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Transcript of Marvin Kranz: Manuscripts Behind the Scenes

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Welcome to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. We hold the papers of many important Americans, including the papers of twenty-three American Presidents, half of the Secretaries of State, and about a third of the members of the Supreme Court. We have papers of people who have been in virtually every field; great scientists, writers, and so forth. And I am going to take you on a tour of some of the highlights, at least some of the things that I like best, and we are going to go behind the scenes in the stacks and you'll see the way our collections are stored, and we'll invite you to come here and do your own research here in the Manuscript Division.

In this part of the stacks, we have our smallest collections. But just because the collections are small, fit into a file folder or two, doesn't mean they are unimportant. For example, if I were to take out this collection, the Harold Armold Papers, nobody in my division knows who Harold Armold is, but if you were interested in the Second World War and you were interested in the Japanese conquest of our American troops in the Philippines, and a man who made the Death March, you have here a memoir of his experiences.

By the same token, there are all kinds of other interesting collections that we have here in this area of our stacks. We have a journal of a whaling ship, the Constitution. This journal was compiled in the 1840s. And every time they landed a whale, the sailors used a stamp and they stamped this with a whale. Now you say, well, why is that important? The fact is that in the nineteenth century, whaling was a very important industry in the United States because whale oil was a wonderful material for powering lights. And of course for women's fashions, we know that the whalebones were used for corsets and the head of the whale provided the basis for perfume.

Let's look at another collection. The George Young Bradley Papers are important because Bradley went along with Powell on his expedition down the Colorado River. And we have a journal. So that's important for people interested in American exploration.

I'll pick out another collection that may interest people. We don't have a complete collection of this man's poems, but the poet, Robert Frost, is represented by a small file folder of material, including letters and some examples of his poetry. This is signed by Robert Frost. It's a fair copy in his own hand of one of his poems and we have a number of them in this collection.

I'm pulling out journals of Titian Ramsay Peale. He went along in the 1840s to the South Pacific and to the North Pacific. The exploring expedition was sometimes called the Wilkes Expedition. And the men spent four years out at sea looking at these areas and particularly bringing back botanical specimens, bringing back animal skins; they didn't bring back any animals, but they brought back some plants with them. And some of those plants are the grandparents of plants that we now have in the United States Botanic Garden just below the Capitol.

In this part of the stacks, we put things that we consider oversized. They don't fit into the normal manuscript boxes which you've seen before, but they can be very important as well. For example, Caleb Cushing went as our first minister to China and he came back in 1844 and he brought back a commercial treaty, the Treaty of Wang Xia. But while he was over in China, just before the age of photography, he brought along with him a staff artist who drew pictures of what China looked like in 1844. We have these marvelous watercolors and other drawings in this collection. We actually have the treaty, but it's out on loan now. The treaty is on black ink on Chinese silk.

This is a portion of the collection, again oversized, from the Elizabeth Cady Stanton collection. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a great believer in women's rights and at the end of the nineteenth century, she decided that the fathers who had written the Old Testament, or whoever had written the Old Testament, had left the women out. And so she produced the Woman's Bible. And here's an example of a page. There would be a cutout from the Bible and then she would add material, putting the women back in the Bible.

One of the interesting collections that we rediscovered within the last half dozen years is this collection of signature books that was given to the United States on its 150th birthday by the people of Poland. In addition to these oversized volumes, there are over a hundred volumes of signatures; and some five million Poles, school children and other Poles, thanked the United States. Poland was brought back together--it hadn't existed as a country for many years--and it was a country formed out of the remnants of the First World War. So the Polish people wanted to commend us on this and it was a token to the United States on our 150th birthday in 1926.

The next item I wanted to show you was again an oversized volume and these are the scrapbooks of George Patton, the famous World War II general. There are about twenty of these albums that go along with his papers. Perhaps most famous of all are the Patton diaries. They have been published and edited by Martin Blumenson, but we have the original manuscripts here in the Library of Congress.

I want to show you that we have materials that are rather humorous and this is a letter that Groucho Marx sent to Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers had complained when the Marx Brothers announced that they were going to produce a picture called A Night in Casablanca. They felt it might interfere with the sale of their great masterpiece, Casablanca. And so Groucho wrote this letter and I'd suggest to you that the humor displayed here was typical of Groucho and this is a case where he put it in a letter.

So he writes, "Dear Warner Brothers, apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making a picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received a long, ominous legal document, warning us not to use the name 'Casablanca.' It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, the great-great grandfather of Harry and Jack, while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock, which he later turned in for a hundred shares of the common, he named it Casablanca. I just can't understand your attitude. Even if they plan on re-releasing the picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try. You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without their permission. What about Warner Brothers--do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. When Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor's eye, we were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers and even before us, there had been other brothers--the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazoff; Dan Brouthers, an outfielder with Detroit, and 'Brother, can you spare a dime?'"

Well, when the Warner Brothers lawyers received this letter, they responded to it and in the collected letters of Groucho Marx, you can find the totality of the correspondence. But this is the carbon of the letter that Groucho Marx wrote to Warner Brothers.

We're looking at the papers of Earl Warren, who was Chief Justice of the United States. Any of you who look at TV and watch a crime show, know that as soon as the policeman puts the cuffs on somebody, the first thing they do is they read him his rights, the Miranda rights, and that's the Miranda case. And what I have here is Earl Warren's file. He wrote the opinion. Originally, he first drafted an opinion on yellow foolscap paper like this. He had it typed up and he circulated it to the other justices in the court. And for example, he got a memo back from Justice Brennan of New Jersey. He said, "I think this is going to be a very important case and I have a few suggestions to make to improve the decision." And so what happens in the Supreme Court whenever there's a case, you have various justices suggesting ways of improving the opinion and so eventually you reach a consensus on what the opinion should be and the various justices either sign on the majority opinion or they sign on with a minority opinion.

The next set of papers I want to talk about are the papers of the famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead. It's one of the largest private collections we have here at the Library. We estimate there are five hundred thousand items. More than a third of the collection consists of photographs. These are her field notes that she took when she was in Samoa in 1925-26. She would go back to her tent or dwelling place and type them up in a more formal way. But in these notes, every time you see a line through it, it means it's been typed and she didn't have to retype it. You can find Samoan words for this, that, or the other thing, or you can find out about the way the people lived.

One of the things that we haven't talked about so far are our literary collections. And we have some really exciting ones here at the Library. We have the papers of Walt Whitman, we have Bernard Malamud, and these are the papers of Truman Capote. This box contains a manuscript that he wrote for In Cold Blood. And here he wrote it in a student notebook. This is actually the first draft. That's the remarkable thing about manuscripts: you can see the evolution of a person's mind. We're going to lose that now with people writing on computers and erasing. Nobody keeps the eleven drafts they've written of a chapter anymore. And we'll never see that again, the creative process, as we can see it with some of these wonderful manuscripts which we have here in the Division.

The Library is very fortunate in having the papers of a great many scientists, and inventors, and so forth; the papers of Alexander Graham Bell; and I have a box here of the Wright brothers' notebooks and diaries. This is one of the genuine treasures of the Library of Congress. This is actually Orville Wright's diary of the flights that took place at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and his description here of the four flights of that day; and he describes the longest flight as 852 feet, it lasted 59 seconds, and the propeller turned over a thousand times. We also have a wonderful telegram that they sent to their father, who was a bishop in Ohio. They reported the success of the flight: there were four successful flights; this was the longest one, the fourth one. And then they wrote that we'll try to be home by Christmas. But, the most important thing of all from my perspective is they tell their father, "Inform the press." Wright wanted to be sure that he got credit for the first successful heavier-than-air flight.

We're now in Presidential Row here at the Library of Congress in the Manuscript Division. And we are very fortunate to be the presidential libraries for twenty-three American presidents. We go from George Washington through Calvin Coolidge and have most of the presidents' papers in those periods. For more recent presidents, you have to go to the presidential libraries, but we serve as the presidential library for these twenty-three men. And we house these all together. The one thing that I have to tell you about presidential papers is though we have the originals here, for preservation purposes, we serve microfilm in our reading room. And we're now starting to digitize the presidential collections so that Washington and Jefferson are already digitized, Lincoln is digitized, and we are working on Jackson and Madison.

One of the things that we have and is kind of unique is the largest Jefferson collection in the United States. But we've also collected microfilm from ten or several more depositories, so if you come here, you'll probably get the widest range of any place in the country.

I'm going to start with George Washington. This is actually a notebook which Washington kept when he was a student. There are arithmetical calculations, the geographical calculations; it's in remarkably good shape. The paper of that day was rag paper and it doesn't deteriorate like modern paper does. And we have a wonderful collection of George Washington's materials. We have the diaries he kept; we have letters he wrote. If you look through these papers, you'll see that he was a man of many parts. There are architectural drawings, he was a general, he was a statesman, and altogether a remarkable person.

Next, we're going to turn to Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most rounded of all of our American presidents. Many years ago, when John F. Kennedy had a room, the state dining room, filled with Pulitzer Prize winners, he said there wasn't so much intellect gathered here excepting when Thomas Jefferson ate alone. But, Jefferson was a man who was interested in a great many things. For example, he was much interested in cookery. He brought back, when he was in Europe, recipes for his chefs in Monticello to make. This is a recipe for meringue. On the other side, it's a recipe for "Nomilly a maccaroni." We have other interesting items. For example, the material which Jefferson wrote when he was Vice President for the Senate. He decided that the Senate was a rather anarchic place and it needed rules to run itself and he created Jefferson's Parliamentary Rules for the Senate.

We'll turn next to Abraham Lincoln. I'm going to show you a letter where the original is actually here in the collection and this was a letter on what was passed for White House stationery in those days. And it said Executive Mansion. The name of the building really officially wasn't changed till Theodore Roosevelt's time, so that in Lincoln's day, he was president from 1861 to '65, Executive Mansion was the proper thing. This is a letter dated July 14, 1863. And it was written to General Meade who had been the Union commander at Gettysburg. And to me, this letter is the quintessence of why Lincoln is considered the greatest of American presidents. He writes this letter; he thanks General Meade for the wonderful, wonderful success at Gettysburg. But what happened in the few days after Gettysburg, the final battle was on July 4th, is, Lee retreated. But he couldn't cross the Potomac because the river was at flood stage and he waited there several days and Lincoln was terribly distressed because Meade did not advance on Lee. He might have been able to wipe him out and end the Civil War right there. In the letter he said, I'm very, very happy about Gettysburg, but why didn't you pursue Lee? And Lincoln, being the great president that I think he was, left this envelope behind, and it says, "To General Meade, never sent or signed." In other words, Lincoln knew that Meade was a pretty good, maybe not the greatest, but he was a good commander. If he had sent this letter to Meade criticizing him for the post-Gettysburg few days, Meade would have resigned his commission and Lincoln would have lost a decent general. So, being the statesman that he was, he took the letter and he stuffed it in his desk.

And the final president that I wanted to talk about briefly is Theodore Roosevelt. Most people think of Theodore Roosevelt as the Roosevelt carrying a big stick and speaking softly and so forth. Less is well known, less is known, about Roosevelt as a human being. I have here some of the pocket diaries which he kept early in life. This diary entry is February, Friday the 13th of 1880. And what has transpired is that Theodore Roosevelt has been courting a woman, Alice Hathaway Lee, for over a year, and she has finally consented to marry him. And he writes in his diary, "Raining hard, I drove over in a buggy to the Lees' to dinner, and thanks to the storm, spent the night there. In the evening, I was all the time with my darling little sunshine. She is so marvelously sweet, and pure, and lovable, and pretty that I seem to love her more and more every time I see her. Though I love her so much now, that I really cannot love her more. I do not think that ever a man loved a woman more than I love her. For a year and a quarter now, I have never, even while hunting, gone to sleep or waked up without thinking of her. And I doubt if an hour has passed that I have not thought of her. And now, I can scarcely realize that I can hold her in my arms and kiss her and caress her and love her as much as I choose." And terribly tragically, in 1884, as she gave birth to a child, she died essentially in childbirth. And the child grew up and lived on and was known as Alice Roosevelt Longworth. And she was still alive here in town, one of the grandes dames, when I first moved to town. The impact of the death of Roosevelt's first wife was very traumatic. And Roosevelt eliminated all of the photographs of his first wife, he tore up the letters, and he never was able to talk to his daughter Alice about her mother, Alice. He stopped writing his diaries in 1884 after his wife--and actually his mother died on the same day, of typhus, in the same house in New York, I think it's 28th Street, on the east side of New York. They both died in the same day and Roosevelt wrote about that and he stopped keeping diaries, as far as we know.

It's been a pleasure talking to you about some of the collections that we have here in the Manuscript Division. We have in the vicinity of twelve thousand collections, with something like sixty million separate items here. And we welcome you to Washington to use the materials that we have. We will be delighted to bring out collections that you want to see. Most of the material, you'll see the original material. As I said earlier, there are some collections which we have microfilm for preservation purposes, but ninety percent of the material we have here is available for you and our reference librarians will be very happy to serve you here at the Library of Congress in Washington. So, enjoy the collections as I have for so many years. They are simply marvelous and they are wonderful ways to get inside of other people who have passed from the scene.

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  July 20, 2010
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