Monthly Archives: February 2012

(Digital Collections) Spring Hats, Julius Caesar and Marriage Proposals: Leap Day Through the Front Pages of the “Lariat”, 1904-1988

Today is February 29th, which of course means it’s Leap Day, the extra day added to the calendar every four years to make up for the fraction of an extra day we experience beyond the standard 24 hours. Over the course of four years, those fractions add up to another full day, so we add it to the end of February, and the world celebrates with news reports of people who only celebrate a birthday every four years.


But a quick review of the front pages of the Baylor “Lariat” dating back to February 29, 1908 show a diverse range of stories penned by Baylor students on Leap Days past. On that day in the early 20th century, it appears Leap Day didn’t even rank a front-page mention, but the ad in the lower corner certainly wouldn’t look out of place today in that it promotes Spring fashions on a date still firmly in winter’s grip.


Fast forward to 1928, where our first mention of leap year is made by an anonymous “Lariat” scribe. They posit the idea that people with Leap Day birthdays only celebrate every four years and “consequently they never do get very old.” Unfortunately for the Bears of 1928, the author notes that there were no students listed with February 29th birthdays.


Bill Donoho, who penned this cheeky review of the tradition of women proposing to men on Leap Day, used the real names of Baylor students to voice fictional (one assumes) opinions on the subject. Reponses range from wholeheartedly embracing the notion to one male’s assertion that only an examination of a woman’s “bank account” would lead to his accepting such a proposition.  A review of the 1940 “Round-Up” reveals photos for three people mentioned in the post: Dorothy Kelly, Mildred Adams, and Joe White, seen below.

1968Kay Wheeler’s report from Leap Day 1968 mentions the women-proposing-to-men trope, but she goes deeper by asking Jack Thornton, Data Processing Director, to run the “student data cards” through his computer to see if any of Baylor’s enrolled students had a February 29th birthday. The shocking answer: no. She ends her piece with a rather deadpan response from Dr. Walter Williams, a professor of math, who noted that “February was the shortest month, it’s the one that got [the extra day].”


In 1984 the review of Leap Day’s history takes a decidedly scientific (and non-humorous) turn, reviewing Julius Caesar’s decree in 46 B.C. to reform the Roman calendar, but then noting that the 365.25 year was “a little [sic] longer than the solar year of 365.2422 days, a difference accounting to 0.0078 of a day per year, or about three days every four centuries.”

Regardless the decade, if you’d like to read more of these Leap Day issues from the 20th century years of the “Lariat”, click on the links below, or head to and click on the Baylor “Lariat” collection to start your search for whatever makes you leap for joy.

View the “Lariat” for the following Leap Days:

February 29th, 1908
February 29th, 1928
February 29th, 1940
February 29th, 1968
February 19th, 1984

Visit the Texas Collection online at for more priceless Texana. 

(Digital Collections) Hidden in Plain Sight: Looking Closer at the Diamond Jubilee, Baylor University, 1920

Baylor University was in the mood to celebrate in 1920, for that was the year of its diamond jubilee. Seventy-five years earlier, in the Washington County town of Independence, the university was established and named for Judge R.E.B. Baylor; the ensuing decades had seen it grow into a thriving institution in a new city, Waco.

This photograph was taken on June 16, 1920, Commencement Day for the proud new graduates. The scene is Burleson Quadrangle, a tree-covered swath of campus bounded by Carroll Library (at left), Georgia Burleson Hall (middle left), Old Main (middle right) and Carroll Science Building (right). The photographer’s perspective is centered on the statue of Rufus C. Burleson, crafted by Italian-Texan sculptor Pompeo Coppini. (Coppini’s work can be seen in the statuary of another famous figure from Baylor’s past: the seated statue of Judge Baylor located in front of Waco Hall is also his handiwork.)

As with the YMBL panoramic we examined in an earlier post, it is worth looking deeper into this photograph for glimpses of the vignettes taking place before the unblinking eye of the photographer’s camera. We note from the inscription that the photo was signed by Fred Gildersleeve, indicating his studio took the shot and developed the print, but evidence we’ll outline below indicates that it may have been Gildersleeve’s assistant who actually captured this particular image.

But we begin our journey in the upper left, where the dome of Carroll Library peeks out above the treeline. No one who saw the building after February 11, 1922 would ever see this sight again, for a massive fire would severely damage the building on that fateful day, and the reconstructed Carroll Library would not feature a restored dome.

Near the Burleson statue we see this gathering of women and children enjoying a summer day on the quad. The women are all wearing hats, including one that features a row of flowers encircling the crown (second from right). Even the youngest among them is sporting her Sunday best, with clean, bright dresses and fancy hats in evidence on the children playing in the grass in the foreground.

The tower of Old Main looms in the middle background, and a faint “’15” can be seen emblazoned on its shingled surface. This is the fading evidence of a tradition that for many years led graduating seniors to paint the numbers of their graduating year (in this case, 1915) on the towers of Old Main. It is a testament to the long-lasting nature of the class of ‘15’s choice of paint that it is still evident after five years exposed to Texas’ notoriously mercurial weather.

This scene in the background at right, near the steps to Carroll Science Building, reminds us of the purpose for the gathering: graduates in caps and gowns gather with friends and family to celebrate the newly minted alums’ big achievements.


Lastly, seated in the shade of a tree near the far right of the photograph, is a man wearing a striped shirt. Behind him is a camera on a tripod, and the figure has his hand to his chin as if pondering the best way to capture the scenes playing out in front of him. From his posture, trademark cap, and profile, it appears that this is Fred Gildersleeve, former jockey and master of the photographic art. Gildersleeve had been snapping photos in Waco since at least 1907, and over the course of a half-century he captured some of the most iconic images of a Waco transitioning between frontier cotton town and major Texas city. “Gildy” employed assistants over the course of his career, and since it appears he is the man in the chair, it seems logical to assume that we have an assistant to thank for capturing this view of the Diamond Jubilee Commencement Day’s celebration.

(1) Images excerpted from an original panoramic photograph from the Texas Collection; images enhanced for Web viewing.

To view the original online, visit

Visit the Texas Collection online at for more priceless Texana.

(Digital Collections) “How do I love thee?” Let Us Digitize the Ways!

They were written between two of the most famous names in Victorian poetry, spanning a famous courtship, an elopement to Italy, and a widower’s final years. They were preserved by two institutions of higher education in the United States, one a private liberal arts college in the Northeast, the other a private Baptist university in Texas. And now, for the first time, they are available online in the same digital collection for the world to experience.

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are two of the most recognizable names in the world of poetry. Their work – like the partial line in our title, which comes from “Sonnets from the Portuguese” Number 43 by Elizabeth – is quoted by English majors and schoolchildren alike. Their storied romance is celebrated to this day as the uniting of two kindred souls brought together through mutual love of the poetic muse. And over the course of their lives, they wrote thousands of letters: to each other, to family members, to admirers and casual acquaintances alike.

Now, thanks to a collaboration between Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library and Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, we are excited to announce that 1,411 letters written by the Brownings are available online as a collection called The Browning Letters. This is the first time the digitized letters have been made available to the public via the Internet, and they represent the largest single digital repository of Browning correspondence in the world.

The Baylor-Wellesley Collaboration

The project came about through an interest expressed by Baylor’s Dean of Libraries and VP of Information Technology, Pattie Orr. Dean Orr, who came to Baylor after serving as director of user services at Wellesley, knew of the holdings of Browningiana at both institutions and initiated a conversation between the two that focused on creating a collaborative collection. After extensive talks between both parties, the agreement was made to include images of Wellesley’s letters in a digital collection created, hosted, and preserved at Baylor.

Wellesley’s major contribution to the collection – 573 letters – contain what are called the “Browning love letters,” a series of letters exchanged between the two poets from the earliest days of their courtship. In fact, the first letter written by Robert to Elizabeth, which begins with the line “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,” is included in the collection, as is the final letter from their courtship, written by Elizabeth to Robert just prior to their embarkation to Italy in 1846. Wellesley submitted preservation copies of the letters to Baylor’s Digitization Projects Group, where staff and graduate students reformatted them into items for display and access in CONTENTdm, the software that houses and displays Baylor’s Digital Collections.

Elizabeth Barrett’s first letter to Robert Browning, January 11, 1845. Courtesy Wellesley College, Margaret Clapp Library, Special Collections via the Browning Letters Collection

Baylor’s Browningiana contribution to the collection has so far included more than 800 letters written by Robert Browning. Drawn from the Browning correspondence held at ABL, the letters represent almost one third of their total collection of approximately 2,800 letters. Rita S. Patteson, Director of Armstrong Browning Library, chose to begin the digitization of Baylor’s letters with the Robert Browning correspondence; the plan is to eventually digitize all of the letters at ABL, including those to Robert Browning and those written by and to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The Digitization Projects Group’s Efforts

For the staff at the DPG, a great deal of time and effort has gone into image reformatting, digitization, data management, and online display configuration for the 1,411 letters available on day one of public release. More than 200 combined staff and graduate student hours have been dedicated to the project since December, and the DPG has committed to preserving 340GB of data for the first phase of the project, with an estimated 1.2TB of total file space necessary to finish the project.

With every image in the collection requiring a complex blend of digitization, image editing, metadata cataloging and quality control checks, the investment in this project has been substantial, but the importance of giving worldwide access to these invaluable resources is of great importance to Browning scholars and casual fans alike. The team of DPG staff, graduate assistants and undergraduate students for The Browning Letters project included:

  • Darryl Stuhr, Manager of Digitization Projects: Project lead
  • Allyson Riley, Digitization Technology Support Specialist: Digitization and data mgmt.
  • Eric Ames, Curator of Digital Collections: Contextual research and user interface
  • Austin Schneider, Library Information Specialist III: Metadata cataloging
  • Hannah Mason, Rachel Carson and Natalie Fiegel, graduate assistants: Digitization and metadata
  • Katy Poteat and Kayla Zollinger, undergraduate student workers: Metadata mgmt.

The project team envisions future partners in the Browning Letters collection, as there are an estimated 11,500 pieces of Browning correspondence scattered across dozens of institutions around the world. The processes and systems put in place by the DPG during this phase of the project will ensure future collaborators have a smooth integration of their materials into the growing digital collection.

Digitizing and making the letters available is a huge step in the process, but we hope to unveil additional functionality for this collection in the near future. For now, we invite you to take a moment to discover the timeless story of Robert and Elizabeth’s lives as revealed through their voluminous correspondence.

View The Browning Letters at and visit for more information on the Brownings, their works, and the Victorian era.

(Digital Collections) A Friday Afternoon Lagniappe: Sketches from a Reconstruction Era Diary

We’ve got a big blog announcement going live on Tuesday morning, but until then, we present a lagniappe (from the Creole for “a little something extra”) from one of our current projects. The sketches below were found in the margins of a Reconstruction era diary kept by Henrietta Hardin Carter Harrison, the wife of the owner of Tehuacana Retreat Plantation, located near Waco. The diaries date between 1868 and 1877, a time of turmoil, uncertainty and transformational change for the states of the former Confederacy.

Mrs. Harrison’s diaries record daily weather conditions, the comings and goings of local personages and other family-related information. But like most of us when we’re trying to do something productive, her mind must have wandered, leaving her idle hands to sketch these quaint illustrations in the margins of her journals. Called “marginalia,” these seemingly dashed-off additions to the main entries in a journal or diary often reveal glimpses of the diarist’s personality. In this case, Mrs. Harrison showed an aptitude for sketching flowers, butterflies and the phases of the moon. Enjoy!

View the diaries of Henrietta Hardin Carter Harrison in the Texas Collections – Selections section of our Digital Collections.

Visit the Texas Collection online at for more priceless Texana.

(Digital Collections) Tools of the Trade: The Specialized Scanners of the RDC

Following an encounter with one of the Dark Knight’s trademark high-tech gadgets in Tim Burton’s 1989 film “Batman,” the Joker famously quipped, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” We get a similar question – thankfully, from people of better moral character – when people see the specialized scanners the Riley Digitization Center uses to carry out the digitization projects we undertake every day.

So let us take this opportunity to address your burning questions about how our talented team creates digital versions of objects as small as a pocket hymnal, as lengthy as a 1,000-page shipping manifest, or as large as an official portrait of a past Baylor University president.

 Graduate assistant Hannah Mason digitizes Apollo 11 mission art for an exhibit in the Poage Legislative Library

The Jack-of-All-Trades: the Zeutschel Omniscan 10000

Our tour starts with the oldest of our three specialized scanners, the Zeutschel Omniscan 10000. With a name like “Zeutschel,” you’ve probably guessed it can only come from one place: Germany. Designed to handle rare and fragile books with care and precision, the Zeutschel can accommodate items up to 17 in. x 24 in. in size. It is most effective with bound items, as its adjustable platform allows books with damaged spines to be laid open for scanning without applying undue pressure that could cause further damage.

In addition to its skillful handling of fragile books, we’ve also found the Zeutschel quite adept at processing items from the Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. The scanner can be configured to create preservation and access images of both a left and right page from a music score in a single pass, a much more efficient way to scan than imaging one page at a time.

The Speed Demon: the Kirtas APT-2400

For bound items, there’s no faster solution in the RDC than the Kirtas APT-2400. This automatic page turning book imager (it uses cameras to snap an image as opposed to a progressive scan, hence the term “book imager” and not “scanner”) utilizes a vacuum head mechanism to turn the book’s pages before clamps hold the pages open and the cameras image both left and right pages simultaneously. Sound complex? The video below may help clarify things a bit.

Kirtas APT in action via Kirtas Technologies and YouTube

The Kirtas has been a workhorse for the RDC, with more than half a million pages digitized in just over two years. From bound oral history transcripts to the only copy of a shipping company’s manifests, the Kirtas makes large scale digitization of bound materials fast, efficient and safe.

The “Big Guy”: the Cruse CS285st large format scanner

When it comes to the “big iron” of the RDC, the Cruse large format scanner is second to none. With effective scanning parameters of 5 ft. x 8 ft., the Cruse is ideally suited to digitizing large format items like maps, framed works of art on canvas, and newspapers. In fact, the Cruse was in heavy rotation for the nearly year-long process of digitizing the full run of the Baylor Lariat, the campus newspaper that dates back to 1900. A Cruse operator could place up to ten issues of the Lariat on the scanning platform at a time, creating up to 20 images in a single pass.

Above is an image of an issue of the Lariat as it passes under the Cruse’s light rig. The UV-filtered lights provide even lighting across the item’s surface and create no unnecessary levels of light on items that may be photosensitive. In this way, the DPG digitized all 13 official portraits of Baylor’s storied line of university presidents, including the familiar face of Pat M. Neff (president from 1932-1947).

Official portrait of Pat M. Neff, former Texas govenor and Baylor University president

So next time you’re perusing our collections and wonder how we got a 34 in. long panoramic photo condensed down to the size of your computer monitor, remember these “wonderful toys” found at the RDC. We’re fortunate and excited to have them, and that’s no joke.