Author Archives: Special Collections Research Center

SCRC Request System Temporarily Down September 20

Resources on display in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery

Resources on display in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery

The ability to request materials from the Special Collections Research Center through our electronic request system will be temporarily unavailable for three hours on the morning of September 20to allow for a system upgrade. The system will be unavailable from 7am CDT – 10:0am CDT.  We regret the inconvenience.

SCRC Closed September 5 for Labor Day

The Special Collections Research Center will be closed on Monday, September 5, in observation of Labor Day. We will resume our usual hours on Tuesday, September 6.

SCRC Will Open at 10:30am August 25

The Special Collections Research Center will open at 10:30 am on Thursday, August 25, in order to accommodate activities for Library Staff Day. We regret any inconvenience. We will resume our usual 9:00am-4:45pm hours on Friday, August 26.

SCRC Request Function Temporarily Down August 16, 7am-10am

The ability to request materials from the Special Collections Research Center through our electronic request system will be temporarily unavailable for three hours on the morning of August 16 to allow for a system upgrade. The system will be unavailable from 7am CDT – 10:0am CDT.  We regret the inconvenience.

Changes in Special Collections hours

Effective June 21, 2016, the Special Collections Research Center will move from being open Saturday mornings to being open until 6:00 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings when classes are in session.  This change in hours will allow Special Collections to better serve University of Chicago students, faculty, and staff, and to make the best use of available staff hours. The Special Collections reading room will close at 5:45pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The latest time for submitting new item requests daily remains 4:15pm, Monday-Friday. The exhibit gallery will no longer be open on Saturday mornings, but gallery hours are being extended on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings until 5:45pm. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

Special Collections Research Center

SCRC Closed May 30

Memorial Tablet honoring fallen University of Chicago soldiers from World War IThe Special Collections Research Center will be closed on Monday, May 30, for Memorial Day. We will resume our regular hours at 9:00am on Tuesday, May 30.

SCRC Closing Early on March 29

The Special Collections Research Center will close at 3:00 on Tuesday, March 29, due to a special event taking place in our space. We will resume our normal hours of 9:00-4:45 on March 30.

2016 Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowships Awarded

Robert Platzman

Robert Platzman in 1941

The Special Collections Research Center is pleased to announce the recipients of the Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowships for 2016.

Established through a bequest of George W. Platzman (1920-2008), Professor in Geophysical Sciences, the research fellowships are named in memory of George’s brother Robert Platzman (1918-1973), Professor of Chemistry and Physics and a member of the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago during World War II.

The annual Platzman Fellowships provide funds for visiting researchers whose projects require on-site consultation of University of Chicago Library collections, primarily but not exclusively materials in Special Collections, with priority given to beginning scholars. Additional information on the Platzman Fellowship program is available on the Special Collections web site:

2016 Robert L. Platzman Fellows

Kate Bellamy
PhD candidate, Centre for Linguistics, Leiden University, Netherlands
Consulting the papers of Paul Friedrich and Norman McQuown
“Rediscovering Lost Voices: Two Approaches to Indigenous Literacy in Purépecha (Mexico)”

Lucie Claire
Maître de conferences, UFR des lettres, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France
Consulting editions of works of Marc-Antoine Muret in the rare book holdings
“The American Destiny of the Humanist Marc-Antoine Muret (1526-1585)”

Azra Dawood
PhD Candidate, History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Consulting the records of the University of Chicago Department of Buildings and Grounds and the papers of Harold H. Swift, Julius Rosenwald, Robert M. Hutchins, and others
“John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the Architecture of Protestant Internationalism (1919-1946).”

Raquel Escobar
PhD candidate, History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Consulting records of the American Indian Chicago Conference in the Native American Educational Service records, and the papers of Robert Redfield, Sol Tax, and others
“Reconcile the Indian, Reconcile the Nation: Indigenismo, the Nation, and Transnational Networks of the Inter-American Indian Institute”

Louis Fletcher
PhD candidate, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Consulting the records of the Social Science Research Committee and the papers of Quincy Wright, Charles E. Merriam, and Beardsley Ruml
“A Genealogy of Democratic Peace”

Ilnyun Kim
PhD candidate, History, Ohio State University
Consulting the records of the International Association for Cultural Freedom
“The Liberal Persuasion: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Intellectual Cold War in the World, 1950-1967”

Paul Putz
PhD candidate, History, Baylor University
Consulting the papers of Amos Alonzo Stagg and related archival collections
“Creating the Christian Athlete in the Twentieth-Century United States”

Aulii Silva
PhD candidate, Educational Foundations, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Consulting the papers of Henry Northrup Castle
“Worth Another Look: A Native Hawaiian Review of the Henry N. Castle Papers”

John Suval
Ph.D. candidate, History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Consulting the papers of Stephen A. Douglas
“Dangerous Ground: Squatters, Statesmen, and the Rupture of American Democracy, 1830-1860”

Platzman Fellows at Work: Finding Manuel

This post is written by 2015 Platzman Research Fellow Oenone Kubie. Kubie is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford. She visited SCRC this past summer to consult the papers of Ernest Burgess, Grace and Edith Abbott, Julius Rosenwald, Robert Park, and others, for a study of “Boys’ Street Culture in Chicago, 1900-1929.” Below is her reflection on her time using some of these collections and their relation to her dissertation. To apply for this year’s Platzman Fellowship, apply by February 15.

On the face of it, one would probably expect the source base for my project, Boys’ Street Culture in Early Twentieth Century Chicago, to be extremely limited. Piecing together and examining the experiences and subcultures of Chicago’s working-class and immigrant boys of a century ago may be interesting, but surely this subclass of an already disadvantaged class must be all but invisible in the archives. After all, one must often read archival material against the grain to conduct a history of the childhood of even the wealthiest and most affluent families. It is lucky for me, then, that I am far from the first scholar to be interested in the lives of early twentieth century Chicago’s boys.

The archives at the Regenstein Library are full of the research and reports conducted by Chicago School sociologists, much of it regarding the lives of working class and immigrant children. The favoured method of research, at least by the 1920s, was the life history. Life histories were biographies of individual cases from which, scholars hoped, broad trends could be identified. They were collected either through interviews or by asking individuals to write their own autobiographies, usually with the aid of prompt questions. Of course, these sources come with a whole host of methodological problems – from the power relations of the interviewer and subject to the typicality of the boys’ lives – all of which are compounded by the fact that the subjects are either children or they are adults reminiscing about a childhood ten, twenty, or more years ago. Nonetheless, used critically and in conjunction with other sources, these life histories are undeniably among the most useful sources for projects like mine. The stories they tell are rich with detail and are moving, captivating, and even amusing.

Here let us look briefly at just one life history: the story of a nine year old Mexican-American boy, growing up in Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s.[1] Manuel (almost certainly not his real name) was the child to Mexican immigrants. He was born in 1924 and moved to Chicago at the age of 2. In Chicago, Manuel and his family moved every couple of years between different neighbourhoods. Firstly they moved to Brighton Park, then when Manuel was four, to Little Village, two years later they returned to Brighton Park and, three years after that (1933), to the boundary between Pilsen and Little Italy. These areas now all have large Mexican-American communities, and are still known as common ports of entry to immigrants from Mexico.

Manuel’s story attests to what life was like as a young Mexican-American in Chicago in the early twentieth century. Manuel thought of himself as different to both the “white” and the “colored” boys: a distinction both groups seemed keen to enforce. When Manuel and his family moved to Little Village, Manuel remembered that he was one of very few Mexican boys in the neighbourhood at that time. He recalls that he was lonely, the white boys not allowing him to play with them. Later, he would go to the Foster School in Little Italy where, Manuel claimed, the Mexican boys had to group together or they risked being beaten by the African-American boys. Manuel wrote of his equal dislike of the black children saying that, although he occasionally played with some, they were mean and lied a lot. On the other hand, Manuel dreamt of becoming a white boy: “Sometimes I even don’t like myself. I would like to be a white boy and look like Ken Maynard”. Maynard came from champion rodeo riding to become one of the most popular actors in early the Westerns of the twenties and thirties. To Manuel, and others, he symbolised adventure, virile masculinity, but also desirable whiteness which Manuel consciously contrasted to his own, Mexican heritage.

Drawing by Manuel

Drawings by Manuel, from Ernest Burgess Papers, Special Collections Research Center

Manuel wrote of his relationship with his Mexican heritage by talking of his Spanish-speaking parents. He could speak, read and write Spanish but, despite his mother and father often playing them, Manuel knew no Mexican songs. Instead, he preferred songs such as ‘Shuffle off to Buffalo’ (the soundtrack to 42nd Street, a popular musical from 1933). Manuel was particularly scathing of his mother who spoke no English: “My mother knows nothing about American things. She only knows about Mexico. I know more about things than she does”. Despite this, Manuel is keen to follow the career his parents want for him and to become an artist. His story ends with a couple of drawings, one of an ‘Indian’ and one of a sailor.

Manuel’s life history was probably taken in 1933 or 1934. What became of Manuel afterwards, I don’t know, however, he would have turned 18 in the summer of 1942 and, thus, would probably have been drafted into the US Armed Forces. This life history is just one of hundreds the Chicago School sociologists took in the twenties and thirties although one from just a handful of Mexican-American boys asked to participate. Nonetheless, Manuel’s story demonstrates the capacity these histories have to share the experiences of those whose voices are typically missing in the historical record. We can get a glimpse of Manuel’s life, his relationships, his struggles and his hopes.

I’m excited to look over the material I have gathered during my summer at the University of Chicago and am grateful to the Special Collections at the Regenstein Library for funding my trip through the Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowship and also to the staff for the help they offered me while I was visiting the archives.

[1] ‘Case no. A by Edward M. Haddon’, Burgess, Ernest, Papers, [Box 134, folder 4], Special Collections Research Centre, University of Chicago Library

SCRC Will Be Closed Monday, January 18th

The Special Collections Research Center will be closed on Monday, January 18, in observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Please note that we will open at 10:30am on Tuesday, January 19.  For more information please see our hours page.