Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a press conference courtesy the Library of Congress
For many of our readers, the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project’s name likely conjures up images of Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe or the Mighty Wonders of Aquasco, Maryland. But on this MLK Day 2017, we wanted to draw your attention to a few items from the collection with direct ties to Dr. King, especially his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.
Dr. King’s speech that day has rightfully become one of the best-known speeches in American history, its words inspiring the lives of activists, preachers, scholars and the general public for the better part of six decades. For black gospel artists recording in the years after 1963, Dr. King’s speech was fertile ground for creative expression, and they responded by creating songs that sampled portions of the speech’s recorded audio, drew inspiration from its words, or otherwise supported the Civil Rights Movement in the wake of is delivery.
I Have A Dream, recorded audio of Dr. King’s speech, 1963 on Gordy Records 45 RPM disc (Click player below for audio)
This disc embodies two of the ways black gospel artists responded to Dr. King’s message. The B-Side recording contains just under 4 minutes’ worth of Dr. King’s speech and ends with raucous applause after his immortal lines, “Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King by Rev. Franklin Fondel, ca. 1969 on Cross & Crown Records 45 RPM disc (Click player below for audio)
The Rev. Franklin Fondel recorded these tracks with his Fondel Gospel Singers in the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. Plaintively spoken over an accompanying organ track, Rev. Fondel spells out in rhyme both Dr. King’s life achievements and his impact on the work of the Civil Rights Movement, noting that King’s love “was the key that opened freedom’s door; no other man could have done more.”
I Believe Martin Luther King Made It Home by The All-Star Gospel Singers, ca. 1969 on EM-Jay Records 45 RPM disc (Click player below for audio)
This bluesy tribute to Dr. King features layered vocals, upright bass and electric guitar and a simple vocal refrain: “I believe Martin Luther King made it home, yes I do.”
In Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King by Claude Jeter, 1968 on HOB Records 45 RPM disc (Click player below for audio)
Recorded in the immediate aftermath of Dr. King’s death, Jeter’s spoken-word tribute to King’s life and work is set over accompaniment by electric bass, piano and organ.
As we reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy on this January Monday, those of us at the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project hope these songs – and the thousands of others in the project – will help bring a new perspective to his message of love, equality and freedom for all.
Oh, man. Let all that mid-90’s goodness settle in. It’s so perfect, it’s causing a Pavlovian response in my mind where everything tastes like Surge and smells like CK One and is swathed in flannel.
The context on this piece is that, in celebration of Baylor’s sesquicentennial year (1995), a fundraising packet was sent to previous donors and members of the Sesquicentennial Associates group encouraging their support of a major fundraising campaign. The video – on VHS, natch – was included along with a standard form letter.
A friend at the Mayborn Museum Complex, Trey Crumpton, found it in their archives and gave it a watch. It was important to his team because it mentions the goal of raising money for a new home for the Strecker Museum, which was then housed in the basement of the Sid Richardson Building. It was important to OUR team because, as the digital repository for the University Archives, it is our responsibility to preserve, provide access to and promote resources like this.
Plus, it’s really, really rad.
Let’s break it down from start to finish, shall we?
First off, that’s not legendary voiceover actor Don LaFontaine (a.k.a. the “in a world” movie trailer guy, a.k.a. “Thunder Throat”). I KNOW, RIGHT? I asked my friends in university marketing if they could find out who it was, and Brenda Tacker dug into her personal archive to come up with a name: John William Galt of the Dallas area. Yes, the V/O was done by a guy whose name is synonymous with a character in an Ayn Rand novel. And that’s just within the first five seconds.
Football Throw Fake Out Kid
C’mon, kid, we all know you wanted to throw the ball; why’d you choke? Sweet “bear paws on shoulders” jersey, though.
THAT HAIRCUT THO
That is the bowliest of bowl cuts, a true paragon of the Moe Howard School of 90’s Haircuts. (This coming from a guy who once rocked the George Clooney/Caesar Cut for a BIT too long past its expiration date, so I’m able to cast a few stones here.)
You have more computing power in your smart phone than that entire lab did 20 years ago.
“We’re walking, we’re walking, we’re walking … ”
And that’s a whole ozone layer’s worth of hairspray, too.
It’s Like Watching A Blacksmith Train His Apprentice!
No one under 25 knows how to develop and print their own photos anymore. But that is one tastefully lit darkroom shot!
Dead Things In The Basement
“Any ideas how we can make our natural history museum less creepy?”
“Stop making people go underground to see mounted skeletons?”
Bold Vision, Avant-Garde Scene Framing
“See the artist in his natural habitat, as framed through the slats of his studio’s staircase!”
A Democrat Governor of Texas!
Oh, look, it’s alumna and former governor Ann Richards. That’s one pink ensemble, Madame Governor!
All He’s Missing Is A Member’s Only Jacket
Man, Bugle Boy. That takes me back.
The Best On-Screen Graphics Money Could Buy
Take a good look at that logo, cause now it’s reserved for use with materials related to the President’s Office exclusively!
Those are just a few of my favorite moments found in this 7-minute treasure, but let us know if there’s something here that really brought you back to the Clinton Era. And, as a bonus, if you saw yourself somewhere in the video, tell us and we’ll add your name to this post (if you give permission, of course; you might have a deep-seeded aversion to people knowing about your questionable fashion choices)!
You can view the entire record for this video in our Digital Collections here. Special thanks to Lori Fogleman, Brenda Tacker, Trey Crumpton and everyone involved in making, saving and unconditionally loving this video.
The Texas State Lunatic Asylum in Austin ca. 1875, courtesy the Austin Public Library. Dr. George W. Truett ca. 1940, image via Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX.
George W. Truett was an unrivaled master of the preacher’s art for telling an engaging story, for drawing parallels between the Bible’s cast of characters and his contemporary audience, and for recalling passages of Scripture at the drop of a mic. But even he wasn’t above falling prey to passing along misinformation, and in at least two recorded instances in the early 1940s, Truett used a “fact” he believed to be true to help illustrate the points of his sermons. Normally, this wouldn’t be worth pointing out, but the nature of the “fact” is so striking, so strange that it seemed like a fun source for this week’s blog post.
“We are told the alarming thing …”
In the middle of his May 4, 1941 sermon on “The Cause and Cure for Discouragement,” Truett underscores his point about the body’s need for rest and diversion with a story of Jesus encouraging his disciples to take some time to eat and get some rest (likely from Mark 6:31) with an eye-opening statistic. (Click below to listen to the archival audio.)
Truett tells his flock that going about life in a “treadmill way” without distractions or goals (“horizons” and “outside views” in his parlance) leads to insanity. His exact words: “We are told the alarming thing that the wives of tenant farmers […] more of them in proportion are in the insane asylums than any other group in the country.”
That’s a mighty bold assertion, especially in a time when in-patient mental health treatment – a.k.a. a trip to the “insane asylum” – would have carried major social stigmas and a good possibility of taking part in new treatments like electroconvulsive (electroshock) therapy, two prospects that would have been enough to deter most “tenant farmers’ wives” to work very hard to avoid such a trip.
This 1941 assertion wasn’t the only time Truett would use this story. In a sermon on July 5, 1942 on the subject “‘Hope Thou In God’,” Truett relays the same statistic, with a slightly different wording.
Here, a year after its first appearance, Truett hedges his bets a bit with his introduction: “You saw that announcement some time ago, widely heralded, that the largest number of people in our insane asylums in the country [are] [t]he wives of tenant farmers.” He then repeats his assertion that the reason for this is the “treadmill of daily experience, no new visions, no new horizons, no fresh challenges.”
In both sermons, Truett draws a direct – albeit tenuous – connection between the lack of “fresh horizons” and “monotony” and the onset of madness in the wives of tenant farmers. He does so by relying on having been “told” an alarming thing and on an “announcement some time ago.” Is it possible to track down the source of this information, and, if so, to verify or refute it?
The Tenant Farmer of Truett’s Day
Before we examine the “widely heralded” announcement in depth, it’s important to take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the kind of person about whom Truett is speaking. When we think of poor farmers in this era, one series of images comes immediately to mind: those of the “Migrant Mother” taken by Dorothea Lang in 1936.
It is important to note that the family pictured here is not a tenant farming family; they are explicitly identified as “migrant” farmers, or farm laborers who move from place to place, working the harvest of each season depending on the type of crop and location where it was planted. They are transient by nature. A tenant farmer, by contrast, usually worked on land leased from a landowner, using tools and labor he supplied himself (as opposed to a sharecropper, whose only contribution was his labor; the tools and land both belonged to the landowner).
Tenant farmers, therefore, could be said to occupy a rung of the agricultural ladder a couple of steps higher than migrant farmers and sharecroppers, but their lot in life was not much better. They were still beholden to a landowner, gave up large portions of their profit (or harvest) in exchange for the right to work someone else’s land, and the likely drudgery and routine of their daily life was occasionally punctuated by the dramatic fear that came from a failed crop. In short, their lives were difficult, day-to-day affairs: the perfect setting for many to develop crippling mental illnesses.
Truett’s audience would have been very familiar with the kind of person to whom he referred when he described a “tenant farmer’s wife.” In an era when a large percentage of people still worked the land for a living, and having come out of the Great Depression (and with a World War looming on the horizon), Truett’s parishioners would have had no problem conjuring up the mental image of an overworked mother, living on an isolated farm somewhere in the hinterlands, nothing to look forward to except the addition of more children to the family and a routine existence built on repeating the same tasks day after day in a race to avoid destitution. It is not a pretty picture on its own, but where did the added specter of mental illness enter in?
The Possible Nexus of the Story (and its Refutation)
Thanks to a couple of clues in Truett’s sermons – like the use of the phrases “some time ago” and “widely heralded” – it is possible to conclude that Truett is drawing upon something that was popular in the general consciousness, at least enough so that his audience would be more likely to nod in recollection at his story than to stare uncomprehendingly at the reference. But we must keep in mind that Truett had been preaching for the better part of five decades at the time of these recordings, so his frame of reference for stories like this is likely much longer than those of the average person in the sanctuary that day. Truett had also spent a great deal of time over his career going to remote areas like farms and cattle ranches and preaching to the people there, so the idea of isolated women suffering mental breakdowns would have likely been more familiar to him than to other pastors.
Thanks to the power of Google Books, we were able to track down what may be the source of this story. In 1874, an edition of The Farmer’s Magazine was printed that included a letter written by a Rev. John Storer. Published under the headline “The English Labourer in Canada,” the letter writer sets out to support and refute the claims of a Mr. Arch, who wrote an article on the life of a typical laborer (farmer) in British Canada. Along the way, Storer writes the following:
I have been credibly informed that a large proportion of the female inmates of the lunatic asylums are farmers’ wives, whose reason has been impaired by incessant toil and anxiety of mind, and this is notoriously the case in the States, as the statistics of the New York State Lunatic Asylum and many others will show.”
Setting aside the fact that Storer cites no authority for this assertion (merely saying that he has been “credibly informed”), the wording of this sentence almost perfectly mirrors the kind of language Truett would use in his sermon almost 70 years later.
This article – or something like it – must have been widely disseminated enough to necessitate a refutation, and it got one in a big way courtesy Dr. George G. Groff. In 1908, Groff read a paper at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture titled, “Who Go Mad? Insanity Not a Rural Disease.” In it, he gives us a clue to the pervasive nature of the “tenant farmers’ wives in the asylum” trope.
Frequently, views widely held, and zealously propagated by earnest writers and speakers, have yet no basis whatever in fact. Such is the belief that insanity is especially a disease which attacks people who live on farms and in small country villages. […]
The statement is varied in many other forms: ‘Two-thirds of the inmates of our lunatic asylums are farmers’ wives’; ‘Statistics positively show that the largest group in our insane asylums are farmers’ wives.’ A popular lecturer at our Chautauquan assemblies repeated the same thing over and over again during the past summer. The above statements have been made during the year by two of the best known American women of letters, probably without their ever thinking for a moment that they are without any foundation.
Groff also says that the women’s tendency to “this dreary state of things” is not from “want of money, but want of opportunity and the must-be-so-because-it-always-has-been-so attitude which limits her horizon.” (Emphasis added.) He goes on to refute the assertion of major numbers of farmers’ wives in Pennsylvania’s asylums by citing actual patient totals for the state asylums from “recent reports,” including the occupation and family status of male and female patients alike. Of 1,653 married women patients, 38 were either wives or widows of farmers, for a total of 4% of the population – far below the 2/3 cited by popular speakers of the day.
Finally, Groff makes his own assertion as to the improved health (mental and physical) enjoyed by people who live in the country as opposed to the early 20th century’s crowded cities.
There is no isolation. There is freedom, splendid freedom from servile care where the wind blows free over range and forest, and if the multitude of humble bread getters in the cities could only be brought to realize the advantages of country life, the tenements would show a surprising depopulation. In the country, the rich find greatest recreation and the extremely poor a better living than they could glean from the world elsewhere.
All of this is not to take away from Dr. Truett’s main point, however. People need a life of fulfilled expectations, of new challenges and things to aspire toward, if they are to truly flourish. They are to take time to rest their minds and bodies, to seek God’s direction for their life and to apply themselves toward the betterment of their fellow man. And Truett can also be granted a certain measure of grace in his citing something that was taken for common knowledge in the early 1940s. After all, it was highly unlikely that he would have read the General Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for 1908, and he didn’t have the advantage of typing the phrase “tenant farmers wives insane asylum” into a search tool that scours trillions of pages’ worth of data in nanoseconds.
Still, while it may be an effective public speaking tool to take two minutes to paint a vivid mental image – like a desperate farmer’s wife sinking slowly and inexorably into madness, alone and overwhelmed on the fringes of a wild and hostile continent – the facts in this case simply don’t bear out Truett’s thesis. Fortunately, his primary source material for the rest of his sermons – the Holy Bible – is something he had quoted reliably for his entire adult life, and he uses it to great effect for the remaining 30 minutes of each of these preaching masterworks, preserved forever in vinyl and digital format for the world to hear.
You can hear the two sermons mentioned in this post, as well as dozens more, in the George W. Truett Sermons Collection via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.
Sometimes inspiration strikes in strange ways. Take this week’s blog post, for example: while conducting a simple search in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections for terms related to the new year – New Year, January, cold as a well digger’s elbow, etc. – I came across a piece from the Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music titled, In January I Love Mabel.
“In January I Love Mabel” cover, ca. 1909
“That sounds interesting,” I thought to myself, so I clicked into the item and checked out the lyrics.
I’ve a loving disposition, I’ve put sorrow on the shelf
I believe in that old maxim “Love your neighbor as yourself”
Now, it happens that my neighbors are a bunch of girls divine
And their views upon the subject are identical to mine
But to love them all together would I’m sure create a fuss
So to head off squally weather, I’ve arranged to love them thus.
In January I love Mabel, in February I love Lou,
In March, little Fay, in April and May, I cuddle both Irene and Sue
In June and in July I’ve Rose and Lily, in August and September Flo and Doll,
October and November, Jess and Bess, but please remember
In December I’m not stingy, so I love them all
Quite a very good arrangement, I have found my plan to be
When of number two I’m weary, bliss I find in number three
Then again the girl for Summer, not to speak of Spring of Fall
In the dreary days of Winter simply will not do at all
Girls are more are less like flowers, at their best a month or so
I have studied well the subject and I think I ought to know
Hoo boy, that’s a lot to take in.
Leaving aside the blatantly lunkheaded (and borderline misogynistic) lyrics, it conjures up a number of questions.
1.) Who is the protagonist of this piece? What makes him think he’s so special as to have a different lady for every month of the year?
2.) Was this meant to be a serious piece (surely not!) or is it an example of early 1900s satire, humor or light comedy stylings?
3.) Why can’t a girl who’s perfectly acceptable in the summer be found adequate in the winter?
4.) Just where in the world did this piece come from?
While the first three questions may require a little digging, it was the answer to the fourth that led me down a rabbit trail with no good answers and became the basis for this post.
Ward and Vokes and The Promoters
A quick glance at the cover for the piece reveals it to be part of a stage production called The Promoters, created by the comedy duo of Ward and Vokes. According to a post on the Performing Arts Archive, Hap Ward and Harry Vokes were vaudeville performers whose comedy show partnership lasted more than thirty years. The men would have been in their early forties in 1909, the year The Promoters would likely have debuted.
As is common with many, many pieces from the Spencer Collection, In January I Love Mabel featured an inset on the cover that lists other pieces from The Promoters’ score, including tracks called They All Started to Move, My Sunbeam Maid, If I Could Only Find A Little Girl Like You and a somewhat befuddling piece called Betsy Bolivar.
It turns out, we’ve added a scan of Betsy Bolivar to the Spencer Collection, so perhaps a quick recounting of its lyrics will give us some clues to the nature of The Promoters. To wit:
Betsy B. was young and simple, Betsy was a dunce
All the boys, on viewing Betsy, fell in love at once
One she met, who pleased her greatly till in jest he spoke,
Said “my dear, it would appear, you’re not quite city broke.”
Oh, you Betsy, Betsy Bolivar,
Tho’ you’ve never been out at night, You’ll get along all right, all right.
For oh, you Betsy, What a Queen you are,
“I may be a rube, but I’m no boob,” said Betsy Bolivar.
Betsy wandered to the city, where she rubber’d ’round,
City chaps were different from the boys at home she found,
Ev’ry day it seemed to her she stood for, so to speak,
More falls than you could see at old Niagara in a week
Oh, you Betsy, Betsy Bolivar,
Tho’ you’ve never been out at night, You’ll get along all right, all right.
For oh, you Betsy, What a Queen you are,
“For a girl so young I’m pretty well stung,” Said Betsy Bolivar.
And it goes on like this for three more verses. Take a look for yourself!
So Betsy’s not a much more appealing character than our nameless paramour from In January, I Love Mabel. Her main attributes seem to be that she’s a pretty, dark-haired girl who’s not too bright but whose physical charms are more than ample to snag the attention of a baseball pitcher … until she uses “bleacherine” to dye her “koko-covering” (hair) and it turns out a “lovely shade of green.”
All of this plays pretty handily into stereotypes found throughout the early 20th century stage pieces found in the Spencer Collection, particularly the light comedies, comedic operas and vaudeville productions. What makes it more interesting is that the music for both pieces was composed by Anne Caldwell, a prolific writer of Broadway and popular music who happened to be married to James O’Dea – the lyricist for both pieces from The Promoters.
What does all this mean? Probably not much. After all, it’s a play so unimportant that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. (In a time when events as obscure as the Kentucky meat shower have entries, it takes a lot to be so disposable.) But wouldn’t it be fun to imagine what the general outline of the story must have been, based solely on the lyrics to these two pieces (and the titles of the remaining five)? Here’s my take!
We open on a young man dressed in the height of early 1900’s fashion as he sits on a bench in a crowded city scene. He bemoans his lack of success in finding a suitable mate and sings a song of lament to the cover of his favorite magazine: an image of a raven-haired young woman of stunning beauty (If I Could Only Find A Little Girl Like You). After his song is finished, he realizes he is running late for an appointment and begins to run through the crowded streets toward a streetcar stand. Just as he arrives, the crowd around the stand parts (They All Started To Move) and our hero sees a woman standing inside a departing streetcar. She is beautiful, with dark hair and arresting blue eyes. He is immediately smitten but dismayed as the streetcar pulls away before he can climb aboard.
The scene opens on the woman from the streetcar as she walks through the door of her small but stylish apartment. She, too, is suffering from a case of amorous upset, but her particular malady is that she still pines for a boy from her hometown who came to the big city years ago and with whom she has lost contact. As she swoops around her apartment, she belts out a song of lament (Because I Love You Truly) and dreams of the day she will reunite with her lost love somewhere on the streets of the Big City, far from her small-town roots.
After her big number is finished, she slips behind a changing screen and reemerges dressed for her shift at the local small appliance manufacturer where she works the midnight shift while hoping to break into show business as a model or actress. The scene changes, and the girl is seen working a shift on a production line, where she fits covers onto electric toasters. The other women on the line sing a silly song about the girl who is too pretty to work in manufacturing (My Sunbeam Maid), but she is oblivious to the fact that they are singing about her! The scene ends with the girl leaving the factory at the end of her shift. As she walks through the factory gates, she is spotted by an unscrupulous talent agent (one of the promoters of the show’s title) who recruits her to work a job as a model for a local clothing store. The girl gleefully accepts the offer and runs off-stage toward her apartment.
It is three years later, and the girl – whose name is Betsy Bolivar – has become a world-famous actress on the stage. She is known for her stunning good looks and goofy demeanor, but she is still brokenhearted over the loss of connection with her hometown beau. In a neat bit of staging, we see Betsy sitting at a dressing table backstage for her latest big show, while in the audience is none other than our lovestruck young man from Act I!
As Betsy primps backstage, the young man sings a song to his companions about the world-renowned beauty who will grace the stage in mere moments: Betsy Bolivar. As he sings, Betsy comes onto the stage and performs a comedic dance number to her eponymous tune. The young man is transfixed: it’s the girl from the streetcar, all those years ago! He still hasn’t forgotten her; in fact, he’s more in love than ever, and he takes the opportunity to sneak backstage after the show and tell her so by means of a ridiculous song about his vain search to find a suitable companion (In January I Love Mabel), which is obviously a poor replacement for a lifelong attachment to Betsy, his one true love.
And now, the big twist: it turns out the young man is none other than the boy from Betsy’s hometown, gone all these years to “make it big in the Big City!” Betsy is delighted, and the two instantly reconnect as they sing a duet reprise of Because I Love You Truly. The scene ends with Betsy and the young man in a fond embrace as the curtain falls on their reunited love. Aaaaaaaand, scene!
If all of that sounds farfetched, I encourage you to go read the synopses for practically any boy-meets-girl stage production from the period and you’ll see it’s not entirely off base.
And now it’s your turn: if you’ve got an alternative storyline for our heroes from In January, I Love Mabel and Betsy Bolivar, leave them in the comments below. You’re a creative bunch; don’t let me down!
“A Graphic Story of The Boom, The Crash and The Recovery of American Business, 1912-1936” by W.K. Cadman ca. 1936
From time to time, materials cross our desks that we just don’t have much information on, and we like to turn to you, our readers, for help. The above image is one such example, and we hope there’s at least one of you out there who could help us shed a little light on this mystery graphic from the mid-1930s.
The Facts As We Know Them
Here’s what we know about this item:
It was created circa 1936 by an artist named W.K. Cadman.
It offers a very detailed examination of the ups and downs of the American economy for a 20-year period dating from before World War I to the mid-Depression years.
It is not an unbiased examination of the facts. It skewers Republican Herbert Hoover’s claim that his administration’s policies would put a “chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” by switching the verbiage to claim that after the 1929 stock market crash, there were “two cars going to pot and the chickens [were] in the garage.” This leads us to believe the graphic was distributed by or at least commissioned based on the ideals of the Democratic Party.
It was donated to the W.R. Poage Legislative Library as part of the papers of Caso March, a Baylor alumnus and three-time candidate for Texas governor (1946, 1948, 1950). In the 1930s, March was an attorney for the Federal Power Commission and a member of the Supreme Court of Texas.
Its size and general appearance lead us to believe it was either an insert in or was a supplemental to a newspaper.