Conan: The Exhibit!

phenom

A few months ago we told the tale of the Robert E. Howard westerns that were published in his hometown newspaper, the Cross Plains Review. But to be honest, Howard wasn’t really famous for his westerns. The world knew him for his fast-paced tales of sword and sorcery, and among those one character stood above the rest: Conan the Cimmerian. The Southwest Collection has installed “Robert E. Howard: Creator of Conan the Barbarian,” an exhibit curated by our favorite cataloger and metadata librarian, Rob King. It describes the many materials the SWC holds related to the author and his world-famous barbarian, and will be on display through the first of the year.

walked alone

Who was Robert E. Howard? A writer, of course. An avid boxer. A West Texan, too. But one young woman, Novalyne Price Ellis, kept extensive diaries about her years with the author that she later used to write One Who Walked Alone (the cover of which can be seen above.) Her insights into the man are wroth a read. Price was a school teacher who moved to Cross Plains, Texas, in 1934. She wanted to become a writer, and became interested in Howard both as an author and some-time partner. In the words of her Howard biography, she and Robert enjoyed “a unique, if often tempestuous, relationship.” Still, in between her teaching, his writing and boxing, and their quarreling, they rode horses across the countryside while discussing politics, Texas history, and the difficulties of living in West Texas during the Great Depression. They remained very close until Howard’s suicide in 1936, when he was only 30 years old.

Robert Howard Framed

Conan wasn’t the only character that Howard (seen here wearing a stylish hat) wrote to life. The young man spun yarns about Solomon Kane, a 16th century English adventurer; Bran Mak Morn, king of the Picts; and Kull of Atlantis, who we have some more to say about later. But really, Conan is what Howard’s legacy is all about, so here’s the short, short version of the barbarian’s story. Having traveled south from Cimmeria to seek his fortune in southern lands, Conan “trod the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandaled feet” until he rose to become king of the ancient land of Aquilonia. There, as many know, he wore its crown upon his troubled brow. Our exhibit features compendiums of the Conan (and other Howard) stories, accounts of Howard’s life as both an author, amateur boxer, and lover of the American West, and analyses of the Conan phenomenon, such as…Conan the Phenomenon (the awesome cover of which can be seen at the beginning of this blog!)

Oh! Also, we have Conan comic books!

Garden of FEAR

Conan had many forerunners in Howard’s fiction. Take for example Hunwulf the wanderer and his adventures in the “Garden of Fear.” This tale’s narrator reveals that he has lived countless past lives. During one particularly Conan-esque lietime many millenia ago, he traveled as Hunwulf, a barbarous fellow who, as barbarians often do, became mired in high adventure. Assaulted by mammoths! Beset by a black-winged demon-man! Rescuing a damsel in distress! And what a lady she was: Gudrun. “Not for a millennium of millenniums have women like (her) walked the earth. Cleopatra…Helen of Troy, they were but pallid shadows of her beauty….” Yeah, Hunwulf had fallen pretty hard.

Kull

Another Conan precursor can be seen posing, axe in hand, on this cover. Kull the Conqueror (aka Kull of Atlantis) only saw 3 short stories published in Howard’s lifetime, but another 9 were published posthumously. Other Kull adventures were also rewritten into Conan tales by Howard over the course of his career. There’s a lot we could say about Kull, but “By This Axe, I Rule,” the title of one of his short stories, pretty succinctly sums him up. Fun fact: Conan wasn’t the only of Howard’s creations to make it into the movies. Kull was the titular character of a film starring Kevin Sorbo in 1997. It might be wiser to stick with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian (1982) for a host of reasons, though, if you’re forced to choose between the two.

So come check out this new exhibit! Also, if you’re interested, read some of Howard’s stories in our digital copies of the Cross Plains Review. And for anything else Howard related at the Southwest Collection, our Reference Department would be happy to help you find it.

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From: “My Dear Brother William”: The Rise and Fall of William “Boss” Tweed & Family

April 4 1878 optional piece

(Editor’s note: This piece was generously contributed by visiting researcher and graduate student Jeffrey D. Broxmeyer of City University of New York, who used the Southwest Collection’s Tweed Family Papers as research material for his dissertation.)

William M. Tweed played a leading role in one of the great dramas of the postbellum period, the New York “Tweed Ring.” The group was composed of Tweed (Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall, state senator, and city Commissioner of Public Works), Oakey Hall (mayor), Richard Connolly (comptroller), and Peter Sweeny (district attorney), as well as a colorful cast of lesser politicos, contractors, and hangers-on. Historians estimate that between the late 1860s and early 1870s the Tweed Ring defrauded the City of New York from anywhere between $50 million (or $940 million today) and $100 million ($1.8 billion). Most of the money was never recovered.

The collapse of the Tweed Ring led to political crisis in New York and across the country. Considering the Ring’s breathtaking scale of operations, the scandal touched nearly the entire New York political class. One clipping I found in the Southwest Collection’s Tweed Family Papers came from the New York Herald, and was dated November 14, 1878. It quoted Senator Booth, a Republican, claiming that the taint of scandal directly touched “hundreds, both democrats and republicans, not only in the city of New York, but throughout the state.” With Tweed’s erstwhile ally turned prosecutor, Samuel Tilden, running for president, the Ring also became a major national issue during the contentious Election of 1876.

But how did Tweed generate his vast personal fortune? Reformers, journalists, and historians have often assumed that Tweed simply embezzled his fortune directly from city funds. This characterization, however, does not do justice to the complexity of Tweed’s operations. At the outbreak of the Civil War, bankruptcy records show that Tweed’s modest chairmaking shop, William M. Tweed & Brother, was significantly in debt. According to his later confession, at his pinnacle Tweed’s net worth was at least $6 million (or $113 million today). My research suggests that in fact much of Tweed’s personal wealth came not directly from embezzled funds but through his extensive and diversified business portfolio. During the height of Gilded Age boom times, Tweed leveraged his political influence toward speculative investments in banks, railroads, mines, newspapers, transportation, and real estate. Tweed’s real estate activity was particularly impressive, and he bought and sold valuable plots of land all over Manhattan to everyone from small-time Tammany hacks to the Astor family. Tweed even incorporated his own steamship company to ferry elite New Yorkers from Manhattan to their vacation homes in Greenwich, Connecticut.

It was, however, a short-lived business empire, as the Tweed Family Papers, collected by William’s sister-in-law, Margaret, illustrate. William was close with his brother Richard’s family, and the papers document the extreme financial hardship they all experienced in the wake of the scandal.

Jan 8 1877

William was first arrested in 1871. The Southwest Collection’s archives suggest that after six years of costly legal battles, his wealth was exhausted. Correspondence shows that, even with “the strictest economy,” his sister-in-law Margaret was desperate to avert foreclosure on their home at 339 W. 57th Street. Despite months of her pleadings, William lamented that he was in no position to help. On January 8, 1877, William candidly explained his own predicament in the letter above: “The fact is since my return [to jail] I have only by the most pressing efforts and sacrifices been enabled to meet my expenses. I have not had one dollar to use otherwise…Painful as it is to me I must say at present I cannot do anything to help you. But I am in hopes to have good reason to imagine I will shortly be in a position to do so.” nov 3 1877

Months later, William replied once again to Margaret’s plea for assistance. Although she owed significant debts, she asked only for $97 to pay for heating coal during the winter. “My Dear Sister Margaret,” he wrote from jail on November 3, 1877 (above), “I am really sorry. I am so unfortunately situated…at the present time it is almost impossible to get the money I need from day to day. If I can help I will do so and with pleasure.” Margaret attempted to contact William one last time via the letter at the top of this article, written on April 4, 1878 only days before his death from illness in prison. “Dear Brother William,” she wrote, “my daily prayers…are that your long delay of hopes are soon to be realized.” These letters paint quite a different picture of William Tweed than those by Thomas Nast, the gifted Harper’s Weekly artist who created the iconic caricatures that helped topple the Ring. In his correspondence with Margaret, William appears a devoted and even humble family man; hardly the rapacious beast portrayed by Nast and others.feb 9 1881

Years after the death of William, Margaret, and Richard Tweed continued to be plagued by financial duress. One of Margaret’s sons, Frank, wrote her the letter above on February 9, 1881, to explain why, with all manner of excuses, he could not send her money to pay rent. Another of Margaret’s sons, Alfred, frequently sent small remittances back east from Colorado, where he moved to escape the family legacy. But the scandal haunted him there, too. In the letter below from Denver and dated September 24, 1876, Alfred confessed to his mother than he had not succeeded in making a “quick fortune” out West. The Tweed Papers show that only a few years earlier, Alfred had toured Europe and lodged in luxury hotels. Now, things in Colorado appeared to be going less well. “I have a slandered name and reputation here,” he reported. “The Boss if all be true comes in for a due share of bad luck. And we all as a family seem to be d–n unlucky.” Sept 24 1876

By Jeffrey D. Broxmeyer

Additional Locations for Archival Material Related to William “Boss” Tweed:
Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library:
Edwin Patrick Kilroe Collection
John T. Hoffman Papers
New-York Historical Society Library:
Richard Connolly Papers
Charles S. Fairchild Papers
William M. Tweed Miscellaneous Manuscripts
New York Public Library:
A. H. Green Papers
A. Oakey Hall Miscellaneous Manuscripts
George Jones Papers
Samuel J. Tilden Papers
New York State Public Library:
Jay Gould Family Papers
Syracuse University Library:
Jay Gould Letters
Thomas Nast Collection
Tammany Collection, State Library, Albany, New York

 

150 Years Later: The United Confederate (Civil War) Records of Fort Worth, Texas

century war book-3In the spring of 1864, during the U.S. Civil War, Union forces under General Ulysses S Grant in the East and General William T. Sherman in the West began a coordinated campaign against the Confederacy. Now, 150 years later, we’d like to share some of the accounts of this, and other campaigns, written by Confederate veterans decades later when they began joining various Confederate Veterans organizations. The records we hold can be found primarily among our United Confederate (Civil War) Collection (UCV), which documents the history of Fort Worth’s UCV branch, the Robert E. Lee Camp No. 158.

The well-weathered item above is one of the dozen or so Century War Books in the UCV papers. It was published in 1894, at about the time R. E. Lee Camp 158 was gathering stories such as B. S. Landon’s (see below.) According to its authors, the Century War Book was “issued with the idea of bringing its picturesque features before a larger body of readers” than its predecessors. The mammoth volume that collected all of what would become the Century War Books, as well as THE CENTURY MAGAZINE. Altogether, the entire cost of the history in all its forms reached nearly $250,000.

b s landen account-1

“Descriptive Lists” are the handwritten accounts of war service that veterans submitted to the UCV. This one was written by B. S. Landon, a Confederate cavalryman under J.E.B. Stuart in the Army of Northern Virginia. “I was never in any regular battles or engagements,” he claims, but that wasn’t entirely true. He “rec’d during the war two balls through the body–one through the leg & one in the bottom of the left foot,” which no doubt kept him out of action for a time. But not forever: Landon was shot 3 additional times before the end of the war.

Roster-1 E. Lee Camp 158 had a large membership, as this roster can testify. Created by compiling the information gathered from hundreds and hundreds of Descriptive Lists, its pages aren’t as lively as veterans’ personal stories, but are equally useful because they gather members’ names in one place. To find a veteran they want to research, a researcher can avoid poring over pages and pages of Descriptive Lists and instead easily flip through this ledger. Names are most commonly found in the lists of those who paid their annual dues, as you can see in the page above.

j e johnson-1The final item we’ve got for you today is the Descriptive List of Pvt. W. C. Allen of the Army of Northern Virginia. Whereas B. S. Landon’s story was modest, W. C. Allen’s is an unpunctuated, brutally matter-of-fact account of a Private’s life. Once war erupted in April 1861, Allen wasted no time enlisting. He was present at the Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and a host of others such as Sharpsburg where he was shot and left on the battlefield for 3 days while his wound “got full of worms.” After a surprisingly quick recovery, he went on to fight a bit more before he was captured. Released 22 months later, he was apprehended again after rejoining the Confederate army, put on trial for “bushwhacking,” jailed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then incarcerated in the “Penatenchury” in Nashville until April 1865. We’ve read a lot of these letters, and most of us agree that there are few stories to match Allen’s.

The entirety of this collection has been digitized and placed online, but if you’d like to see these incredible items with your own eyes then don’t hesitate to contact our Reference Staff who are always happy to make that happen.