Richard Mutt

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By Stephanie Crawford

Over the past two months, I have been conversing with Dr. Glyn Thompson, a retired art history professor from Leeds University, in regards to our holding of early twentieth-century pottery company trade catalogs in the Sinclair New Jersey Collection. His research question is a fascinating one: Did Marcel Duchamp create the iconic 1917 ready-made Fountain? Dr. Thompson argues that Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was the creator of Fountain by supporting a counter narrative of the creation of one of the most important works of art in the twentieth century.

The art history Fountain myth goes like this:

Duchamp began creating ready-mades in 1913, when he chose a spinning bicycle wheel as a work of art. Ready-mades are just as they sound: commercially manufactured everyday items. Part of the allure of the ready-made is in the artistic choice of the object; the other is in the reading of the form in an attempt to find meaning. In 1917 Duchamp bought a urinal from the J. L. Mott Pottery Company which had a showroom in the Upper West Side. He turned the urinal on its side, and signed it “R Mutt 1917”. R Mutt, or the full Richard Mutt, is a word play on the name Mott and also the cartoon characters Mutt and Jeff. Duchamp then submitted the urinal to the annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, of which he was a member. The society was formed by artists who were subverting the typical exhibition favoritism of other art clubs by accepting anything that an artist submitted. Artworks were to be hung/displayed alphabetically. Duchamp challenged the society’s liberal take on art and artists, pushing to see if they would accept anything as a work of art. Members of the society were appalled by the submission, and refused to display it, hiding the urinal in a back room. After the exhibition, Duchamp resigned from the society because of the conservatism. Alfred Stieglitz photographed the urinal at Gallery 291 and ultimately the original urinal was lost.

With Fountain, Duchamp was pushing the boundaries of the definition of art and authorship in asking questions like: “What is a work of art? Who gets to decide, the artist or the critic? Can a work derive from an idea alone, or does it require the hand of a maker? These questions strike at the core of our understanding of art itself.” Is it art because it’s made by an artist? What is the difference between a tea cup and a sculpture that looks like a tea cup? Why are functional items not art?

Figure 1 Attributed to Marcel Duchamp. The Fountain, 1917. Photographed by Alfred Stieglitz, 1917. Background is Marsden Hartley’s The Warriors. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Other than several articles published in Blind Man issue number 2 from 1917, there was little to nothing published about the urinal, including the identity of Richard Mutt. In the 1950s and 1960s Duchamp took credit for, and authorized replicas to be made of The Fountain. This art history narrative of the creation and eventual attribution of Fountain to Duchamp serves to fuel the status of Duchamp as a misunderstood, avant-garde genius whose whole life was art, creating this myth and mythical artist that has ignored facts and obvious faults.

But it doesn’t seem to matter to art history if Duchamp created Fountain. Stated rather succinctly in a 2017 Artsy article: “But to try and establish the true authorship of the Fountain is exactly the kind of quixotic undertaking that would have had Duchamp in stitches. Let’s take a moment to recall that Monsieur Duchamp took a urinal, turned it upside down, signed it ‘R. Mutt,’ and submitted it to a salon; the pursuit of truth was decidedly not his quest.” Ignoring the questionable authorship of one of the most important artworks of the twentieth century because Duchamp is your favorite artist is a quixotic and fundamental misunderstanding of the intersection of feminism and art history. I’m willing to look past Joseph Beuys’ lies about his origin story in order to see his artistic merit because at least his ideas were original. Women artists deserve more than to be regulated as the kooky sidekicks, the sexy muses, or the martyred wives whose work gets stolen by their male counter-parts. Why is Marcel Duchamp a genius and Elsa a kook?

The evidence that Fountain was chosen and submitted by Marcel Duchamp is largely based on statements made by Duchamp in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Glyn Thompson is attempting to interrupt the Artist-as-genius narrative with his research into the Trenton Pottery Company. The counter-narrative he produces is a convincing argument that one of the greatest works of art was, in fact, created by a woman. More information can be found in Thompson’s eBook Duchamp’s Urinal? The Facts Behind the Façade.

The following are Thompson’s core arguments:

1.) In a 1917 letter to his sister, Suzanne Duchamp, Marcel writes:

“April II [1917] My dear Suzanne- Impossible to write- I heard from Crotti that you were working hard. Tell me what you are making and if it’s not too difficult to send. Perhaps, I could have a show of your work in the month of October or November-next-here. But tell me what you are making- Tell this detail to the family: The Independents have opened here with immense success. One of my female friends under a masculine pseudonym, Richard Mutt, sent in a porcelain urinal as a sculpture it was not at all indecent-no reason for refusing it. The committee has decided to refuse to show this thing. I have handed in my resignation and it will be a bit of gossip of some value in New York- I would like to have a special exhibition of the people who were refused at the Independents-but that would be a redundancy! And the urinal would have been lonely- See you soon, Affect. Marcel”[emphasis mine]

The letter is translated and published in Francis Naumann’s 1982 article, though Thompson observes that in footnote 18 Naumann is confused as to why Duchamp would write about this woman friend, refusing to acknowledge that it may be true. The letter is housed in Jean Crotti’s Papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

2.) Duchamp could not have purchased the urinal from J. L. Mott Pottery Company because

a. You couldn’t just walk in and purchase a urinal from their showroom in New York. You needed a tradesman to be the moderator between you and the company (a practice that is similar today). Additionally, the urinal itself would have been made in and purchased in Trenton, New Jersey, where the factory was. These protocols can be found in the company’s trade catalogs.

b. Mott didn’t make a urinal similar enough to the 1917 image of the urinal.

c. Therefore, the name R. Mutt couldn’t have come from J. L. Mott Company.

Figure 2 Pages from Trenton Potteries Company Catalog, 1910.

3.) The Trenton Potteries Company created the Vitreous China, Bedfordshire No. 1 Flat Backed Lipped Urinal between 1915 and 1921 and it visually matches the Stieglitz photograph of Fountain. This is confirmed both through trade catalogs, and the urinal that is in Glyn Thompson’s personal collection.

Figure 3 Trenton Potteries Company Vitreous China Figure 3 “Bedfordshire” No. 1, Flat Back, Lipped Urinal. Coll. Dr Glyn Thompson.

4.) Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was a German-born Dada artist living in Philadelphia who was one of the only women who could have created Fountain.

5.) R. Mutt is a Dada play of words on the German word “armut” which translates to poverty or destitution. Poverty of morality was a possible theme of the urinal since on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany. On April 9th, the urinal reached the exhibition. Also on April 6th, regulations were passed to control movements of German-born individuals on U.S. soil.

Figure 4 Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s difficult to prove without a doubt that Elsa submitted the urinal, choosing it to be a work of art. My initial reaction was, and continues to be: of course she did. Because Elsa WAS Dada. She was Art. She once wore postage stamps as makeup, a birdcage around her neck, and carpet sample rings as bracelets. When she showed up to be George Biddle’s model, she removed her jacket revealing these everyday items and he was shocked. Pictures of her in simple Google searches show a woman making strange gestures and poses for the camera. While Dada performances were meant to make the bourgeois uncomfortable, Elsa made everyone uncomfortable all of the time.

And then there’s God (1917). Previously attributed to Morton Schamburg, God is composed of a twisted drainpipe secured onto a miter box. Readings of the work are tenuous at best, but I like to think that God symbolizes the impotence and mediocrity of “important” men.

Figure 5 Elsa von Fretag-Loringhoven, God, 1917, readymade. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Additionally, her poem Astride mimics an orgasm, the climax in a flurry of nonsense words:

“Saddling
Up
From
Fir
Nightbrimmed
Clinkstirrupchink!
Silverbugle
Copperrimmed
Keening
Heathbound
Roves
Moon
Pink
Straddling
Neighing
Stallion :
“HUEESSUEESSUEESSSOOO
HYEEEEEE PRUSH
HEE HEE HEEEEEEAAA
OCHKZPNJRPRRRR

/ \
HÜÜ HÜÜÜÜÜÜ
HÜ-HÜ!”
Aflush
Brink
Through
Foggy
Bog
They
Slink
Sink
Into
Throbb
Bated.
Hush
Falls
Stiffling
Shill
Crickets
Shrill
Bullfrog
Squalls
Inflated
Bark
Riding
Moon’s
Mica –
Groin
Strident!

Hark!

Stallion
Whinny’s
In
Thickets.

EvFL”

It is not a stretch then, to think that the Baroness would choose a urinal to send to the Independents exhibition: she used everyday objects in her art, she was keen on word play and bodily functions, and she used herself and her art to make people uncomfortable.

But Elsa tends to get a bad rap. She is often described as: “eccentric”, “crazy”, “visionary”, “strange” and “outrageous”. Like the cult of Frida Kahlo, the Baroness’ sexual exploits and her life take larger precedent than her work: a subheading to a Timeline article states “Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was once arrested for walking down Fifth Avenue in a men’s suit.” In comparison, H.P. Roche describes Duchamp as thus: “When I met Marcel Duchamp in New York in 1916, he was twenty nine years old and wore a halo…From 1911 to 1923 my memories of him as a person are even more alive than my recollections of his work…He was creating his own legend, a young prophet who wrote scarcely a line, but whose words would be repeated from mouth to mouth…” The comparison and hypocrisy is hardly unique to someone who studies women artists, and yet it continues to be infuriating.

It’s doubtful that in Elsa’s archives there will be a diary entry stating “And on this day I mailed a urinal to Louise Norton to be submitted to the Society of American Artists under the name R Mutt, signifying poverty.” Even if there was a diary entry existed, I doubt that it would change peoples’ minds. She was a liar, so you can’t trust her; she was crazy so you can’t believe anything she says; she was just looking for a buck; she was taking advantage of that poor man for her own sake; and all of the other things that people say in order to discredit women who speak out about their experiences. It’s difficult to think of a way to end this post without falling into a pit of despair. Perhaps it is through Dr. Thompson’s efforts to shout into the abyss with his book, his articles, his interviews, and his exhibitions that a change for Elsa will occur. After all, an unwillingness to be quiet is one of our best feminist tools.

____________________________________

[1] Dr. Glyn Thompson, Duchamp’s Urinal? The Facts Behind the Façade (Wild Pansy Press, 2015), 11-13.

[2] Thompson, Duchamp’s Urinal?, 19, 27.

[3] Jon Mann, “How Duchamp’s Urinal Changed Art Forever,” Artsy (May 9, 2017), https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-duchamps-urinal-changed-art-forever (accessed May 30, 2018).

[4] Exhibitions: Challenge and Defy, at Sidney Janis Gallery, 1950, New York. International Dada Exhibition, at Sidney Janis Gallery (15 April-9 May 1953), New York; Retrospective Dada, Dusseldorf (5 September- 19 October 1958). Interview: Text:

[5] Jon Mann, “How Duchamp’s Urinal Changed Art Forever,” Artsy (May 9, 2017), https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-duchamps-urinal-changed-art-forever (accessed May 30, 2018).

[6] The answer is SEXISM.

[7] There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the talent of certain artists, but insistence on the status of the Artist as Genius disallows criticism and unconvincingly simplifies the narrative of their life and work. In addition, modern women artists are almost never described as geniuses. See Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” for a more succinct analysis of the rhetoric associated with male and female artists.

[8] Francis M. Naumann,  “Affectueusement, Marcel: Ten Letters from Marcel Duchamp to Suzanne Duchamp and Jean Crotti,” Archives of American Art Journal (vol 22, no. 4 1982), 8. Written extensively by John Higgs in “The Shock of the New,” Stranger Than You Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 2015), 35-51. Argued by Thompson in Duchamp’s Urinal?, 17-18.

[9] Louise Norton could also be a potential creator of Fountain. In the Stieglitz photograph, the exhibition entry card is still attached, which lists Norton’s address as R. Mutt’s address. Additionally, she wrote an article in Blind Man about R Mutt. To my knowledge, there is no archival collection, book, or article about her art for comparison.

[10] Thompson, Duchamp’s Urinal?, 70.

[11] Additional questions arise, for me, from Duchamp’s story that he simply submitted the piece to the exhibition and that those in charge censored his avant-garde poke at the supposedly liberal Society. The story makes Duchamp seem like he was just a member of the art society, when in fact he played a large administrative role. According to the exhibition catalog for the 1917 exhibition, Marcel Duchamp a director of the Society, and was the director of the hanging committee (See Figures).[1] The catalog can be seen in full here.  The hanging committee included George Bellows and Rockwell Kent. Because there were no juries and no prizes in the Society, as long as the artist paid their dues then their work would be hung. In order to prevent hierarchies and favoritism, the pieces were hung alphabetically. This was a very liberal take on annual art exhibition for clubs and societies which often attempted to mark ‘the best” through juries and strategic hangings.  But how can you say that those in charge denied your readymade when you were the one who was in charge?

[12] Higgs, “The Shock of the New,” 35.

[13] Tanya Clement, “Poems by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven,” https://jacket2.org/poems/poems-baroness-elsa-von-freytag-loringhoven accessed May 30, 2018. “Papers of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.” University of Maryland, https://www.lib.umd.edu/dcr/collections/EvFL-class/collections.html accessed May 30, 2018.

[14] H. P. Roche, “Souvenirs of Marcel Duchamp”, in Robert Lebel, Marcel Duchamp (New York: Grove Press, Inc.)

Rutgers in the First World War, May and June 1918—A World in Motion

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When the United States entered World War I a century ago, Rutgers transformed into a war college focused on supporting America’s war effort. Many students and alumni joined the armed forces. Earl Reed Silvers, assistant to Rutgers president William H. S. Demarest, launched the Rutgers War Service Bureau as a means to keep in touch with Rutgers men in service. The Rutgers in the First World War series features stories from the War Service Bureau correspondence, offering a window on the impact of the war on Rutgers students and alumni 100 years ago.

At Rutgers: Baseball and Bombshells

Postcard showing men in uniform playing baseball, captioned "Baseball--the Army Game." Postcard has a YMCA--Young Men's Christian Association--logo.
A postcard sent by Harold Faint (class of 1917) in late May 1918

 

The May 1918 War Service Bureau letters to men in service brought news of baseball and commencement activities at Rutgers.  On May 20, Silvers wrote about a game taking place that afternoon.

This afternoon we play Lafayette in baseball. . . . Johnny Lyons, our baseball captain, has gone to the Fourth Officers’ Camp; and so we’re not very optimistic about the result of the game this afternoon.

Silvers reported that the number of graduates for the 1918 commencement was down due to men leaving Rutgers to serve. Although he was sure the previous year had 77 graduates, he stated the class of 1918 had 42 graduates in his May 20 letter, but his June 5 letter changed the number to 47 (according to the 1918 commencement program, the number should be 46). Some Rutgers men in service had returned to visit for commencement. In the May 20 letter, Silvers describes one such man bringing a souvenir:

“Bob Searle is here in uniform from Camp Devens. He brought with him an unexploded four-inch shell and my stenographer is in deadly fear of being blown to atoms.

In his June 5 letter, Silvers followed up on this alarming gift to reassure the men

“That shell of Bob Searle’s which almost scared our stenographer to death wasn’t loaded, after all.”

From the Men: The Hazards and Pleasures of Travel

Rutgers men in service wrote to the Bureau in May and June 1918 to describe their travels overseas.

On May 1, 1918, August Grimme (class of 1918) wrote from the north of England.

“I am now located at a Gunnery School . . . The work is interesting and I enjoy it very much. The weather is rather uncomfortable up here. It seems almost like January. In fact we had a little snow flurry this morning.

Reverend Maurice Kain’s (class of 1906) May 18, 1918 letter waxed poetic in its description of France (his correspondence folder does indeed contain a poem about France).

France is remarkably colorful at this present springtime. The skylark wakes one morning. Blooming lilac hedges, surround him. Fertile fields lie beyond. But the more or less distant boom of guns, and the homing flight of flocks of airplanes tell one that farther beyond is —red war, red but glorious; or rather, glorious because red.

On June 7, 1918 William P. E. Ainsworth (class of 1916) wrote of some rockiness on an otherwise calm ocean crossing to Europe,

“The trip over was wonderful. The sea was calm and the weather beautiful all of the way, except for about two days when it blew rather rough, and, as the seas caught us sideways, the boat rocked to beat the band. It sometimes rocked so that for hours, if you were sitting on deck, you were looking alternately at the sky above and the water beneath you, and unless you braced your steamer chair you would slide, chair and all, across the deck. Many of the men were dreadfully seasick, but it did not affect me in the least; in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

First page of handwritten letter, dated June 7, 1918, written from "Somewhere in France."
First page of Ainsworth’s June 7, 1918 letter. Transcribed version also available.

 

On June 26, 1918 Stuart M. Firth (class of 1914) described other watery travels on French soil (transcribed version also available).

“When we marched forty two days to take over our sector, we were accompanied for the forty-eight hours by the most generous supply of rain and snow and hail that this country could give. For two solid days everyone was wet to the skin. Raincoats were not more effective than blotting paper; trench boots, guaranteed to be waterproof when bought in the States, absorbed the bountiful liquid like a sponge.”

Despite these conditions, Firth maintained

“not a man grumbled, there was joking and laughing up and down the whole line and plenty of good old American cussing that did your heart good to listen to.”

[with assistance from Tara Maharjan]

To Learn More

The Rutgers College War Service Bureau collection has been digitized with assistance by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. A finding aid describing collection is available and provides links to the digitized materials. 

*The commencement program for 1918 lists 46 graduates.

Rutgers in the First World War, April 1918—Looking Forward to 1975

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When the United States entered World War I a century ago, Rutgers transformed into a war college focused on supporting America’s war effort. Many students and alumni joined the armed forces. Earl Reed Silvers, assistant to Rutgers president William H. S. Demarest, launched the Rutgers War Service Bureau as a means to keep in touch with Rutgers men in service. The Rutgers in the First World War series features stories from the War Service Bureau correspondence, offering a window on the impact of the war on Rutgers students and alumni 100 years ago.

At Rutgers: Rubber Cement and a College for Women

The April 10, 1918 War Service Bureau letter to men in service shared the news that director Earl Reed Silvers had recently “enjoyed the companionship of an infected boil on the back of his neck.” During Silvers’s absence from work, his assistant handled his correspondence. One tell-tale sign of this period for archivists working on the War Service Bureau Collection was that the assistant began using rubber cement to attach soldiers’ correspondence to copies of replies. The rubber cement was removed before digitization, but signs of its removal are evident.

detail of a letter with torn off corner
Top corner of letter from David Abt with rubber cement was removed before scanning (see page).
part of leter with lighter shading on top left
Lighter shading in top left corner of response letter indicates where it was adhered to original letter.

The April 24, 1918 letter to the men in service announced big changes at Rutgers.

“In the meeting of the Board of Trustees last week, it was decided to establish a Woman’s College as a department of the State University. The property of Mrs. John N. Carpender, on George Street, near College Farm, will be rented or purchased; and it is hoped that classes will be started in September.”

The New Jersey College for Women, now known as Douglass College, opened in September 1918 and is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.

From the Men: In the Air and in the Future

August L. Grimme (Class of 1918) wrote from England to share his experiences flying a two-seater plane. He described flying to an “aerodrome” for tea and seeing “all types of aeroplanes and airships, large and small,” noting “One of the largest ones would put half the town over a shadow if it flew over Irvington.” He described his view on the flight back:

“Had quite a trip coming back home, for clouds had come up and were so low that I had to fly at about a hundred feet up. Scooted over the tops of trees and farmhouses and waved to the farmers and people along the roads.”

David (Dave) Abt (Class of 1917) got in touch in April 1918 to send along some “papers” (possibly newspapers or camp papers) for Rutgers to hold in its archives.

“Having seen some old Civil War Papers in the Library I thought that these few might be of interest to Rutgers students in 1975.”

Although it isn’t clear if the papers Abt sent are still held by the archives, his thought of future generations is appreciated.

letter with corner left torn off
Abt’s letter, which accompanied  papers he sent for future students to see. This is the same letter shown above as an example of rubber cement removal.

[with assistance from Tara Maharjan]

To Learn More

The Rutgers College War Service Bureau collection has been digitized with assistance by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. A finding aid describing collection is available and provides links to the digitized materials. 

Rutgers in the First World War, March 1918—“Everybody Is in the War”

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When the United States entered World War I a century ago, Rutgers transformed into a war college focused on supporting America’s war effort. Many students and alumni joined the armed forces. Earl Reed Silvers, assistant to Rutgers president William H. S. Demarest, launched the Rutgers War Service Bureau as a means to keep in touch with Rutgers men in service. This series will feature stories from the War Service Bureau correspondence, offering a window on the impact of the war on Rutgers students and alumni 100 years ago.

At Rutgers: Sports and Serious Illness

As director of the War Service Bureau, Silvers sent biweekly letters to Rutgers men in service. In his first March 1918 Rutgers bulletin Silvers boasted of Rutgers “fairly successful” basketball season, with Paul Robeson as the high scorer. The newsletter also featured updates on baseball, football, and the interclass bowling league.

Paragraph from typescript letter
Excerpt from the War Service Bureau’s 15th letter to men in service, March 13, 1918.

Silvers’s second March War Service Bureau letter carried news of serious illness at Rutgers; the college had almost closed due to a measles epidemic and a student had succumbed to meningitis.

top part of typescript letter
Excerpt from the War Service Bureau’s 14th letter to men in service, March 27, 1918.

From the Men: Hazards Encountered

In March 1918, two Rutgers men shared harrowing events they had experienced and offered reassurance that they’d come through unscathed. In a letter dated March 17, 1918, William Packard (class of  1918)* described being under a gas attack and shelled.

“I was out behind a battery position when suddenly I heard the familiar whizz which tells of the approach of a shell and, after deciding it was coming my way, I literally dove for the nearest shell hole. It burst about a 100 feet away, and being about a 155 showered everything within 200 yards with splinters . . . they passed safely over me. That evening they shelled the deserted village in which I have my room, and so we had to go under ground.”

“For the last hour or so there have been five or six French and two Germans flying above and at intervals of about two minutes they are dropping  big shells just short of this place, the splinters of which light all around.”

front page of handwritten letter with YMCA header
Page from Packard’s letter describing shell attack. Transcribed version also available.

Despite his immediate surroundings, Packard’s next sentence offered that “life is quite pleasant and nowhere as bad as it sounds.” He even promised to send shell fragments to Silvers who had asked for souvenirs from the war.

George Bechtel (class of 1914) described a rocky journey to England.

“For three days we were not allowed on deck . . . when we were finally permitted to go out, we found the after deck pretty well messed up. Several of the life boats were wrecked and some civilians in the steerage were literally washed out of their bunks.”

Like Packard, Bechtel claimed to be unaffected by his surroundings, declaring, “I slept soundly through it all….”

first part of handwritten letter
Letter from Margaret Bechtel enclosed with letters from George. Silvers transcribed Bechtel’s March 1918 letter for inclusion in the Rutgers Alumni Quarterly.

On traveling through England, Bechtel noted it was, “strange to see women in overalls working beside the men . . . but they make you realize how much everybody is in the war.”

To Learn More

The Rutgers College War Service Bureau collection has been digitized with assistance by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. A finding aid describing collection is available and provides links to the digitized materials. 

*At the time of writing, Packard was identified as Class of 1918, but due to his absence during the war, graduated in 1921.

The Helen-Chantal Pike Collection on Asbury Park

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Colored Postcard showing eight women with hats on beach chairs on wheels with heading "Solid comfort on the boardwalk, Asbury Park, N.J."

 

To mark the opening of the Helen-Chantal Pike Collection on Asbury Park as well as to help get us out of the New Jersey winter doldrums, we share this essay on Asbury Park postcards and using postcards for research by Rachel Ferrante, Fall 2017 Public History Intern 2017 in Special Collections and University Archives.

 

By Rachel Ferrante

 

There are few things as uniquely iconic as the Asbury Park postcard. The Las Vegas neons and even the Hollywood sign may be the only two cultural images that elicit similar recognition. It seems these images embody regional leisure and tourist culture, recognizable across generations. Because these signs act as visual landmarks, the images are regurgitated in popular culture. An example is the mimicking of the Hollywood sign in the Dreamworks movie “Shrek” as the sign for the fictional city Far Far Away. Using the sign as a landmark, the rest of the scene imitates Hollywood, a defining city in West Coast culture and example of opulence.

About 2,900 miles down I-80, Asbury Park is far more humble. Since its founding in 1871, Asbury Park has repeatedly boomed and busted in its cultural significance, tapping into every aspect of leisure culture one can think of. Asbury has been a physical representation of popular culture, specifically and originally for New York elites, who seem to define high culture throughout much of U.S. history. In fact, Asbury has been a center of both high culture and subculture, making it extremely relevant to the East Coast’s, if not the nation’s, cultural memory and historical interest.

Postcard with text "Greetings from Asbury Park NJ"

The “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” postcard is a specific linen Tichnor style with images geared to Asbury leisure in particular. This style was applied to many postcards centered around other places as well, the likes of which include Niagara Falls and Route 66. Famously, the Asbury postcard was used as the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s breakout album by the same name. So beyond its initial iconic stature the postcard has a history of its own. When you look at the Helen-Chantal Pike Collection on Asbury, the postcards it includes tell a story of Asbury Park’s history. Paired with the other materials in the collection, it is clear the significance certain institutions or moments in time had on the area. However, there are many more layers of significance behind the postcards. They span more than 100 years of regional history that can be contextualized in national political, social, economic, and familial histories, resulting in many potential conclusions using just postcards as primary source material. The rest of this post will address the use of postcards as research tools, using examples from the Helen-Chantal Pike Collection on Asbury Park housed at Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives.

USING POSTCARDS FOR RESEARCH

In America, the first postcard was developed in 1873 by Massachusetts’ Morgan Envelope company. These cards depicted scenes from conventions and expositions in Chicago at the height of the Industrial Revolution. The first postcard intended for souvenir purposes was actually created in 1893 with scenes from the World’s Columbian Exposition. Postcards thus have deep roots in the northern region of the country, documenting its changing history, and capturing the excitement of progress in many eras. In 1898, Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act, which allowed postcards to be printed by private companies rather than just the post office. At this point the popularity of “Private Mailing Cards” began to skyrocket. Finally, in 1901, private companies were allowed to call their printed cards “postcards,” and after a few more years of complicated history the picture front, divided back, postcard we all know was legal and being mailed in multiple styles across (a good amount of) the country. This Golden Age of Postcards peaked in 1910, with postcards particularly popular among rural and small town women of the northern United States.

Envelope addressed to Miss G.. Mentz, Brookside, New Jersey stamped in Ocean Grove

Almost all of the eras of postcards are represented in the Helen-Chantal Pike Collection. Picking one group of postcards at random I was able to see examples of the short period of time where postcards were not divided-back and the sender had to write on the front, or image part, of the postcard. There are also many beautiful examples of the lithographic style of postcards, which were specifically popular during the Golden Age period (1907-1915). Each of these provides immense interdisciplinary relevance with each layer of ink. Some of these semantics are debated among postcard enthusiasts; however, the Golden Age of postcards, no matter what the exact date range, lines up with the foundational period of American culture. One of the major things that shaped the time leading up to the 1920s was the transformation of cinema from silent to film noir. In Asbury Park in particular, cinema was a huge part of the economy, with cinema tycoon Walter Reade even running for mayor of Asbury Park. Postcards of these theaters are great primary source examples of the importance of the erection of these edifices and the positions they held as landmarks of the region. Of the six Reade theaters in Asbury, two are featured prominently in the postcard collection: the Mayfair and the Paramount. Construction and then depiction of these places reflect civic achievement as well as provide insight into the aesthetic values of the region and the time period.

Aside from construction aesthetics many postcards provide insight into fashion. In the case of Asbury Park there are many depictions of changing beachwear trends. A 1910 lithographic postcard (seen at the start of this essay) shows a row of women in large bonnets posing coyly in carriages. The postcards in the “beach” section of the Pike Collection date from 1901 to 2001 so they document an entire century of summers, with their corresponding outfits and activities. The collection can be used to track the changing shore attractions as well. When compared to today, Asbury was previously booming with activities, ferris wheels, games, etc. There was even once a horse track where there is now a parking lot.
Postcard showing two women in bathrobe in the sea on the left, with note dated "The "El Dorado" August 30, 1905" with the text "Dear Grace, This is almost as refreshing as "Cold Spring." Wish you and Mr. Snyder were here to enjoy it with me. Yours, Priscilla

CONCLUSION

While the Helen-Chantal Pike Collection focuses closely on the late 19th through mid-20th centuries, it is also relevant to a variety of timely topics. Because of this, its postcard series is a great place to start research on the Asbury Park, leisure, East Coast culture and development, and visual culture. There are, at the very least, enough images to acquaint a researcher to the area and its specific civic importance. At the other end, the series can provide insight into a large amount of research projects with a fairly wide scope. An example of its relevance is the way  in which postcards pose as an interesting precursor to the visual culture we exist within today. In many ways, a postcard was the Instagram of people in the 19th century. The feelings that surround the purchase and sending of the postcard are similar to the reasons one takes photos of their vacation and travel spots today. Mailing the card has been replaced with posting on the internet and the back of the card has been replaced by the caption. In this way, postcards are also structurally similar to Instagram, balancing the impersonal nature of posting to a wide audience by allowing the image to have been captured by the individual. This, like postcards, provides a sense of community through sharing and receiving. However, it is not always to say “wish you were here,” but sometimes “look where I am.”

About

Rachel Ferrante is an undergraduate American Studies and Sociology student at Rutgers working at the Special Collections and University Archives through the Rutgers Public History Internship program. During Fall 2017, she processed the Helen-Chantal Pike Collection on Asbury Park, New Jersey. Outside of the library, she works on cultural history through research with the Aresty Program and in her papers.

To Learn More:

Works consulted:

 

All images displayed are postcards from the Helen Pike collection, Box 5, folder 1.

 

A Second Attempt at Historical Baking

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Back in May of 2016, I had my first attempt at trying to bake from a historical recipe. (You can read about it here.)  Over a year later I decided to give it another try, this time with a different recipe.  In looking through old cookbooks, I stumbled across a Swiss Cake in an 1881 copy of Betty, the bishop’s lady, or, Choice receipts from experienced housewives, published in Newark, New Jersey.

Recipe for Swiss Cake.

The description that reads, “This makes a good and inexpensive cake” really sold me.  The ingredients seemed normal for a cake recipe and they were all things that I had home.  It was perfect.

I collected my ingredients and measured them out as the recipe stated.  The recipe states to flavor with nutmeg or lemon, however, I am not a fan of nutmeg on its own so I added one and a half teaspoons of cinnamon and a fourth of a teaspoon of nutmeg.

Ingredients for Swiss Cake.

I creamed my butter and sugar, added my eggs and condensed milk, then slowly incorporated my sifted flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

KitchenAid mixer.                  Measuring evaporated milk.

It was at this point that I realized my 21st century baking skills did not translate well to 1880’s baking.  My batter was thick, too thick to be a cake batter, but resembled cookie dough instead.

Batter mixed together.

The recipe called for “sweet milk,” in my modern mind that meant condensed milk, which is what I used.  But it turns out that “sweet milk” is just whole milk.  In older recipes “sweet milk” was used to differentiate from “sour milk” meaning milk that was left out to sour or in some cases it meant buttermilk.

The “batter” was made, it tasted good, but it did not seem like it would bake well as a cake.  I tested this theory by making a few mini-cupcakes. After 10 minutes of baking they were still raw on the inside, after 15 minutes of baking they were cooked though, but were rather dense and not very enjoyable.

Eight mini cupcakes in cupcake tin.                 Mini cupcake broken in half to show the center

Since the “batter” seemed more like cookie dough to me, I made them into cookies instead.  They baked in 13 minutes, were soft, and rather delicious.  While I did not end up with Swiss Cake, I did get some enjoyable cookies.  Maybe my next attempt at historical baking will be more successful.

Cookie dough on cookie sheet                Breaking a cookie in half

 

Swiss Cake Cookies

Ingredients

1/4 cup (half a stick) butter

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups flour – sifted

8 oz condensed milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together sugar and butter.
  3. Add eggs and condensed milk to the sugar and butter.
  4. Combine sifted flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Slowly add to wet ingredients.
  5. Once well combined, drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes, rotating halfway though.
  7. Enjoy!

How Rutgers University is connected to Sojourner Truth: The Hardenbergh family in Ulster County, NY

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by Helene van Rossum

 

Composite photo showing silhouette of Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh on left and Sojourner Truth on right
Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (posthumous silhouette) and Sojourner Truth, 1883

In February 2017 Rutgers University announced that it will name an apartment building on its historic New Brunswick campus after the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth (c.1797-1883). The decision followed research findings, published in Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, that Sojourner Truth had been enslaved as a child to members of the family of Rutgers’ first president Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736–1790). However,  Sojourner Truth–who was born with the name Isabella–never lived in New Jersey but grew up in Ulster County, New York. She was born enslaved to Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh’s brother, Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. (1729-1799), after whose death she and her family became the property of his son Charles. Johannes Jr. has been confused with his father, Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), a founding trustee of Queens (later Rutgers) College. Not only did they share a name and lived in Hurley, near Kingston. Both also had a son named “Charles” and served as “Colonel” in the Revolutionary War.

 

The narrative of Sojourner Truth: “Colonel Ardinburgh”

Illustration of Sojourner Truth with white head wrap
Frontispiece of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1850

Sojourner Truth, who never learned to read or write, dictated her life’s story to fellow abolitionist Olive Gilbert (1801-1884), which was published as the Narrative of Sojourner Truth in 1850. According to Gilbert (who spelled the names that Truth provided as she heard them), Isabella was “the daughter of James and Betsey, slaves of one Colonel Ardinburgh, Hurley, Ulster County, New York.” After his death, Isabella, her parents, and “ten or twelve other fellow human chattels” became the legal property of his son Charles. Not older than two when her first owner died, Truth only remembered her second master. When he died too, she was about nine years old and was auctioned off to John Neely, a storekeeper who lived in the area. Her new master severely beat her because of her inability to understand orders. Having been raised in a Dutch Reformed household, she had only learned to speak the language of her masters: Dutch.

 

“That class of people called Low Dutch”

Reproduction of runaway ad  offering 50 dollar reward
Advertisement in the Ulster Gazette by Jacob Hardenbergh about two runaway slaves (1808)

According to the Narrative Isabella’s first two owners “belonged to that class of people called Low Dutch.” These people were descendants of Dutch Reformed families who had emigrated from the Netherlands (the “Low Countries”) in the 17th century and settled in New York and New Jersey. Uninhibited by their Dutch Reformed faith, they farmed their lands with the help of enslaved blacks, like their English-speaking neighbors. (Read about the farm ledgers of Johannes G. Hardenbergh). In 1707 the grandfather of Sojourner Truth’s owner, also named Johannes Hardenbergh  (1670–1745), had purchased a tract of two million acres of land in the Catskill Mountains from a leader of the Esopus Indians. For this land (spread across today’s Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware Counties) Hardenbergh and six others were granted a patent in 1708, which became known as the “Hardenbergh Patent.”  By the time of the first federal census of 1790, fifteen heads of Ulster households had the name “Hardenbergh,” of whom ten listed enslaved people. Advertisements for runaway slaves in the Hudson River Valley (including three from members of the Hardenbergh family) indicate that many slaves spoke Dutch as well as English. Sojourner Truth herself always kept a distinct low-Dutch accent, and never had the Southern black accent that the white abolitionist Francis Gage gave her when publishing the speech that became known as “Ain’t I a Woman?” (compare this speech, written 12 years after the original speech, with a more authentic version).

 

Col. Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), Rosendale, Hurley

Black and white postcard showing home among trees with caption "House of Col. Johannes Hardenbergh."
Postcard of the home of Col. Johannes Hardenbergh  (1706-1786) in Rosendale, Ulster county

As can be seen in Myrtle Hardenbergh Miller’s The Hardenberg family; a genealogical compilation (1958) many male members in the Hardenbergh family inherited the name of the Hardenbergh patriarch in Ulster County. Miller makes a clear distinction between the older Colonel and the younger Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh (1729-1799), the owner of Sojourner Truth. But the older Colonel Hardenbergh (1706-1786) was more famous: he was a field officer under George Washington in the Continental Army, and served in New York’s Colonial Assembly. He lived with his family in “Rosendale,” a house with many rooms as well as slave quarters, formerly owned by his grandfather Colonel Jacob Rutsen. The house, in which Colonel Hardenbergh entertained Washington in 1782 and 1783, burned down in 1911. In the New York Census of Slaves of 1755 Hardenbergh is listed as living in Hurley owning six slaves, which made him one of the largest slaveholders in the county. In 1844 Hurley’s town boundaries changed, however, and the house became part of the newly formed town Rosendale. (View a map of Ulster county, 1829)

 

Col. Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. (1729-1799), Swartekill, Hurley

photo of last page of handwritten inventory
Inventory of Charles Hardenbergh’s estate, listing Isabella, her brother Peter and her mother Bett (source) (full inventory)

The younger Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh was lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth or Middle Regiment, Ulster County in August 1775, and received his appointment as Colonel in February 1779. Married to Maria LeFevre, he lived with his family in Swartekill, Esopus, which was a short distance north of Rifton and also part of the town of Hurley. Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. appears in the 1790 census for Hurley with seven slaves, who must have included Isabella’s parents James and Betsey and possibly siblings of Isabella who were sold before she was born. It was his son Charles who inherited Sojourner Truth and her family. Born in 1765, he was married to Annetje LeFevre and died in 1808. The inventory of his estate, written on May 12, 1808 and filed on January 2, 1810 lists “1 negro slave Sam, 1 negro wench Bett, 1 d(itt)o Izabella (and) 1 d(itt)o boy Peet.” Isabella, Peter, and the man named Sam were valued at 100 dollar but Isabella’s mother Bett was only valued at one dollar. Rather than being sold, she was freed so that she could take care of her old and sick husband, James Bomefree. Sadly, as recounted in The Narrative, “Mama Bett” (spelled as “Mau-mau Bett” by Olive Gilbert) preceded him in death, and he died in miserable circumstances.

 

Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736–1790)

Image of stained and partly damaged letter
Jacob R. Hardenbergh to his father, December 6, 1777 (in Dutch, read up close)

Like his brothers and sisters, Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh was born in the family home “Rosendale.” He left home when he was around seventeen years old to prepare for the ministry at the home of John Frelinghuysen (1727-54), a young prominent Dutch Reformed minister, who served five congregations in central New Jersey, and lived in what is now known as the “Old Dutch Parsonage” in Somerville. When Frelinghuysen unexpectedly died in 1754 the young Hardenbergh took over the five pulpits. He married Frelinghuysen’s much older widow, the pietist Dina van Bergh (1725–1807) in 1756 and was ordained to the ministry in 1758. Whether he also retained the three slaves (including a child), whom Dina had inherited according to her first husband’s will, is not known. But they did have at least one slave at the parsonage: in a letter from Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, written (in Dutch) to his father in 1777, he wrote that he had to hurry “because the negro is getting ready to go”  (“wijl de neger gereet maakt om af te gaan“).

In 1781 Hardenbergh was called by the congregations of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing in Ulster county, and left New Jersey to move back into his parental home “Rosendale” with his family. He returned to New Jersey in 1786 to serve as minister in New Brunswick and president of Queen’s College. Whether he maintained any enslaved people during these last four years of his life we do not know. There are no slaves mentioned in his will.

 

This blog post was extracted from the presentation “Land, Faith and Slaves: the shared heritage of the Hardenbergh family, Rutgers University, and the Dutch reformed Church on June 17, 2017 

Forgotten Heroes: New Jerseyans and Rutgers Alumni During the Great War

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By Flora Boros

 

On April 6, 1917, one hundred years ago, the United States entered The Great War (as it was known then) or the First World War (as we know it today). New Jersey contributed 72,946 draftees and 46,960 volunteers—with more than 140,000 serving by the war’s end—for the final seventeen months of the war. Although the Garden State is teeming with over 160 memorials dedicated to the brave individuals who served in the Great War, their names were largely forgotten until recently. In this blog post we will feature two of these long forgotten New Jersey heroes, using materials from the Rutgers College War Service Bureau and the Terradell Family Papers at the Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives. These materials, along with many other one-of-a-kind artifacts, are currently on display in “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: New Jersey in the Great War.

With a growing number of Rutgers men in Uncle Sam’s olive drab, Earl Reed Silvers (RC 1913) established the Rutgers College War Service Bureau (RCWSB) in August 1917 to keep the 800 men in service up to date with frequent news of the college and each other. “As far as can be ascertained, no college or university in the United States kept in such close touch with her alumni and undergraduates in the army or navy,” reflected Silvers, “nor has any college the mass of material, war letters and relics, which were sent to old Rutgers by her appreciative sons.”

Portrait of Theodore Rosen. Undated, ca. 1926.

Counted among the alumni who corresponded with Silvers and the RCWSB was Theodore “Theo” Rosen (1895-1940), Rutgers College Class of 1916, who served as First Lieutenant in the 315th Infantry, 79th Division.

Creeping and crawling toward the German line in search of a machine gun nest on the early morning of November 4, 1918, Rosen found himself in the path of fire. One bullet rendered his right arm useless; the other tore through his left cheek, filling his mouth with blood and taking out seven teeth. The 23-year-old would lose the top of his left thumb, break his left wrist, have his right arm amputated, and suffer impaired hearing and vision before the onslaught was over. He only recovered consciousness as a P.O.W. on the operating table at Longwy, where he remained prisoner for the eight days before the Armistice in November 1918. Commendation letters in Rosen’s RCWSB file stressed Rosen’s status as a medical marvel thanks to a “masterpiece of surgery.” Noting his “gallantry in action and meritorious services,” Rosen garnered high praise from a department dealing with the paperwork for nearly 4 million American troops.

Excerpt of “The Man Who Wouldn’t Be Licked!” Real Heroes (1941) (view complete comic)

Following his early death, the war hero’s perseverance and valiance was preserved in the sole issue of Real Heroes (1941) in a comic entitled “The Man Who Wouldn’t Be Licked!” In short, Rosen’s story truly gives new meaning to the phrase “mind over matter.”

Click to read the complete details of Rosen’s “Remarkable Story” from the RCWSB’s Selected Letters, which Earl Reed Silvers intended to turn into a book.

 

But for every story of Great War survival, there are hundreds of stories of heroes who never made it back home to New Jersey. Counted in the tally of the 3,836 New Jerseyans lost to combat, accident, and disease, was Trentonian Russell “Russ” J. Terradell (1897-1918), whose story is housed in the Terradell Family Papers.

First page of Russell Terradell’s letter to his mother. Undated, ca. Oct. 1918. (view complete letter)

Around a week after Rosen fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Emma L. Terradell tore open this six-page letter from her son, Private Russell Terradell, 61st Regiment, 5th Division. According to Dr. Richard Grippaldi of Rutgers University, such final “just in case” letters were written by soldiers to their families on the eve of battle since the early days of the Civil War, and remain a custom in combat units to this day.

Russell Terradell surrounded by his mother and three sisters Eleanor, Emma “Loretta,” and Streline “Mercedes.” Undated, ca. 1917.

Slain-in-action on October 17th 1918, Terradell’s begins with the introductory understatement, “To the dearest of Mothers, When this reaches you you will know that I have passed over, Mother I know how horribly upset you will be over this and that the scar will always remain.” The 21-year-old patriotically justified his death as he attempted to console his family, “But we shall live forever in the results of our efforts. I did not make much of my life before the war but I believe I have done so now. Often one hears ‘Poor fellow cut off so young without ever having a chance of knowing and enjoying life.’ But for myself thanks for all you have done for me. I have crowded into twenty-one years enough pleasures and experiences of a lifetime, and that is why it is no hardship for me to leave this world so young.” The wrinkled onionskin paper still bears the marks of his mother’s tears one hundred years later, and I dare you not to get a bit choked up over this difficult-to-read letter.

If you’re interested in learning more about New Jersey servicemen like Rosen and Terradell, please check out our latest exhibition, “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: New Jersey in the Great War. On display through September 15, 2017 in Alexander Library. Curator’s tours are available by appointment, please email inquiries to flora.boros@rutgers.edu.