Animals in the Stacks
by Aisha Pierre, Reference Assistant
I think those of us at Syracuse University can agree that the fall semester has been the strangest experience. We have become experts at Zoom meetings, we have become accustomed to our new 2020 accessory, the face mask, and we know how many times to shake the COVID test tubes (it is fifteen, by the way). As the University entered its second phase of remote learning, the anxiety surrounding my fellow Orangemen could be seen among my co-workers, classmates and professors.
During the March lockdown, I would sit in my window nook with my first cup of coffee reading online blogs. With the pandemic keeping visitors away, museums embraced technology as a way to reach their audiences. One blog that I enjoyed was The Iris: Behind the Scenes at The Getty. The articles are written by “curators, educators, scientists, scholars and many others” from the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles. One of their articles published was titled, “10 Dogs We Love from the Getty Collection.” Inspired by the Getty’s post, I decided to search through our archives for animals within our own collection.
Vita the Goat
Vita the Goat, seen here among her handlers during a game against Colgate. Syracuse University Photograph Collection.
Before Otto the Orange, SU had several mascots cheering from the sidelines at sports games and adorning signs and memorabilia. During the 1920s, it was Vita the Goat. Yes, Syracuse University’s official mascot was a goat. She can be seen in this photograph alongside her handlers during a football game against Colgate. The four-legged animal was later replaced by the Saltine Warrior.
Sketch: “Dumbo and mother, kiss.” Helen R. Durney Papers.
Did you know that Dumbo was a Syracusan? The beloved circus elephant was created by Syracuse couple, Harold and Helen Pearl. The book was illustrated by local Syracuse artist, Helen Durney, and published in Syracuse as a Roll-A-Book. A patent was applied on November 2, 1938 for a device where the reader could scroll through the pages of a book using a button. The Roll-A-Book was meant to solve the problem of readers losing their page. The following year, the children’s book was purchased by the Walt Disney Corporation for $1,000, and Dumbo was animated for the big screen.
Charles Eisenmann Collection
Carte de visite of five circus dogs, standing on pails on their hind legs. Ronald G. Becker collection of Charles Eisenmann photographs.
Speaking of the circus, how could I not include this loveable carte de visite from our Charles Eisenmann Photograph Collection of circus dogs?! Using his photography studio in New York, Eisenmann documented the “abnormal” circus performers from the P.T. Barnum sideshows. He also documented circus animals, like the dogs seen here. This performance might have showcased the pups’ obedience assumed by their attentive gaze and adorable pose.
Photograph of the collie playing with Rev. J.B. Felt on a wintery day. “Scotty” Collection.
There can never be too many examples of man’s best friend in one post! After reviewing the materials in the Scotty Collection, it was clear that the white collie meant a great deal to the people in Clifton Springs, New York. The dog belonged to Reverend J.B. Felt and he would retrieve the “Geneva Times” from the mail train and deliver them to the postmaster. When the canine passed away from old age, the local newspaper documented the loss in his own “obituary.”
Stained glass memorabilia of Cheshire Cat perched on a tree branch. Kay Rossman Collection of Alice in Wonderland Memorabilia.
We cannot forget the feline companion! This charming stained-glass likeness of the iconic Alice in Wonderland character, the Cheshire Cat, was collected by Kathleen “Kay” Rossman. This collection was a surprising discovery and so much fun to look through the other objects, like an Alice in Wonderland soap collection. Rossman was a member of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and collected Alice in Wonderland memorabilia. She also ran a gift shop called “The Cheshire Cat,” in Cazenovia, New York.
Barzillai Pease Journals
Ink drawings of whales with the unit of measurement “barrels,” in this case oil. Barzillai Pease Journals.
My good friend and co-worker, Nora, told me about a collection of whale drawings she had come across in the Barzillai Pease Journals. Pease was a crew member aboard a whaling ship before becoming a captain himself in 1815, following the War of 1812. Each time his vessel came across a whale, Pease would document it in his daily journals through these ink depictions.
Plastics Artifact Collection
Foster Grant & Co. white sunglasses with a bunny motif. Plastics Artifacts Collection.
These adorable children’s bunny sunglasses from the Plastics Artifacts Collection are just too cute! Not many people are aware that SCRC has many plastic-related collections. These sunglasses are from Foster Grant & Co. who specialized in designing eyewear. SCRC houses some of the company’s sunglasses and several of the stainless-steel prototype molds. Some of the children’s sunglasses have motifs of poodles, ponies, tigers, or clowns. Notably, some of the eyewear are missing the lenses. The company used to manufacture the glass lenses and even silicone lenses, that prevented scratching, but later ceased the production and only produced their molds. As a sunglasses collector, I wonder if the company ever made a pair for adults?! These would make for a perfect summertime accessory!
The Barzillai Pease Journals (Barzillai Pease Journals, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Foster Grant Collection (Foster Grant Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Helen R. Durney Papers (Helen R. Durney Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Kay Rossman Collection of Alice in Wonderland Memorabilia (Kay Rossman Collection of Alice in Wonderland Memorabilia, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Plastics Artifacts Collection (Plastics Artifacts Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), Ronald G. Becker collection of Charles Eisenmann photographs(Ronald G. Becker collection of Charles Eisenmann photographs, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), “Scotty” Collection (“Scotty” Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of our manuscript collections and the Syracuse University Photograph Collection (Syracuse University Photograph Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of our University Archives collections.
Case, Dick. “Syracuse University’s Mascot: From Dog to Goat to Warrior to Gladiator to an Orange.” Syracuse.com, 5 Feb. 2012, www.syracuse.com/opinion/2012/02/syracuse_universitys_mascot_fr.html.
Case, Richard G. “The Creation of Dumbo and His Syracuse Connection.” Onondaga Historical Association, www.cnyhistory.org/2014/10/dumbo/.
Jaskol, Julie. “10 Dogs We Love from the Getty Collection.” Getty Iris, 14 May 2020, http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/10-dogs-we-love-from-the-getty-collection/.
Pierre, Aisha. “Charles Eisenmann’s Circus Photography and the Cartes De Visite Collection.” Special Collections Research Center, 5 May 2020, https://library-blog.syr.edu/scrc/2020/05/05/charles-eisenmanns-circus-photography-and-the-cartes-de-visite-collection/.