What’s New at the Southwest Collection?

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Rather than just spin a yarn about a single collection this week, we’re going to catch you up on some exciting things that happened in only the first couple of months of 2015!

For example, a couple weeks back the Southwest Collection was excited to host a research visit by the recipient of the Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Award, associate professor Greg Stephens of Kansas State University-Salina.

Professor Stephens’ focused his attention on our American Agricultural Movement (AAM) Records and related oral histories (which you may remember we hosted an entire exhibit about last spring!) Stephens is gathering information on farmers in Kansas to try to explain how the stories that individuals told about their involvement shaped the AAM’s leadership and goals, and how that reciprocally may have then changed the stories themselves. The AAM wasn’t the only organization he was looking at: the National Farmers’ Organization (NFO), Grange, Farmers’ Union, and the Farm Bureau also used specific narratives to define their missions. He even found that the AAM was stronger in the South Plains region (home of the Southwest Collection) than he had initially thought!

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Here you see our purveyor of oral histories (and gif creation expert) Elissa Stroman assisting Stephens with finding oral histories and similar items among our digital collections. She agrees that Stephens’ project is definitely interesting, and we were thrilled to be able aid it with our collections. If the Ag Movement strikes your fancy, too, then give our spectacular Reference Staff a call and they’d be happy to set up for you a look at it.

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Digital Collections Update!

Did you know that the Southwest Collection has added nearly a dozen digitized collections to our digital holdings? True story. Some of them are pretty spectacular, including the Boss Tweed Family Papers (the tale of which you can find right here!); the Charles Underwood Papers that contain some incredible images of World War II Pacific POW letters, one of which can be seen above; and the complete roster and late-19th-century war recollections of the United Confederate Veterans’ Fort Worth chapter  just in time for the anniversary of the final year of the Civil War. mastheads

One huge digital project we’ve had going on for several years is the digitization of numerous newspapers from around West Texas. There are far too many titles to name (seriously, check out this list of 28 different area newspapers totaling over 52,000 individual issues!), but some of the most recent include the State Line Tribune from the town of Farwell (or Texico, depending on what side of the Texas/New Mexico border you’re on), the Castro County News, and the Matador Tribune/Motley County Tribune (and assorted other names.) If you need west Texas news from the past 100 or so years, we’ve probably got it. Oh, and we’re always and forever adding more issues of Texas Tech’s own Daily Toreador (or University Daily, depending on the vintage) or whatever else the world will give us. (For example, we’ve been looking for papers to fill gaps in dates from many of the collections above, and in particular from our newspaper from Ropesivlle, Texas in the mid-twentieth-century for a while now. Got any lying around you might make available to us?)

Need, or want, to lay eyes on some of this stuff in person? Look no further than our ever-helpful Reference Staff to make that happen.

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Painstakingly Preserved Political Paraphernalia

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Election Day is coming up (or might have just passed, depending on when you’re reading this!) The SWC has a tremendous number of political collections, but some of the coolest parts of those aren’t correspondence or signed proclamations or whatever else it is politicians wind up gathering during their careers. No, the best things are the memorabilia!

Take these buttons and pamphlets attempting to drum up support for Gordon Barton McLendon. “The Maverick of Radio,” McClendon nailed down the Top 40 radio format in the 1950s and through that made a fortune. He didn’t stop there, though. As an offshore pirate radio broadcaster, he bombarded the coasts of Scandanavia and Great Britain with the music he loved, whether they wanted to hear it or not. Most of this is documented in his papers (which we have), as is his heavy involvement in politics during the 1960s. In 1964, for example, he ran in the Democratic primary against U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough. He lost, but on the trail he managed to bring along some famous folks, including John Wayne! The buttons above are from that campaign. 2AFL1398Scattered cross various collections are campaign relics related to four-term U.S. Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, Jr. From 1948 to 1955, Bentsen served Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then in the Senate from 1971-1993. While a Senator he chaired the Senate Finance Committee, which he parlayed into a position as U.S. Treasury Secretary during Bill Clinton’s early years as president. He even accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States in Michael Dukakis’ failed campaign against George H. W. Bush in 1988. But to do all that, he first had to get elected, and so his understated buttons and bepamphleted, smiling face grace the SWC’s collections.catalystV2I4-1-2Here’s an alternative view of campaigning, presented by Texas Tech’s own The Catalyst, a controversial, underground student newspaper during the 1960s and 70s. It contained articles, reviews, editorials, satires, parodies and political statements about the Vietnam War, racial discord, and drug use, among other topics. It was also the cornerstone of a 1970 lawsuit that became one of the most notable court cases in the area of freedom of the press for school newspapers. Legal problems aren’t surprising, given the anti-establishment tone of the articles in this October 22-November 5, 1970 issue. Check out the decidedly irreverent account of Spiro Agnew’s visit to Lubbock. They also editorialize on the senatorial contest between George H. W. Bush and Lloyd Bentsen. Those parts are good, but the rest of it is even better, rambling across a boycott of Purex products, campus police acquiring tear gas, and the benefits of hallucinogens.2AFL1401 We’ve saved the Presidential stuff for last, and boy do we have a slew of it! First up is a message card from LBJ’s 1964 campaign. It’s hard to tell whether or not this item is arguing for or against a vote for him. We’re open to your interpretation, if you’d like to comment below. Next, in direct opposition to The Catalyst’s viewpoints, we have a small button supporting the Nixon/Agnew ticket. Lastly, a run-of-the-mill bumper sticker for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign against Gerald Ford. Our American Agricultural Movement Papers suggest some definite opposition to Carter after his election, but the owner of this bumper sticker, at least, felt that Jimmy was the man to beat.

Interested in taking a peek at any of our numerous political collections? That’s what our Reference Staff is here for. Give them a call, before or after you’ve voted. They’d be happy to help you out.

Oral History 201: Oral History Processing

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In our last Oral History blog post, we gave a brief overview of the holdings of the Southwest Collection’s oral history program (of which there are thousands!) This week we would like to show you what our oral history department has diligently been working on lately. The SWC Audio/Visual Department curates all of the new interviews currently being conducted by our field historians, and after almost 2 years of work we are proud to unveil our new transcripts that debuted on the SWC’s DSpace this month!

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Our transcripts are the culmination of a lengthy project dedicated to creating the best product possible for researchers. Within these transcription documents you’ll find an interview summary, a general synopsis/table of contents, keywords, and a transcript of the entire interview. For our style and formatting, we are indebted to the Baylor Institute for Oral History’s style guide, which helped build the foundation of our work. These transcripts will provide researchers all over the world access to our newest oral histories, and we are eager to hear from researchers who use these documents.

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To process our oral histories, we start with our student assistants transcribing each interview (which typically takes roughly 8 hours per hour of interview). The transcript then undergoes at least three reviews by both A/V staff and the interviewer to ensure accuracy (especially of proper names and idiosyncratic language). The A/V staff then sends the interview to the SWC’s cataloging librarians, who place it on Worldcat where other libraries can discover the interview. Finally, we upload the transcript onto DSpace.

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Some of the first interviews cataloged with the new transcript template include a set of eight conducted with members of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM). We are highlighting these interviews to coincide with the exhibit that is on display through mid-June in the Southwest Collection.

The interviews conducted by Andy Wilkinson and David Marshall deal with all areas of AAM: from the original tractorcades and protests, to later political involvement in Washington, and their ongoing work with Farm-Aid. The Southwest Collection is dedicated to preserving the history of these hard working farmers and will continue interviewing all interested parties of the American Agriculture Movement. If you would like your story heard and preserved, please call Andy Wilkinson at (806) 742-3749 or email andy.wilkinson@ttu.edu. And if you’d like to hear the stories already gathered, our Reference Staff is always happy to see what they can arrange in that regard.

by Elissa Stroman

American Agricultural Movement: Tractorcade!

AAM plaque From March through mid-June, the Southwest Collection is exhibiting their American Agricultural Movement (AAM) records in an exhibit entitled Tractorcade! It commemorates the 35th anniversary of the AAM’s last great Tractorcade in 1979. Bringing together a host of oral histories, photographs, newspaper articles, and artifacts such as the plaque above, our curators attempt to tell this unique story of authentic American grassroots activism.

The AAM formed in Campo, Colorado, during 1977. Wanting the U.S. Government to address their concept of “Parity”—defined loosely as economic balance between agriculture, other industries, and the U.S. government—the AAM attempted to organize a farmer’s strike. Although widespread strikes didn’t take off immediately, later that year around 5,000 farmers held a tractor rally in Lincoln, Nebraska. Farmers in other states soon followed with their own rallies.McAllen photo2Sadly, sometimes the AAM’s activism would lead to violence. For example, on March 1st, 1978, a large group of protesting farmers was trapped on the International Bridge south of McAllen, Texas by city police on the U.S. side and Federal troops across the Mexican border. Protesters were tear-gassed and beaten, with 200 arrested and jailed. By the next day 2,000 more farmers arrived to join the protest. A thousand miles away on March 15th, 30,000 farmers arrived in Washington D.C. with the express intent of seeing the 1977 Farm Bill replaced. These events and many others were chronicled in local publications such as the American Agricultural News, digital copies of which—along with other digitized AAM materials—are available at the SWC.capitol tractorNot all efforts spawned violence. In January 1978, around 3,000 farmers drove their tractors to Washington D.C. The following year, farmers and their tractors made the trip to D.C. a second time, creating huge traffic snarls as they slowly made their way through the city. When at last they stopped at the National Mall, the police quickly penned them in with their squad cars and, later, with city dump trucks, hoping to prevent any further traffic disruptions. In spite of the heightened tensions caused by the corralling, there were only a few scuffles between farmers and police. By far most interactions between demonstrators and public officials were friendly, and often helpful. But in many cases top-level government and city leaders remained unsympathetic, as did public opinion.snowed inThen came Presidents’ Day weekend, when a massive winter storm dumped two feet of snow on the Capitol city. The only vehicles capable of operating in the mess were the tractors, and soon the farmers were carrying policemen to emergency calls, transporting nurses, doctors and other emergency personnel to hospitals and fire stations, bulldozing the snow drifts that blocked whole streets, and generally helping out wherever possible. The trouble-making farmers were now heroes; what AAM leader Gerald McCathern dubbed “Gentle Rebels.”buttonsToday, AAM serves as a watchdog for farmers as well as providing information useful to both elected and appointed officials who are responsible for forming farm policies. In June 2013, members from the AAM held a reunion in Lubbock, Texas, to discuss their shared history. The SWC worked with AAM members to collect oral histories, photographs, scrapbooks, and artifacts such as these to be preserved at the SWC. These materials are now available for research, and our helpful Reference Staff would be happy to help you find them.

– Andy Wilkinson