Our student newspapers (1946-1974) are now digital!

Curious about what campus life was like at the University decades ago? Special Collections received a Technology and Digitization Grant from the South Central Regional Library Council in 2018 to digitize over 1000 issues of early student newspapers from microfilm. Complete issues of The Colonial News (1946-1970) and Pipe Dream (1970-1974) are available for searching and browsing at the NYS Historic Newspapers project website, as are over 10 million pages of other New York State newspapers. Learn what was going on at the University during an earlier era from a student perspective.

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Restarting Special Collections

Special Collections is open by appointment only from 10–4 p.m.,  Monday-Friday to Binghamton University students, faculty and staff. Appointments must be made at least 24 hours (one business day) prior to requesting the specific item(s) needed during the visit. We will continue to assist all researchers virtually as much as possible.

We have implemented social distancing and other safety measures to protect the health of patrons and staff.  

  • In accordance with University policy, masks must be worn at all times.
  • All visitors need to wash their hands prior to entering the reading room. Hand sanitizer will be available. 
  • Upon arrival researchers will be asked to complete a registration form with their contact information and date/time of their visit. 
  • All requested items will be waiting for the patron at a designated place in the reading room. Any additional items may be requested for a subsequent visit. 
  • Certain materials requiring staff assistance to manipulate may be restricted except to those who can demonstrate experience in the proper handling of rare and fragile materials. 

All class instruction sessions in Special Collections will be held online only through the fall semester. To request a virtual class session, please submit this form.

For all inquiries and to schedule appointments, contact us via email at speccoll@binghamton.edu.

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Voices from the Wasson Papers: The Career of Thomas C. Wasson

The following was written by graduate student assistant, Madelynn Cullings, who worked in Special Collections since the spring of 2018. She had spent a good deal of her time processing the Wasson Family Papers until the university issued stay-at-home orders in mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Madelynn is a third-year graduate student pursuing a PhD in History at Binghamton University. She received her bachelors from the University of Pittsburgh in Art History and History in 2016, and her MA in History from Binghamton University in Spring 2019. She aspires to pursue a career that engages with her interests in Early Modern history and iconography. 

Spread from the June 1948 edition of the American Service Journal commemorating Thomas Campbell Wasson’s career and honorable service.

Processing a raw, archival collection might seem like a daunting task — I certainly thought so when I was presented with several, cardboard boxes filled with hundreds of envelopes from the middle decades of the past century. Beginning with these countless letters, I was led to discover the figure of Thomas Campbell Wasson.

The Wasson Family Papers include the diaries, photographs, manuscripts, correspondence, publications and ephemera belonging to  the Wasson family. The core of the collection draws its strength from materials related to Edmund Atwill Wasson, Mary DeVeny Wasson and their sons, Thomas Campbell Wasson and Richard Gordon Wasson. The bulk of materials date to the early and middle decades of the twentieth century, providing a unique perspective on historical events and social attitudes. 

The dominant focus of the collection is centered around the career of Thomas Campbell Wasson. Wasson served as a member of the American Foreign Service between 1924 and 1948. His career was brought to an abrupt end shortly after his appointment to the Truce Commission in Jerusalem. Wasson was shot by a sniper’s bullet and fatally wounded after returning from a meeting of the French Consulate. The collection is a testament and memory to Thomas, which was largely curated and preserved by his devoted brother, Richard Gordon. 

Although the voice of Thomas Wasson was largely silent during the initial stage of processing, materials later emerged which confirmed the image of Wasson envisioned through reading the letters of his loving family and companions. Wasson’s serious, yet kind-hearted manner was revealed through remarks from fellow Foreign Service personnel, who commented on Wasson’s bravery displayed during his service in Dakar, Senegal during the German occupation of France. 

His career working for the American Foreign Service began following his travels throughout Europe during the first World War. His experiences are recorded in a diary which details the travels of Thomas and his brother Richard. His travels exposed him to diverse languages and cultures. His time spent studying French in this period would prove essential to the formation of his successful career.  These experiences as a young adult were formative in his decision to embark on a career in the American Foreign Service. 

Thomas Wasson’s long and distinguished career in the Foreign Service brought him into contact with diplomats and difficult situations. He was promoted through the ranks, beginning his career for the American Foreign Service as a clerk. He later served as Vice Consul in Melbourne and Adelaide, Australia. Throughout the 1930’s Wasson served as Vice Consul in Puerto Rico and Puerto Cortes, Honduras. He was subsequently promoted to Consul — serving in Florence, Italy and later Lagos, Nigeria.  He served briefly at a post in Vigo, Spain in 1940 and was transferred to a post in Dakar, Senegal in the Fall of 1940. Wasson later returned to posts in Europe following an appointment in Washington, D.C., serving in Paris in 1946 and Athens the following year. 

He was appointed to serve as a member of the three-man United Nations Truce Commission to Jerusalem in 1948. The tragic death of Thomas Wasson followed soon after his prestigious appointment. He died on May 22, 1948 after being fatally wounded by an unknown sniper’s bullet.

The gravity and tremendous weight of Thomas’ tragic death is reflected in the collection. A large portion of the Wasson Papers consists of condolences, newspaper articles published in the wake of Thomas’ death, and posthumous awards and commendations. Thomas Wasson was the recipient of various awards including the Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Although not completely processed, please contact us at speccoll@binghamton.edu with queries about the collection.

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“Dear Mother” – Everyday Perspectives from the Civil War

The following was written by Maureen Folk, a graduate student assistant who has been working in Special Collections during the spring semester of 2020. She had been processing the archaeological field records of Professor William Isbell until employees at the university began working from home on March 17th in adherence to the New York State COVID-19 directive. Maureen is a second year master’s student studying Peruvian archaeology and paleoethnobotany. She received her bachelors in Archaeological Studies from SUNY Potsdam in 2016 and will graduate from Binghamton in May. She hopes to pursue a career working in museums with collections of all types. 

Detail of letter from Clark Lockwood to his mother, dated February 29, 1864 (it was a leap year).

Working in Special Collections can present a new challenge each day. The most recent challenge has been the shift to working from home. The archival project I had been working on couldn’t be done from home. Up until the stay-at-home orders mandated because of Covid-19, I would begin each day at work by bringing a cart of materials out from closed stacks. I would roll this cart to the workroom and open the word documents and spreadsheets where the information regarding all of this physical material was held. From there, my day was relatively straightforward. I would go through the items in the boxes and document what was inside so we could build a finding aid and the collection could be used for research. The contents of each box were unique, ensuring each day was different.

Today, as I open up my laptop at my desk at home, my work looks a bit different. Binghamton University’s Special Collections had been lucky to receive a recent gift of letters written by a Civil War soldier, Clark Lockwood, to his mother. Now, my workday consists of opening scans of these letters and reading through them to produce a transcription. Once they are edited and uploaded, researchers can utilize them in instances where they cannot read the original material or want to do keyword searches on them. With each letter I open, I have to make my window five times bigger and zoom in quite a bit — not because the script is small, but because it can be challenging to read. They are in cursive, and while I was part of the generation that still learned cursive in school, it’s not a simple task to read something written more than 150 years ago. Some words have unique spellings that we no longer use or were misspelled. For example, Lockwood wrote “now” instead of “know” and not recognizing this changes the meanings of the sentences.

Clark Lockwood was 18 when he enlisted on August 14th, 1863 in Elmira, New York. He was mustered in as a private to serve three years. He would write home to his mother, Jane Lockwood, but always wished his father and sisters well. Lockwood’s letters recount his time at different camps, his hope for more people to enlist, his desire for more tobacco, and how tight money could be. What we see in textbooks about war is not what we see in these letters. Having these letters as part of Special Collections is valuable because they give us a perspective of the everyday life of a soldier. These may not be the cinematic-worthy moments, but that does not mean they are unimportant. Because this resource is housed in an archive, it can be used. Researchers can come to Special Collections and sit down with these letters in an effort to better understand what daily life looked like for soldiers or they can study the use of words and how they’ve changed over time.

What struck me most about these letters was how relevant his writing felt. Lockwood wrote to his mother about money; he would send her money but still needed some in order to pay his debts to people around camp. He also wrote about Small Pox breaking out at camp and how it had infected a number of soldiers. While he wrote about these issues more than 150 years ago, many of his worries resonate with us today. As we navigate a pandemic in the modern world, I find comfort in knowing that the world Clark Lockwood lived in suffered extreme hardships as well, and that life continued after it.

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Fifty Years of Earth Day

Events planned for the first Earth Day were outlined in the April 10, 1970 issue of the campus newspaper.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, first celebrated on April 22, 1970. On that first Earth Day, Harpur College’s Save Our World committee organized a teach-in at local public schools and hosted a lecture by the Broome County Health Engineer on population and the environment. The committee also requested a one-day ban of cars on campus, to highlight the air pollution caused by exhaust fumes.

Additional Earth Day events were held over the next several days: these included a plant-in around what is now the Nature Preserve; a series of films, displays, and lectures; a march to the Susquehanna River; and a sleep-out. A march to the university’s heating plant to urge stronger environmental controls was held April 29, according to the recap of Earth Day events in the April 28, 1970 issue of the Colonial News.

Earth Day was first observed during a period of heightened environmental awareness at the University: protests were launched in the summer of 1968 over a proposal to remove an area of hardwood forest to make room for dormitories and parking lots. After these concerns were raised and a hike-in was held, a revised plan resulted in the preservation of a large portion of the hardwood forest and the construction of the physically compact College-in-the-Woods residential unit. In December 1969, following additional protests against the construction of athletic fields behind Hinman College, University President Bruce Dearing halted the construction project, proposed the creation of a nature preserve in the area, and urged the establishment of a Committee on the University Environment.

The lead story in the issue of the Colonial News for April 24, 1970 (above) concerned the release of tentative boundaries for the proposed nature preserve by the University Committee on the Environment. President Dearing told the paper that he “felt that the natural area proposed for a preserve would be of benefit to the entire local and academic community not only in an aesthetic sense but as a necessary component of basic human ecological needs.”

By Earth Day 1971, a series of trails had been proposed for the nascent nature preserve, and among the Earth Day events that year were a series of hikes, intended to introduce students to the seldom-visited area of campus and to “direct attention to the preserve plan.”

The following year’s Earth Week events included a large-scale reforestation project on campus, as students planted more than 1,500 trees and shrubs in the Nature Preserve on Friday, April 21, 1972.

While this year’s Earth Day celebrations will of necessity be held virtually, we look forward to marking Earth Day 2021 on campus next April!

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New exhibit: What’s so funny in Special Collections? Humor comes in many forms!

Dr. Seuss once said “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere” and this includes Special Collections.

Humor can take many different styles and be included in a wide range of media from comic strips to film. This exhibit features representations of humor including political cartoons, comics, animation and film. From 18th century political cartoons to Shrek, the materials displayed are sure to make you smile!

The exhibit will be on display from October 21, 1919 through March 13, 2020.


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Special Collections Talk: “Singing the Body Electric: Opera, Democracy, and Voice in the Poetry of Walt Whitman” on October 3, 2019, 12:00pm-1:00pm

The University Libraries’ Special Collections will host a talk by Dr. Robert P. Wilson, adjunct lecturer of English, on “Singing the Body Electric: Opera, Democracy, and Voice in the Poetry of Walt Whitman.” at noon Thursday, October 3, LN-2320, Bernard F. Huppé Reading Room. In his later years, Walt Whitman suggested that a “philosopher musician” reading Leaves of Grass could not help but hear the echoes of the poet’s many enraptured encounters with music, especially opera. “Singing the Body Electric” amplifies this influence by identifying Whitman’s notion of “vocalism” — the divine power of a body to sound its speech, its song, and its “barbaric yawp” — as the essence of poetic, musical, and democratic performance.

Illustration by Margaret C. Cook. In “Poems from Leaves of Grass.” London: J.M. Dent & New York: E.P. Dutton, 1913

A brief tour of the exhibit “Leaves of Grass: Walt Whitman’s Masterwork” and a viewing of the first edition will follow the talk.  All are welcome.

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Leaves of Grass: Walt Whitman’s Masterwork on Exhibit Beginning May 31st

Libraries and poetry lovers around the world are commemorating the 200th birthday of the great American poet, Walt Whitman, born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, NY on Long Island. Writing and revising his collection of poems, Leaves of Grass, which was first published in 1855 and is composed in free verse around themes of identity, love, sexuality, democracy, loss, and death, was his lifelong work. This fluid compilation was extensively edited, expanded, and perfected. Following the final “Deathbed Edition,” his work continued to appear in numerous annotated editions and has been the subject of much critical analysis.  Versions have been reproduced as facsimiles and published in illustrated volumes with photographs, paintings, and drawings. It has also inspired new works by musicians, book artists, and typographers. Selections are included in many anthologies and even in children’s books. Whitman and his ever-evolving Leaves of Grass generated praise, critique, and discussion from the moment it made its first appearance to the present day.

In the upcoming months, Special Collections will display some of its holdings related to Leaves of Grass.  Like the work itself, the exhibit will change during the course of its installation — volumes will be added and removed, pages will be turned and unfolded, and our original first edition will be on display on selected days. Follow us on Twitter @bingspeccoll to find out when.

May 31 through October 15, 2019

Monday-Friday 10:00-4:00

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The Woman Who Dared to Vote: In Honor of Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday, February 15

On November 1, 1872, in an act of defiance against the election laws prohibiting women from voting, Susan B. Anthony, along with fifteen women from Rochester, New York’s eighth ward, registered to vote at the upcoming election.

Entries in the 1872 diary from the Maurice Leyden Collection provide insight into the events surrounding these actions. Maurice Leyden and his wife, Margaret, were friends of Susan B. Anthony and active supporters of the suffrage movement.  In his November 1st entry Leyden writes, the “ladies went & were registered to day to & intend to vote if they can on Tuesday. – they are the first ladies that were ever registered in Rochester.” Margaret Leyden was among this group of women.

On November 5, 1872, the day of the election,  Susan B. Anthony and the women descended upon the local polling place and voted (illegally).  Several days later a poll watcher lodged a complaint against the women and they were arrested.

June entries from Leyden’s 1873 diary discuss the women’s arrest and the subsequent trial of Susan B. Anthony, who was found guilty of illegally voting and fined $100, which she never paid. The remaining women were also charged with illegally voting, but were never prosecuted.

While these women had not been the first women to vote in an election, Susan B. Anthony was the first to be tried in court for the crime of illegally voting.  The attention received by the trial created an uproar among the suffragists, re-energizing the movement.

June 1873 diary entries from the Maurice Leyden Collection













To learn more about the Maurice Leyden Collection, visit Special Collections to examine the diaries, or go to the online finding aid Maurice Leyden Collection

Special Collections is located on the second floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room). Our hours are Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.




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Happy Birthday Mack Sennett!

Mack Sennett, c.1920.

Mack Sennett (January 17, 1880 – November 5, 1960) was a Canadian-born American director and actor and was known as the innovator of slapstick comedy in film and often coined the “King of Comedy.” His anarchic world of cross-eyed rubes, bearded villains, fetching bathing beauties, and custard pie throwing was an unexpected creation of a man who grew up wanting to be an opera star. Sennett’s brand of crude slapstick humor proved to be highly popular with audiences and helped him become one of the most powerful men of early Hollywood.

Sennett founded Keystone Studios in 1912 and comedies were cranked out at production-line speed, with several produced in one day from an outline prepared under Sennett’s supervision. He instituted a strict formula for his movies despite the appearance of a frenzied freedom onscreen, forgoing characterization in favor of stereotypes for audiences to make an immediate identification and issued strict rules governing the type of gags that could be used, with manic car chases and pie tossing becoming comic staples. Many important actors cemented their film careers with Sennett, including Marie DresslerMabel NormandCharles Chaplin, Roscoe ArbuckleHarold LloydRaymond GriffithGloria SwansonFord SterlingAndy ClydeChester ConklinPolly MoranBing Crosby and W. C. Fields.

In 1917 Sennett gave up the Keystone trademark and organized his own company, Mack Sennett Comedies Corporation. Sennett went on to produce more ambitious comedy short films and a few feature-length films. During the 1920s his short subjects were in much demand, with stars like Billy Bevan, Ben Turpin, Mabel Normand, Charlie Murray, and Harry Langdon. 

In the mid-1920s, Sennett chose to begin distributing his pictures through Pathé, which seemed like a shrewd move given the large amount of theaters they distributed to. But when Paramount and MGM began carving away at their market share, Pathé lost a large number of exhibitors and led to hard times for Sennett.

By the end of the 1920s, he adapted to accommodate the advent of sound pictures making a rather effortless transition and even making occasional forays into experimenting with color. But despite his embrace of new technology, Sennett stubbornly clung to outmoded storytelling techniques. Meanwhile, he partnered with Paramount Pictures, only to find the relationship last for a year. Unable to pull himself up during the Great Depression, he directed Buster Keaton in one of his last films, “The Timid Young Man” (1935), before lapsing into semi-retirement. He received an honorary Oscar in 1938. His Keystone Kops re-emerged in “Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops” (1955), only to once again slip into obscurity. Five years later, Sennett died in 1960 in Woodland Hills, CA at 80 years old.

Scene from “Look Pleasant” (which would be retitled “Smile Please”) starring Alberta Vaughn, Harry Langdon, and Jack Cooper, 1924.

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