Child Health Around the Maypole

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

From 1924 through 1960, May 1 marked the celebration of Child Health Day, as described in the pamphlet The Goal of May Day: A Year-Round Program:

May Day as Child Health Day holds within it the power of a great vision. Its goal is to focus the interest of the nation upon perfected childhood—with the hope of a start in life free, sound and richly potential for every child….

This day has been given to the country to become, like the Maypole, a central rallying point for all the diverse activities concerned with the welfare of children….1

"The summer round-up, with the State Congress of Parents and Teachers and the State Bureau of Maternity and Infancy cooperating in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

“The summer round-up, with the State Congress of Parents and Teachers and the State Bureau of Maternity and Infancy cooperating in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

The American Child Health Association (ACHA)—an organization founded by Herbert Hoover in 1923 with the merging of the American Child Hygiene Association and the Child Health Organization—began Child Health Day in 1924. The ACHA was inspired by the success of National Baby Week, an observance that spread awareness of infant care to millions by 1919 (clearly, awareness days and weeks are not a new phenomenon).1,2 The ACHA was also motivated by Congressional inaction (also not a new phenomenon); President Wilson had called for a child health program in 1919, to no avail.

Cover of The Goal of May Day, 1928.

Cover of The Goal of May Day, 1928.

Aida de Acosta Breckinridge, wife of President Wilson’s Assistant Secretary of War Henry Breckinridge (and intriguingly, the first woman to pilot an aircraft solo), thought up May Day as Child Health Day and ran with the idea. Through her efforts, three million department stores nationwide handed out booklets on child health. Magazines like Women’s World and Literary Digest promoted the day.2 In 1928, President Calvin Coolidge officially declared Child Health Day a national celebration. It remains one today, though in 1960, Child Health Day moved to the first Monday in October.3

By 1928, when the ACHA released The Goal of May Day, the organization viewed May Day-Child Health Day as a time to celebrate the past year’s child welfare successes and plan for the year ahead. As the pamphlet emphasizes, May Day-Child Health Day activities occurred thanks to the efforts of community groups and local governments rather than through centralized ACHA planning, “each [group] coloring [May Day] with its own interpretation and using it according to its needs.”1 The Goal of May Day provides these organizations tips and lists of further resources to plan events and to improve child health year-round.

"A child health clinic in a church." In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

“A child health clinic in a church.” In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

The challenge was significant: the pamphlet states that 18,000 mothers died in childbirth in the United States each year. In 1924, cites the pamphlet, “the stillbirth rate was 3.9 per 100 live births.” While infant deaths from diarrhea and enteritis were down by 1928, those from congenital malformation, birth injuries, and premature birth had risen. And between infancy and school age, fifty percent of deaths came from diphtheria, recently preventable by vaccine.1

Making them safe from the great menace - diphtheria. In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

“Making them safe from the great menace – diphtheria.” In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

On a larger scale, the pamphlet offers a community health inventory to spur local government to improve child health, with questions ranging from “Have you a safe water supply?” to “Is there a tuberculosis clinic?” to “Is there an organized course of study for the education of the school child in health?”

"The parochial school had its health float on May Day." In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

“The parochial school had its health float on May Day.” In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

For community groups, the pamphlet recommends consulting with national organizations—the Girl Reserves, Boy Scouts, Jewish Welfare Board, National Catholic Welfare Conference, Child Study Association, and more—to plan programs and events like home demonstrations, distribution of health-related literature, community clean ups, health dramatizations, athletics, and exhibits.1

"4-H girls club learn from the home demonstration agents." In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

“4-H girls club learn from the home demonstration agents.” In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

May Day - Child Health Day, on the school playgrounds at Rapid City, South Dakota. In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

May Day – Child Health Day, on the school playgrounds at Rapid City, South Dakota. In The Goal of May Day, 1928.

The American Child Health Association closed in 1935. During its 12 years of existence, it raised about $5 million for child-focused community services.2 And the observance of Child Health Day continues some 92 years after it began, though no longer around a Maypole.

References
1. The Goal of May Day: A Year-round Community Child Health Program. New York: American Child Health Association; 1928.

2. Lee RA. From Snake Oil to Medicine: Pioneering Public Health. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Group; 2007.

3. Health Resources and Services Administration. Child Health Day History. Available at: http://mchb.hrsa.gov/childhealthday/history.html. Accessed April 27, 2016.

Making Collections Accessible: The New York Academy of Medicine Library’s Health Pamphlet Collection

By Katarzyna Bator, Collections Care Assistant, Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory

Every library is likely to find parts of its collection in need of protective enclosures and unique storage solutions. As part of our responsibility for the physical care of the collections at The New York Academy of Medicine, staff in the Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory routinely engages in large-scale rehousing projects. One such project currently underway is rehousing the library’s Health Pamphlet Collection. We estimate the project will take up to three years to complete.

The Health Pamphlet Collection consists of 19th– and early 20th-century health-related publications in many languages. It covers a wide range of topics, such as nutrition, proper hygiene, exercise, as well as medical innovations and research.

A damaged document box housing health pamphlets.

A damaged document box housing health pamphlets.

Approximately 50,000 health pamphlets are currently housed in acidic envelopes or plastic bags. These are in oversized boxes too big for the compact shelving unit on which they are stored. This limits accessibility, as the compact shelving cannot move properly, leaving little room for a librarian to retrieve each box from the shelf. In addition, each box is heavy and overstuffed with materials. This puts the pamphlets at risk of damage during storage and retrieval, and is problematic for staff who have to move and transport heavy boxes for patron use.

Previous storage space, with overstuffed document boxes.

Previous storage space, with overstuffed document boxes.

As part of the rehousing efforts for this collection, staff members place each pamphlet in an archival envelope with a 10-point folder stock insert for additional support, and then into a custom-made enclosure. The design of the enclosure is borrowed from the New-York Historical Society Library’s conservation laboratory. It is economic, sturdy, easy to make, and most importantly allows for safe and easy access to the collection.

Storage space with rehoused pamphlets

Storage space with rehoused pamphlets

The process of rehousing a collection involves more than simply making new enclosures and moving items to a new space. In order to make the Health Pamphlet Collection more accessible, staff members also dry clean each item with soot sponges—absorbent vulcanized rubber dirt erasers— and assess them for other conservation treatment needs, which they record in a spreadsheet to address as needed over time. In addition, a volunteer is creating an accurate inventory of all of the pamphlets to aid in future cataloging updates.

The Health Pamphlet Collection contains a wealth of information for researchers; through this project, conservation staff hopes to guarantee its accessibility to patrons both today and for generations to come.

The Women’s Prison Association and “The Modern Way” (Item of the Month)

By Anne Garner, Curator, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

orange-is-the-new-blackHow do the experiences of the inmates of Orange Is the New Black’s fictional Litchfield Prison differ from those of incarcerated women a century before? “The Modern Way,” a pamphlet published in 1913 by the New York State Women’s Prison Association, offers a snapshot of the conditions in New York State prisons one hundred years ago. Today, as Netflix drops season three of the series, we thought it would be instructive to have a closer look at this remarkable feminist pamphlet, produced by New York’s oldest advocacy group for women.

Cover of "The Modern Way."

Cover of “The Modern Way.”

As with Orange Is the New Black, “The Modern Way” begins by telescoping the faces and stories of individual prisoners—in this case, the residents of an unnamed “Workhouse” 20 minutes from New York City’s Fifth Avenue.

It is 1913. There’s Maggie, “a strong sturdy woman of forty,”1 in and out of prison for public drunkenness for the last two years. She plans to drink again as soon as she’s released, even as she’s resigned to serving more jail time as a consequence. Jennie, age 37, has been in and out of Workhouse for two decades, incarcerated for the same cause. When interviewed, she says she’s done with jail. But without the guidance of a rehabilitating hospital, she claims she can’t stay away from the saloon.

And then there’s Mary, described by the warden as “one of the best dispositioned women [she] ever knew.” She’s the mother hen of the group, “stopping to comfort a sobbing prisoner, now scolding a vigorously quarrelsome one.” This model inmate keeps a medal in her cell, earned the day she was working on Riker’s Island in 1904 and brought in three drowning passengers from the steamship PS General Slocum (two survived). When interviewed, she’s back at the Workhouse again, after a trip to the saloon.2

Mary. In "The Modern Way," 1913, page 2.

Mary. In “The Modern Way,” 1913, page 2.

What binds together these three inmates is the impossibility of creating a new identity once they’ve served their sentences—which may remind OITNB fans of inmate Tasty’s plight. As Mary says, “A girl can’t do it once she has gone wrong. The plain clothes fellows remember you and they follow you up. There isn’t any use trying.”3

In 1912, New York State committed 20,616 women to correctional institutions.4 Unlike contemporary men’s prisons, prisons established for women in the late 19th and early 20th century were not philosophically bent towards reform.5 In most cases, as with the unnamed Workhouse featured in the pamphlet, prisons for women had no chaplain, physician, or teacher, unlike their male counterparts. Medical care was especially scarce. The Workhouse, a facility that accommodated 15,818 prisoners in 1911, had only thirty beds available for sick patients.6 With resources so limited, the Workhouse routinely discharged hundreds of women with no healthcare at all.

"Workhouse—Cell for Women." In "The Modern Way," 1913, page 11.

“Workhouse—Cell for Women.” In “The Modern Way,” 1913, page 11.

The inequitable treatment of male and female prisoners is a particular sticking point for the authors of “The Modern Way,” who are dismayed by the sexism inherent in the current penal system:

No crime which a man may commit excludes him from readjustment, rehabilitation. Alcoholism and immorality unless excessive are ignored and condoned, but the conviction by the Courts of a girl charged with loitering or a woman charged with intoxication places a ban upon her, ostracizes her from Society, is remembered against her through life no matter how correct her after life may be [italics theirs].7

They argue that female inmates need a setting hospitable to rehabilitation, a place “far-removed from temptation and made attractive by healthy employment and friendly supervision of [the prisoners’] moral and physical well-being.”

By 1908, the Women’s Prison Association had successfully lobbied for 315 public acres for such a place, the State Farm for Women Misdemeanants, in Valatie, New York.8 The site was planned in accordance with the early 20th-century trend of cottage-designed prisons, which placed inmates in small cottages scattered across a rural setting. The cottages were set up like small homes, with a dining room, kitchen, and sitting room. Household tasks were divided among the women. The idea was to engender self-esteem in the inmates, who then might be better positioned to take on these roles once released.9

"Cottage on State Farm for Women."  In "The Modern Way," 1913, page 14.

“Cottage on State Farm for Women.” In “The Modern Way,” 1913, page 14.

Bordered by the foothills of the Adirondacks, the Berkshires, the Matteawan Mountains, and the Catskills and Helderbergs, State Farm in Valatie offered tillable land, ample space, and a healthy environment. At completion, the farm was projected to have 27 buildings on the cottage plan, and would stress rehabilitation and careful supervision by an all-female staff (except for typically male roles, i.e. leadership roles like warden). Prisoners over 30 who had been convicted five times in two years qualified for accommodation.10

"Inmates' Room, State Farm for Women." In "The Modern Way," 1913, page 17.

“Inmates’ Room, State Farm for Women.” In “The Modern Way,” 1913, page 17.

When “The Modern Way” went to print, two cottages were ready for occupancy. Fifteen hundred New York women were eligible. According to the pamphlet’s writers, every farm implement had been purchased, and the grounds were populated with horses, cattle, and poultry.11 And yet, the pamphlet’s frustrated authors argued, the land remained vacant. Appeals to two different governors and the Senate Finance Committee to fund the opening of the cottages all stalled.12 At the close of “The Modern Way” we are left wondering what happened to State Farm. Was it ever operational?

"Cattle on State Farm for Women." In "The Modern Way," 1913, page 20.

“Cattle on State Farm for Women.” In “The Modern Way,” 1913, page 20.

The answer was yes. State Farm at Valatie was completed in 1914. But in total, the Columbia County facility accommodated only 146 inmates. These were mostly white women between the ages of 30 and 60, accused of public drunkenness. Funding was always scarce. By 1918, all the inmates had been paroled, and the grounds were turned over to a treatment center for women suffering from venereal disease.13 The efforts of the Women’s Prisoners’ Association to install State Farm as a viable alternative to the Workhouse model appears to have been only successful in the short term. Nevertheless, “The Modern Way” captures an important moment in the history of the Women’s Prison Association of New York, an organization still very active in lobbying for the rights of women prisoners today.

References

1. Women’s Prison Association of New York. “The Modern Way.” New York: The Association, [1913.] p. 14.

2. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 3-4.

3. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 9.

4. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 15.

5. Banks, Cyndi. Women in Prison: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003. p. 36.

6. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 12.

7. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 14.

8. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 16.

9. Dodge, L. (2005). Cottage system. In M. Bosworth (Ed.), Encyclopedia of prisons & correctional facilities. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Accessed at http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412952514.n77 on June 8, 2015. For more on the cottage model, see “Preparing Delinquent Women for the New Citizenship,” by Dr. Mary B. Harris, in The Delinquent Girl and Woman. New York: National Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor, 1919.

10. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 18 and Dodge, 2005.

11. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 22.

12. Women’s Prison Association of New York, p. 20-22.

13. Banks, 37.

Did Corsets Harm Women’s Health?

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

“It is difficult to imagine a slavery more senseless, cruel, or far-reaching in its injurious consequences than that imposed by fashion on civilized womanhood during the past generation. Her health has been sacrificed, and in countless instances her life has paid the penalty; while posterity has been dwarfed, maimed, and enervated, and in body, mind, and soul deformed at its behests. … [T]he tight lacing required by the wasp waists has produced generations of invalids and bequeathed to posterity suffering that will not vanish for many decades. By it, as has been pointed out by the authorities cited, every vital organ in the body has been seriously affected.”1

The title page of

The title page of “Fashion’s Slaves,” 1892. Click to enlarge.

So writes Benjamin Orange Flower in “Fashion’s Slaves,” a 32-page pamphlet published in 1892 as an appeal for women’s dress reform. One of the many causes Flower takes up is the corset, expressing his concern that the undergarment causes damage to internal organs. He continues, “If women will continue this destructive habit, the race must inevitably deteriorate.”1

Certainly, many women felt fettered by their restrictive clothing or there would never have been a dress reform movement. But just how damaging were corsets?

Not all corsets were alike. Tight lacing—cinching a corset to achieve a very small, or wasp, waist—began in the 1820s and 1830s after the advent of corsets made with metal eyelets. Medical professionals came out strongly against the practice.2 As shown in dramatic X-ray images in Ludovic O’Followell’s Le Corset, tightly laced corsets could change the shape of the rib cage,3 but there is no evidence that women had lower ribs removed to decrease their waists.4

Click on an image to view the gallery from Le Corset.

By measuring 19th-century corsets and dresses, historians have determined that women probably did not cinch their waists below 20 inches.4 (By comparison, today many U.S. stores list their XXS waist size at 23.5 inches.5,6) While many waists were still quite small, they may never have gone to the 14-inch extremes reported in women’s magazines, regardless of what fashion drawings depicted.4

A tightly laced corset could reduce lung capacity, irritate skin, and weaken back and chest muscles used to being supported.2 Whether tight lacing caused long-term health issues, like reduced pelvis size, constipation and digestive issues, and reproductive problems ranging from miscarriage to uterine prolapse, is more difficult to assess and remains unclear.2,4,7

Dr. Warner trade card, inside and out. An 1883 article from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine hailed Dr. Warner’s Coraline Corset as a model of comfort, superior to whalebone and horn corsets, and endorsed the model as a substitute for tight-laced models: “They have demonstrated that tight lacing is not essential to grace or beauty of form; and while impractical dress reformers have been preaching reforms which no one would adopt, Warner Brothers, by introducing properly fitting corsets, have given practical aid to the health and comfort of several million ladies.”8

Dr. Warner trade card, inside and out. An 1883 article from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine hailed Dr. Warner’s Coraline Corset as a model of comfort, superior to whalebone and horn corsets, and endorsed the model as a substitute for tight-laced models: “They have demonstrated that tight lacing is not essential to grace or beauty of form; and while impractical dress reformers have been preaching reforms which no one would adopt, Warner Brothers, by introducing properly fitting corsets, have given practical aid to the health and comfort of several million ladies.”8 Click to enlarge.

Many health problems once blamed on the corset are now clearly not the fault of the undergarment. Death caused by postpartum infections, or childbed fever, became relatively rare with the advent and spread of antiseptic techniques. With the discovery of the tubercle bacillus in 1882, it became clear that corsets did not cause the disease. Incidence of breast cancer did not decrease after corsets that did not compress the breasts came into vogue. As Gerhart S. Schwartz wrote in a 1979 Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine article, “one disease after another found an explanation which was unrelated to the corset.”9

Many of the doctors against tight lacing, including O’Followell, did not condemn corsets as a whole. Instead, they championed designs less tightly laced. Several pamphlets in our collection feature what they claim to be medically sound corsets.

In one, “La Grecque Corset as an Aid to the Physician and Surgeon,” printed circa 1911, the van Orden Corset Company advertises corsets that pull in the abdomen while reducing strain on abdominal muscles.10

Incorrect and correct pressure applied by corsets. In

Incorrect and correct pressure applied by corsets. In van Orden Corset Company, “La Grecque Corset as an Aid to the Physician and Surgeon,” circa 1911. Click to enlarge.

The pamphlet also features a maternity corset, “designed for a natural change of figure.”10 Corsets for maternity came on the market in the 1830s, and were often tightly laced.11 Yet the medical literature of the period does not discuss dangers of maternity corsets to the fetus or the mother,11 either due to taboos of the time or because negative impacts were rare or unreported. The maternity corset advertised by the van Orden Corset Company, from the early 1900s, was not tightly laced, taking advantage of new elasticized fabrics to expand as needed.10

La Grecque Maternity Corset. In

La Grecque Maternity Corset. In van Orden Corset Company, “La Grecque Corset as an Aid to the Physician and Surgeon,” circa 1911. Click to enlarge.

Corsets from a Surgical Standpoint,” from H. W. Gossard and Company (still in business today as a lingerie company), describes to physicians the benefits of prescribing their pliable front-laced corsets. These corsets, they claimed, improved posture and “preserve[d] the lines demanded by fashion, but without discomfort or injury.”12

Figures 5 and 6 in

Figures 5 and 6 in H. W. Gossard and Company, “Corsets from a Surgical Standpoint,” 1909. Click to enlarge.

Both of these pamphlets were published at the end of an era. The advent of elasticized fabric paved the way for the creation of an early bra, displayed by Herminie Cadolle at the Exposition Universelle in 1889.13 The corset’s final death knell was World War I. Women could not work in factories or the field while wearing restrictive clothing. Once household staff went to work for the war effort, upper-class women had no one to help them dress. Girdles and bras took over the corset’s supporting role, about 20 years after Flower’s calls for the end of the “destructive habit” of corsetry.1,13

References

1. Flower BO. Fashion’s slaves. Boston: Arena Pub. Co.; 1892.

2. Starr M. Vintage X-rays reveal the hidden effects of corsets. CNET. 2015. Available at: http://www.cnet.com/au/news/vintage-x-rays-reveal-the-hidden-effects-of-corsets. Accessed May 14, 2015.

3. O’Followell L. Le corset; histoire, médecine, hygiène. volume 2. Paris: Maloine; 1908.

4. Davis L. No, corsets did not destroy the health of Victorian women. io9. 2014. Available at: http://io9.com/no-corsets-did-not-destroy-the-health-of-victorian-wom-1545644060. Accessed May 14, 2015.

5. LOFT: Size Chart. Available at: http://www.anntaylor.com/catalog/sizeChartPopup.jsp. Accessed May 18, 2015.

6. Gap – women’s size chart. Available at: http://www.gap.com/browse/sizeChart.do?cid=2081. Accessed May 18, 2015.

7. Klingerman KM. Binding femininity: An examination of the effects of tightlacing on the female pelvis. 2006. Available at: http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04072006-115441/unrestricted/Klingerman_thesis.pdf. Accessed May 14, 2015.

8. Coraline: Its discovery and use in the manufacture of corsets. Godey’s Lady’s B Mag. 1883:468–469. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=nXA-AQAAMAAJ&pgis=1. Accessed May 18, 2015.

9. Schwarz GS. Society, physicians, and the corset. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1979;55(6):551–90. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1807654. Accessed May 14, 2015.

10. La Grecque corset as an aid to the physician and surgeon. New York: van Orden Corset Co.; 1911?

11. Summers L. Bound to please: A history of the Victorian corset. Oxford, New York: Berg; 2001.

12. Corsets from a surgical viewpoint. Chicago: Gossard Co.; 1909.

13. Fontanel B. Support and seduction: The history of corsets and bras. New York: Abrams; 1997.

The Doorstep of America

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892, a gateway to the United States for 700 immigrants on three steamships that first day.1 By its close in 1924, more than 12 million people had passed through to America.2

Landing at Ellis Island. From Quarantine Sketches. Click to enlarge.

Landing at Ellis Island. From “Quarantine Sketches.” Click to enlarge.

About 10 years after Ellis Island’s opening, The Maltine Company, a patent medicine manufacturer, released “Quarantine Sketches: Glimpses of America’s Threshold,” a pamphlet oddly juxtaposing photographs of Ellis Island with advertising for its products. The full pamphlet can be viewed online:

It begins with the text:

Hundreds of thousands—men, women, and children—pass over, or are detained at, the Doorstep of America every year. In this pamphlet are illustrated the various precautions which the Government takes to insure desirable material for future citizenship.

One such precaution described in the pamphlet was the two-day quarantine of all passengers arriving from Cuba between May 15 and October 1, an effort to prevent the spread of yellow fever in the United States. But for all other steerage passengers, the procedure was different.

The hospital at Ellis Island. From "Quarantine Sketches." Click to enlarge.

The hospital at Ellis Island. From “Quarantine Sketches.” Click to enlarge.

During the “Line Inspection,” United States Public Health Service physicians reviewed each entrant as he or she walked past. According to a 1917 article, the process typically took two to three hours.3 Those who passed the initial review continued on to the Immigration Service, “who take every means to see that he is not an anarchist, bigamist, pauper, criminal, or otherwise unfit.”3 Those who did not pass the inspection, about 15–20% of immigrants in 1917, were routed to the Public Health Service.3

From Mullan EH. "Mental examination of immigrants: Administration and Line Inspection at Ellis Island." Public Health Reports. 1917; 32(20): 734.

From Mullan EH. “Mental examination of immigrants: Administration and Line Inspection at Ellis Island.” Public Health Reports. 1917; 32(20): 734. Click to enlarge.

There, physicians assessed immigrants for “speech, pupil symptoms, goiters, palsies, atrophies, scars, skin lesions, gaits, and other physical signs,” along with “signs and symptoms of mental disease.”3 Some got sent to Ellis Island’s hospital (one of the best in the country), some to a detention room for further assessment.4

Filing past the doctors. From "Quarantine Sketches." Click to enlarge.

Filing past the doctors. From “Quarantine Sketches.” Click to enlarge.

Would-be immigrants could be deported for medical reasons—in 1898, 18% of deportations were medical; this rose to 69% in 1916.4 Even so, most immigrants entered the United States: in 1914, the peak year for deportations, only 2.5% of passengers were forced to return to their country of origin.4

Detention pen for immigrants awaiting deportation. From "Quarantine Sketches." Click to enlarge.

Detention pen for immigrants awaiting deportation. From “Quarantine Sketches.” Click to enlarge.

Today, you can visit Ellis Island without going through a Line Inspection. You can even book a Hard Hat Tour to see the previously closed-to-the-public hospital complex. Can’t make the trip? Take a look at Hyperallergic’s recent Ellis Island hospital portraits.

References

1. Landed on Ellis Island – new immigration buildings opened yesterday. A rosy-cheeked Irish girl the first registered — Room enough for all arrivals — Only railroad people find fault. New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9802E3D8163BEE33A25751C0A9679C94639ED7CF. Published January 2, 1892. Accessed November 19, 2014.

2. National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy. Ellis Island. Available at: http://www.nyharborparks.org/visit/elis-faq.html. Accessed November 24, 2014.

3. Mullan EH. Mental examination of immigrants: Administration and Line Inspection at Ellis Island. Public Health Reports. 1917;32(20):733–746. doi:10.2307/4574515. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1999723/. Accessed November 21, 2014.

4. Yew E. Medical inspection of immigrants at Ellis Island, 1891-1924. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1980;56(5):488–510. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1805119&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract. Accessed November 21, 2014.

The Talking Book Reads Itself to the Blind

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

“Suppose some malevolent power suddenly turned all the books in your library against you. Suppose every book within your reach slammed itself shut and lock its covers. Suppose every printed page were blank. What would it do to your life?”1

So begins “The Talking Book Reads Itself to the Blind,” a pamphlet in our collection likely printed in the early-to-mid 1940s.

In the late 1920s, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) began researching ways to provide audio books, or Talking Books, for people with vision loss. Through a partnership with RCA Victor and with government, Carnegie Corporation, and donor support, the Talking Book and Talking Book machine became viable in the 1930s.

In 1931, an act of Congress funded the establishment of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, part of the Library of Congress. Two years later the government allocated $10,000 for the distribution of Talking Books. By 1934, 17 states had ordered 5,000 Talking Book machines from the AFB; assured that Talking Book machines were sufficiently available, the National Library Service began producing and distributing Talking Books.2

This service was life-changing for many people with vision loss. In the pamphlet, the AFB estimated that three-quarters of the more than 9,200 blind people in the greater New York area did not know Braille. But the Talking Book machines were expensive—the AFB sold them at cost for $42. The AFB’s goal was to amass enough donations to bring 2,500 Talking Book machines to those who lacked the funds to buy one themselves.1

"Sensitive fingers quickly master the simple dials and controls which make the TALKING BOOK read more slowly or a little louder at their touch." From “The Talking Book Reads Itself to the Blind.”

“Sensitive fingers quickly master the simple dials and controls which make the TALKING BOOK read more slowly or a little louder at their touch.” From “The Talking Book Reads Itself to the Blind.”

By the time the AFB printed this booklet, a person with vision loss could apply to the Library of Congress or a local library for the blind to receive Talking Books by mail, free of charge. “Uncle Sam even pays the postage.”1 The AFB offered more than 20 books, and planned to add two to three new ones every month.1

The list of available books is a fun look at what titles were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Some items remain classics, while others have lost their luster over the years. Maybe it’s time to revive interest in Booth Tarkington’s Presenting Lily Mars or John Masefield’s The Bird of Dawning.

A list of available talking books advertised in "The Talking Book Reads Itself to the Blind." Click to enlarge.

A list of available Talking Books advertised in “The Talking Book Reads Itself to the Blind.” Click to enlarge.

For more on the history of Talking Books, visit the American Foundation for the Blind’s online exhibit.

References
1. The Talking book reads itself to the blind. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

2. American Foundation for the Blind. AFB Talking Book Exhibit. 2009. Available at: http://www.afb.org/talkingbook/home.asp. Accessed April 18, 2014.

Burn These Handkerchiefs

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

With cold and flu season upon us, it’s the perfect time to remind ourselves how to prevent the spread of disease.

A pamphlet from New York City’s Department of Health, likely printed in 1929, gives advice still relevant today, complete with some fabulous illustrations. The recommendations vary only slightly from those now given by the CDC.

Side one of the unfolded pamphlet.

Side two of the unfolded pamphlet.

Stay healthy!