNCG Special Collections & University Archives

Photos and other fun stuff from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives in the University Libraries. You can also follow us on Twitter: @UNCGArchives!

#SCUAPicks: Susan and the 1920s Montgomery Ward toaster.

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 15:00:53 -0400

Susan on why she chose the toaster: “The Montgomery Ward toaster (circa 1920s) – A favorite artifact to me because it’s just got great mechanics. Both side walls unfold like a drawbridge, welcoming you (to put your bread down). With a turn of the handle, you retract both side walls and the toasting begins!”

Spartan Stories

Tales from the University Archives at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Gertrude Mendenhall: A Woman of Substance

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:00:00 +0000

By all accounts, Gertrude Mendenhall (1861 – 1926) was a shy, retiring soul who dedicated her career to teaching mathematics to young women. Yet on further inspection, “Gertie,” as she was known to her friends, proves to be a progressive and highly social woman, in possession of a keen mind and a dry and intelligent wit.
Gertrude Mendenhall, ca. 1892

Mendenhall was a member of a well-respected Quaker family that had lived in Guilford county for five generations. She grew up with her three sisters on the grounds of New Garden Boarding School (now Guilford College), where her father, Dr. Nereus Mendenhall, was a teacher and principal. After graduation, she pursued higher education at Wellesley College, earning a Bachelor of Science degree. Following in her father’s footsteps, she chose to enter the field of education. Mendenhall taught mathematics at Guilford College and at Peace College, where she met Charles Duncan McIver, future president of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG). When State Normal opened its doors in 1892, Mendenhall became a charter member of the faculty and was appointed the head of the Math Department.

Mendenhall (seated) picnicking with faculty members, 1898 

Mendenhall thrived in the academic environment of State Normal. She taught algebra, geometry, and trigonometry to the more advanced students, and helped remedial students with simple arithmetic. The young women in her charge appreciated her patience and determination in teaching a subject that was not one of the most popular in the school’s curriculum. Evalina Wiggins (Class of 1898) perhaps described it best when she explained that her experience in Mendenhall’s math class was “four years of happy misery, for I loved her and didn’t love math.”

Mendenhall (right) and other faculty members in front of Green Cottage
Her “Green Cottage,” located on Spring Garden Street, was a hub of both students and faculty seeking good company and a bite to eat. The cottage was always full of students enjoying her famous tea parties and picnics and faculty paying social visits or attending receptions. In the early days of campus life, the small ratio of student to faculty created close relationships and frequent social interactions. Her students simply adored her. She was known not only as a wise counselor and dear friend, but also for her distinctive appearance. She had a very erect posture and her standard attire, which was a “veritable part of our everyday Miss Mendenhall,” included a crisp white shirt, a white or brown tie, and a brown skirt.

After a tenure of over thirty years at the college, Mendenhall quietly passed away on the morning of April 15, 1926. College president Julius Foust cancelled all classes and a small funeral service was held in her home.  The day afterward, she was laid to rest at the Deep River Friends Meeting House Cemetery.

Mendenhall (left) and Dr. Anna Gove on the porch of Green Cottage

At her funeral service, Rev. R. Murphy Williams, who had been a long-time friend, gave a tribute that captures her very nature, describing her as “gentle yet strong, modest yet courageous, in everything that was for the upbuilding of our state. She has influenced thousands of young women and given them vision of service which they are transmitting into other lives in the school rooms and in the homes, all over our southland.” J.  Y. Joyner, who had known Mendenhall since the first days of the college, later wrote that she was “one of the choicest spirits, strongest minds, most lovable characters, [and] sweetest influences in that first little faculty…”

Mendenhall was convinced that every young woman could master some level of mathematics, and typical of a woman who “practiced what she preached,” she left money in her will to establish a merit and needs based scholarship which would provide students with the means to pursue a degree in higher math and the applied sciences. Typical of her modest nature, she named the scholarship for her aunt, Judith J. Mendenhall. This scholarship is still active and provides financial assistance to students who are pursuing a degree in math.

Ragsdale-Mendenhall Residence Hall

Although immediately after her death, former students asked that a “prominent building” be named for her to “express our love for and gratitude to Miss Mendenhall,” it was not until 1950 that a campus dormitory was named for her. Known as the Ragsdale-Mendenhall Residence Hall, the naming honor is shared with Virginia Ragsdale, Department of Mathematics faculty from 1911 to 1928, and the third faculty member to hold a PhD degree.

UNCG's Dataland

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DataRescue at UNC Chapel Hill

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 15:20:00 +0000

UNC Chapel Hill is hosting a DataRescue event on March 7, 2017 from 10:00 am-4:00 pm at the Research Hub in Davis Library, 208 Raleigh St.

These projects work "to preserve online information and data related to climate change and environmental programs that are identified as high risk for removal from online public access or even deleted". You can see more information at