Archive for the ‘Library’ Category

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The Monster Mile” before it was a monster! (And the origin of the name.)

March 9, 2010

Aerial view of Dover Downs ca. 1965.

I’ve been cataloguing a collection of photographs representing the professional work of Cypen Lubitsh and Jack Bungarz.  They operated Lubitsh and Bungarz, a photographic studio in Wilmington from ca. 1950 until 1989.  I opened a folder to describe it for the on-line cataloguing project and could hardly believe my eyes!  Here was an aerial view labeled Dover Downs.  But what I saw in this view from about 50 years ago blew my mind- what changes time has wrought!  These days, a racing weekend at the Dover International Speedway means busy lunch counters and hotel/motel rooms all across the state.  Here was a view of a well-groomed track in the middle of almost nothing.  A few horses trot around the track but where is the giant monster holding a truck in the air, where are the lots of trailers parked for a race weekend, where are the slots, casino games and hotel?  And, where is Route 1 that passes so close to the rear of the track?!!  Wow!  (For those of us who have been around, it is easy to remember the track before it was “really big” with slots and the 46’ tall giant monster statue.  This stunning view was taken before the outside, racing track was built, and maybe even dreamed about.  Today the complex covers 750 acres. 

The track opened in 1969 as America’s first multi-purpose sports complex and remains that still today.  It’s busy schedule from opening day in 1969 included thoroughbred and standard bred horse racing  on the interior 5/8 mile oval and world-class auto racing on the outside one-mile track.  The concrete auto racing track boasted a new design called “variable degree” which helped drivers transition from flat straights to high-banked turns.  This new design allowed for drivers to reach unprecedented speeds on the one-mile track, earning it the nickname “The Monster Mile.”  It is fiercely known to have destroyed cars and driver’s hopes, an alternate definition of “monster.” 

Who says history at the Delaware Historical Society is boring.  Ha!

Ellen

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The Delaplane (not just a Newark area street name)

March 2, 2010

Delaplane, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Robie Seidlinger, engineer and builder sits at the controls of Delaware’s first aeroplane. This was taken at the Horse Show Park, now a fashionable neighborhood known as Wawaset Park in Wilmington.

(The following information was abridged and adopted from George J. Frebert, Delaware Aviation History (Dover, DE, 1998)
One hundred years ago the Wilmington Aero Club (WAC) was incorporated. The organizers included David Snellenberg, Robie Seidelinger, George W. Crowe and John Montgomery. They contributed $1000 and sold shares in their enterprise which they hoped would allow them to develop a world-renowned aviation experimental group. The long range plan included highly publicized air-shows and innovation. At the time, they knew they could purchase a Wright (you guessed it- the Wright brothers) Flyer for $5,000 but instead the men opted to spend an estimated $6,000 for member Robie Seidelinger to design and build a plane. He did just that and in August, 1910 the Delaplane was nearly complete and was displayed at the fairgrounds.

The plane met with approval from J.D. McCurdy, an assistant to Glenn Curtiss (of Curtiss airplane fame) and word spread rapidly about the plane. After a couple of miscues because of weather, the plane was finally flown on October 21, 1910. It was placed in a hangar for the winter, with big plans for a huge event in the upcoming June. Unfortunately the hangar was struck by lightning and the entire structure and the plane were consumed by the flames. There lies the sad demise of the Delaplane.
This year marks the one hundredth birthday of the Delaplane and the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame will be celebrating. Don’t miss out on the fun and the rest of Delaware’s history, check them out at http://www.dahf.org/. This Delaware Historical Society is so glad to know it owns the only know photograph of this plane.

Happy 11:45 everyone, Ellen

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Pushmobile Derby Fun!

January 22, 2010

Ready, Set…Go!, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Hello from the photo files! I am working on the finding aid/cataloguing a large collection of photographs from a photographic studio here in Wilmington. Lubitsh and Bungarz Photographers operated first from Market Street then from Orange Street in Wilmington from 1949-1989.

The negative collection is monster-big. A volunteer spent a few years identifying the prints for us and now I am working to her work into our catalog. There are probably somewhere in the vicinity of 2000 prints of some very cool happenings, places and people. Everyone from this little boy who raced and placed in the 1955 Pushmobile Derby sponsored by the Delaware Association of Police, to the Pope John Paul II, a couple of Miss Delaware contestants and Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Kennedy. The collection includes images of both of the Delaware Memorial Bridges being built, views of homes, banks, businesses, ground breakings and numerous civic ceremonies as well as views of the Getty Oil Refinery (most recently Valero) in Delaware City, scenes from Brandywine Raceway and aerial views from across the state.

What a fun collection it is! It is also very significant to us because it picks up almost exactly where the Sanborn Studio (our other very large studio collection) left off. Photographers are some of the very best documenters of history and this is certainly true of Lubitsh and Bungarz.

The Bungarz Print collection, named as such because it was a gift to the Delaware Historical Society from Jack Bungarz after his long-time partner, Cypen Lubitsh had died and as he was retiring from the business, is a rich treasure of everyday scenes and important events, as such it is an indispensable resource for all of us. Come down to browse through the boxes or check us out on-line in a few months!

Until next time- enjoy 11:45!
Ellen

Help us identify this image!

Pushmobile Derby Winner
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

This little boy raced in the Pushmobile Derby in Wilmington in 1955. He drove the car sponsored by the Lubitsh and Bungarz Photographers. Partner Cy Lubitsh is seen posing to the left of the boy on his car- is this his son? We don’t have an identification- anybody out there who could help? The boy was apparently good, as he is seen here in the second image accepting his prize from the race officials. The Delaware Association of Police sponsored the event which featured the work of local boys in cooperation with local businesses.

Getting ready for Pushmobile Derby
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
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Happy 11:45 from the 1860s!

December 15, 2009

2nd and West Streets, Wilmington, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

It’s 11:45 and I’m enjoying a trip back in time. I’m nearly finished cataloging the Delaware Historical Society’s Stereocard Collection into Cuadra Star and I am enjoying these last moments visiting another era! I thought I’d share a little with you- nothing sensational- just fun today.

I picked two views to share- both of 2nd Street but in different towns. The first view shows the corner of 2nd and West Streets in Wilmington in the mid-1860s. It looks like a pretty normal day- a few people walk along the street and it looks as if the maid for the home and one of the youngsters of the family are posed at the corner of the house. I just love the “action shot” of the lady with her long dress walking in front of the home. Most stereocard views are much more staged than this seems to be.

2nd St., New Castle

The second image shows 2nd Street too, but it’s Second Street in New Castle. This house sits across from the Arsenal, a well-known site in New Castle then and today. This one looks different as I converted it into a grayscale image for another purpose. In this view, the photographer spent some time arranging his subjects, or possibly asking the owner of the home what he/she/they might like to have pictured. Standing in front of the horse and buggy is the man responsible for keeping the horse. His jacket is torn on its sleeve- and stands in sharp contrast to the fancy hat of the owner, who you see standing behind the buggy and nearly blocked from view.

Between the two views, we get a tiny sense of what life was like some 130 years ago. Pretty cool job I have today!

-Until Next Time, Ellen

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The Bancrofts

December 1, 2009

Samuel Bancroft House, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

December Greetings! It’s officially the holiday season- hoorah!

I am in the process of cataloguing the Stereocard Collection. The Society owns approximately 250 of these cards- most were produced in the third quarter of the 19th century. They were made with a special camera that had two lenses very near one another. When the photographer took his photograph, he actually took two nearly identical images. The two were developed and mounted on a card. The cards used were of various sizes and measured about 7” wide by about 3 ½” high. They were viewed through a special contraption- a handle with glasses and an easel holder for the card. The viewer slid the easel closer or further from the “glasses” until the image appeared as a three-dimensional view. To us today, these stereopticon cards are cool, fun and very entertaining! But put yourself in the shoes of people who didn’t have television or movies and imagine what fun they were. When I was a small girl, my mom went on a steroptican kick and bought a viewer and some cards- I loved them! She bought a lot of western scenes showing people posed precariously on the tops of mountains and canyons and views of people at Niagara Falls. Even for a little girl in the 1970s- these cards provided a chance to get away and see things that were exciting and even thrilling.

Back to Delaware and the Historical Society and Cuadra Star (alas- a few moments with the thrill seekers atop the Grand Canyon and my mind starts to feel wanderlust…). Anyway, I’m working on a tiny collection of five cards donated by the Bancroft family. The Bancrofts, a Quaker family, had a very successful milling business along the Brandywine River just west of Wilmington. In 1831 Joseph Bancroft founded a cotton mill at Rockford, Delaware. Daily operations were based on the British methods of spinning and weaving. Bancroft’s sons William Poole Bancroft (1835-1928) and Samuel Bancroft, Jr. (1840-1915) became partners in the Rockford factory, which became Joseph Bancroft & Sons. In 1889 the business was incorporated, and was known thereafter as Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company.

This collection of five cards show views of the homes and mills before the company was incorporated. The one that caught my eye is a view of the home of Samuel Bancroft Jr. At 26 he married and had a house built for the couple. A hand-written note on the reverse of the card tells the story: “Samuel Bancroft and Mary R. Richardson were married June 8, 1865 and moved into this house in February 1866- this house being built for them and they occupied the “Fulton house” until this house was ready for them. Samuel Bancroft is sitting on the porch. This was the beginning of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bancroft Jr.”

As an aside- most Delawareans would know Samuel and Mary Bancroft for their interest and generosity to the arts community. Samuel became fascinated with Pre-Raphaelite art and amassed the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art outside the United Kingdom. His donation of the collection and eleven acres of land was the impetus for the Delaware Art Museum in the 1930s.

-Ellen

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Exploring our Photographs

October 23, 2009

Driving Excursion ca, 1910, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

On days like today – I can safely say that I have the greatest job in the world! Where else would I be able to explore an absolutely outstanding photograph collection for images from the turn of the century? On days like today, I feel so lucky!

I was looking for images from the turn of the century because we recently formed a teacher advisory committee to give us input and advise on our education programs. (These teachers are a GREAT bunch! I’m very excited to work with them.) One thing they are going to do – is create lesson plans that relate to our educational offerings so we can distribute them via our teacher education list. We (the education staff at DHS) put together a sample lesson plan to give the teachers an example of what we’d like to see. The lesson plan is about using primary sources, specifically historic images, in the classroom. It was my job to find images to go along with the lesson!

Like I said – I’m lucky. I picked the turn of the 20th century because we have a brand new childhood program for this time period so I thought it would be nice to have a correlating lesson. I was in heaven searching through our photograph collection and I found some real treasures. (Below are some of my favorites.) I hope that these images will captivate children to explore history and this time period.

One of the activities in our historic image lesson plan is to draw a picture or describe what happens next.  I’m a hopeless romantic so my favorite of the bunch is the first in the post.  I think that this happy, smiling couple rides off into the sunset and live happily ever after! What do you think happens next for any of these pictures?  I’d love to hear from you!

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

Kindergarten Class ca. 1893
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Delaware State College Ca. 1900
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Baseball Team Ca. 1910
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Playground Ca. 1910-1920
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Children in Playground, 1908
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
RehobothBeach, 1902
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
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News from the Library…

September 30, 2009

Interns from Howard H.S. Working Away, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Hi from the library! It’s been a while since I’ve posted- we’ve been getting back in the groove of opening up for business every day. Our new HVAC system is a dream. As for the moving part, we’re not quite all unpacked but more than 90% operational! Packing up, relocating and unpacking, moving the shelves and getting back on our “regular” schedule was an experience that thankfully we won’t have to re-do. I really liked my office “in exile” but I have a great spot here and since I’ve been working in the library for more than 20 years, home really does seem best.

With the new school year, we have a new pair of Howard High School students working in the library. They are here for about 90 minutes every day that school is in session (minus an occasional assembly, tests or something special). So, we’d like to introduce them to you. Meet Chris Greene (left) and Curtis Maxwell (right). Both are seniors at Howard, playing football this season and both are enrolled in the computer course work at Howard.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get them to post to our site. If not, I’ll keep you updated on the projects that they are undertaking. In this photo, they are looking over an 1881 Atlas of the City of Wilmington. Even though their school is well within the limits of the city today, their block was not included on that atlas and their school was not yet built. So far, they’ve discovered the usefulness of the City Directories, spent some time in the Ephemera Collection and helped with a mailing.

These days, I’m working on a myriad of projects. I’m mounting a library exhibit, “Be True to Your School” featuring objects from the library and museum collections relating to the High School experience. I’m working with Connie to wrap up another edition of our scholarly journal, “Delaware History” and working on producing info., estimates for work flow and times for cataloguing the photo and print collections. Never a dull moment-just like I like it!

Until next 11:45- Ellen