Tag Archives: history

Roosevelt Letter Discovered During Internship

Madison Unell, a junior at Pepperdine, was an intern in the Special Collections and University Archives this past semester. Madison completed a preservation survey of our rare book collection, and made some interesting discoveries in the process. Here is her report:

This semester I had the opportunity to intern with the Payson Special Collections. My project was to perform a CALIPR (California Preservation Program) survey to better understand the preservation needs of the Rare Book collection. At first, the project was about collecting the data to be processed for grant money to better preserve the collection. As the semester went on, however, my project became so much more.

In my work, I began to find books in the collection that had not been picked up in years; books that had seemingly been forgotten behind their dusty covers, hidden away in a room most Pepperdine student do not even know exits. It is there that I discovered the most interesting of finds: a letter from Edith Kermit Roosevelt.

I found it one day when I was surveying a very normal looking green book with gold letters that read “Quentin Roosevelt: A Sketch with Letters.” It was a biography of the youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had been killed in aerial combat over France on Bastille Day, July 14, 1918. Quentin was only twenty-one years old.

In flipping open the book to find an imprint date, part of the needed data for the CALIPR survey, I noticed a curious sticker on the inside cover. It was a very elaborate design with the words “Ex Libris Sophie Beauveau Norris.” Thinking little of it, I continued to flip through the pages where I stumbled upon a piece of wrinkled paper that was stuck to a page in the middle of the book. Gently peeling the old parchment away from the page, I was able to decipher the words on the front of the letter. It simply read Mrs. Sophie Norris. Immediately connecting the letter and the sticker on the front page, I carefully opened the letter excited about what I might find.

Sure enough, the letter was from Edith Kermit Roosevelt, the mother of Quentin and second wife of Theodore. While the letter was extremely difficult to read, what I figured out was that Edith gave the book to Mrs. Norris with the letter inside. How the Pepperdine library came to acquire such a book with such a historic letter is unknown, but it is certainly a fascinating find.

Being a student of History, I am fascinated by research and the stories that are hidden in old books. This find was very exciting and I am interested to do more research about the letter and Mrs. Norris’s connection to the Roosevelts.

The book Madison described above can be found in the library catalog here: http://pepperdine.worldcat.org/oclc/1185205.

New digital collection: Anti-Communism Films of the Early 1960s

Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to announce its latest digital collection, Anti-Communism Films of the Early 1960s. At the height of the Cold War, Pepperdine College sponsored a four-part, Hollywood-produced film series titled Crisis for Americans. Utilizing newsreel footage and scripted narration, each film sought to expose the threat of Soviet-based communism to capitalism and free societies around the globe. In turn, the films describe how communism preys on susceptible youth (Communist Accent on Youth, 1961), spreads through violent aggression (Communist Imperialism, 1962), and cloaks itself behind the discourse of “peaceful coexistence” (Communism and Coexistence, 1963). The fourth film, The Questions and the Answers (1965), argues for the necessity of congressional investigations that root out communist activities within the United States. Straddling the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis, these films offer an excellent example of the anti-communist discourse typical of this critical moment in Cold War history. All four films can now be viewed online alongside supplementary archival materials about the films, including internal memos, correspondence, scripts, and newspaper clippings. Enjoy.

Thanksgiving dish ideas from 1924: Today’s featured digital object


Art Nouveau style cover of Secrets of Charm magazine, 1924

Tucked away in the George Pepperdine Collection is a gem of a magazine—a single issue of Secrets of Charm, a short-lived, Los Angeles-based women’s monthly magazine from 1924. The magazine’s tagline is “Devoted to the woman who thinks,” and features in this issue include columns on society, health, relationships, child rearing, beauty tips, and a debate on the question “Can a woman with a career make a home?” There is also a profile of Lena Rose Pepperdine, George’s first wife, who died tragically of Psittacosis (“Parrot Fever”) in 1930.

Illustration from Secrets of Charm magazine

However, in the spirit of the season, we call your attention to the magazine’s center spread, which features “tempting dishes” and “varied recipes” for the Thanksgiving feast. The spread (on pages 8 and 9 of the digitized magazine) offer detailed descriptions and directions for such dishes as Roast Rabbit, Mashed Potato Stuffing, and Chestnut Dressing. There’s even an “Appetizing Menu for Vegetarians” that includes Mock Turkey, Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Creamed Turnips and Onions, and Green Tomato Mince Pie.

Click here to browse through Secrets of Charm and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Rose of Sharon: Today’s featured digital object

Rose of Sharon (zoom view)

The image to the right may appear at first glance otherworldly—abstract in its beauty; vibrant, yet still. It is, in actuality, a flower plucked by George Pepperdine from the banks of the Sea of Galilee in Palestine on March 26, 1928. Dried and pressed, the flower, labeled “Rose of Sherron”, appears here (digitally magnified) in a scrapbook of photos, postcards, and keepsakes assembled by Pepperdine following an around the world trip that he took by ship with his mother in spring of 1928. This scrapbook, along with numerous photographs, writings, newspaper clippings, collectables, and home movies, is now digitized and available in the new online George Pepperdine Collection.

George Pepperdine had a hobby of collecting, drying, and pressing flowers and other plants that held some beauty or special meaning. The same scrapbook contains botanical keepsakes from Cana, Jopa, Nazareth, Jericho, and the River Jordan. A simple leaf from an oleander shrub is revealed to have grown at the entrance to “Jesus’ tomb” at the foot of Mount Calvary.

Visiting the Biblical locations of Palestine clearly made a strong impression on Pepperdine, a deeply Christian man. As the ship sailed on across the Indian Ocean, he wrote to friends: “The most interesting of all is to reflect upon the birth-place of Christianity, its humble beginning among such common-place people, in such common-place surroundings. It recalls to mind the Saviour’s parable, The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which is indeed the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

Page from Pepperdine scrapbook, 1928

We invite you to leaf through this unique scrapbook and zoom in as close as you like to view the pressed leaves and flowers, rare postcards, and souvenir photographs. Taken as a whole, the scrapbook provides a snapshot of our world in the late 1920s. Even more, it reveals an important glimpse of George Pepperdine, the man, nearly a decade before founding the university that bears his name.

Betty Ford at Pepperdine: Today’s featured digital object

Betty Ford and Pearl Williams

As we say goodbye to Betty Ford, who passed away last Saturday, we remember her not just as the consummate first lady, but as a great friend of Pepperdine University. Mrs. Ford made two notable appearances at Pepperdine during her husband’s presidency. On May 19, 1975, at the height of her battle with breast cancer, Mrs. Ford made a special appearance at Pepperdine’s Foster Grandparents Day ceremony, which took place at the old Los Angeles campus. The ceremony honored 109 elderly volunteers in a federally sponsored, Pepperdine administered program that matched at-risk and developmentally challenged children with elder companions. In this photo, we see Mrs. Ford congratulating Pearl Williams, the oldest of the foster grandparents, who also celebrated her 106th birthday at the event.

Later that same year, on September 20, Betty Ford returned to Pepperdine University, this time to Malibu to accompany her husband’s dedication of the Brock House and the Firestone Fieldhouse. Notably, the great benefactor honored at this event, ambassador Leonard K. Firestone, would go on to provide the financial backing for the Betty Ford Center in 1982.

In honor of her memory, I invite you to view photographs of Betty Ford at these Pepperdine events in our University Archives digital photograph collection.

Gidget’s surfboard: Today’s featured digital object

There’s a certain corner of Payson Library, somewhere near the 19th century English literature, where the astute visitor will notice a scent in the air that seems out of place. Fiberglass and surfwax? Yes, somewhere up above in its second-floor sanctuary resides the John Mazza Collection of Historic Surfboards, a secret room populated by over thirty surfboards, the earliest of which are nearly 100 years old. A part of our Special Collections and University Archives’ Malibu Historical Collection, the surfboard display represents part of the cultural legacy of that famous coastal community.

Although the “surfboard room” (as it is informally known) can only be accessed during special occasions, you can see all of these surfboards up-close and from multiple angles in our John Mazza Historic Surfboard Collection online. One of these boards—born of balsa wood in 1951, standing 9 feet, 4 inches tall—found fame when Hollywood discovered surf culture. It’s none other than Gidget’s surfboard.

Originally a novel about his daughter’s coming-of-age in the Malibu surf, Frederick Kohner’s Gidget would do as much as the Beach Boys to popularize surfing. Picked up by Columbia Pictures in 1959, Gidget became Hollywood’s first surf film and many sequels followed, including a short-lived television series on ABC starring a young Sally Field. This surfboard was originally shaped by celebrated Southern California board-maker Dale Velzy as one of his “rope logo” balsa boards. In 1964, the board found its way onto the set of the surf film Ride the Wild Surf, where it received four coats of paint, a logo reading “Surfboards by Phil,” and was ridden by a character named Eskimo. The next year, Sally Field used the board in the Gidget television series. Field’s autograph, along with that of Dale Velzy and Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman (aka, the “real” Gidget), is visible on the board’s deck. The original Velzy logo has been exposed at the very base of the tail.

The Eagle: Today’s featured digital object

Symbolism, as we know, is often weighty. But the giant bird of prey that greets students entering Payson Library makes an especially hefty statement on the subject of freedom, weighing in at 800 pounds. Officially known as “American Eagle,” the wooden sculpture depicts the beast alighting atop a snarling mass of branches, mid-screech as it spreads its seven-foot wingspan above. No matter your personal opinion regarding the aesthetic virtues of the piece, its origin story is fascinating and worth sharing.


American Eagle sculpture in Payson Library

The eagle landed in Payson Library in 1972 as a gift from Fritz Huntsinger, Sr., a businessman whose quiet philanthropy belied a surprisingly “cinematic” personal history. Born in Switzerland at the turn of the century, Huntsinger fought for the Germans in World War I, a disillusioning experience that led him to immigrate to the United States in 1923 at the age of 24. Settling in Ventura, California, he worked his way from floor-sweeper to Chairman of the Board with the Vetco manufacturing company, taking a break along the way to fight for the Allies in World War II.

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he leant it (along with a lot of cash) to the Huntsinger Academic Center, which includes Payson Library. The eagle was his personal touch. Huntsinger commissioned the carving from two sculptors in Taiwan, who carved the figure from a single piece of teakwood based on his specifications. For Huntsinger, the eagle embodied “total and complete freedom,” including “academic freedom,” and served as a gesture of gratitude to the nation that enabled the transformative gains of his life.

In this photo, from the University Archives Photograph Collection, we see the eagle in its original location at the heart of Payson Library. Following massive renovations to the library in the mid-1980s, the eagle moved to the new entrance, where it resides today.

Project Muse Adds More Titles

The following three journals, previously announced as joining Project MUSE, are now online:

** From the Duke University Press:

Minnesota Review

Publishing contemporary poetry and fiction as well as reviews, critical commentary, and interviews of leading intellectual figures, the minnesota review curates smart yet accessible collections of progressive new work.  This eclectic survey provides lively and sophisticated signposts to navigating current critical discourse.  Under the leadership of new editor Janell Watson, the review will maintain its tradition of exploring the most exciting literary and critical developments for both specialists and a general audience.

** From the Kentucky Historical Society:

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

The Register is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal which provides ongoing scholars/hip on the history of Kentucky as well as an extensive book review section that covers all recent scholarship on Kentucky and its surrounding region as well as the major monographs on U.S. history generally.

** From the University of Pennsylvania Press:

Change Over Time

Change Over Time is a new, semiannual journal focused on publishing original, peer-reviewed research papers and review articles on the history, theory, and praxis of conservation and the built environment. Each issue is dedicated to a particular theme as a method to promote critical discourse on contemporary conservation issues from multiple perspectives both within the field and across disciplines. Themes will be examined at all scales, from the global and regional to the microscopic and material.