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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Remember, remember the fifth of November…

Remember, remember the fifth of November…

november5_0003_smToday is Guy Fawkes Day. This day commemorates the foiled Gunpowder Plot, a plan to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords during the king's opening address on November 5, 1605.

The Protestant James I was less favorable to religious freedom than many of his subjects had hoped he would be.  Led by Richard Catesby, a small group of English Catholics planned to kill the king, place his Catholic daughter on the throne, and start a popular revolt in order to restore the country to Catholic rule.  They rented a storage area under the chamber of the House of Lords and packed it with gunpowder, intending to ignite it when the king visited to open the session.

november5_0004_smAn anonymous tip in the early hours of November 5 led to the arrest of Guy Fawkes, who had been guarding the explosives, and who confessed the details of the plot under torture.  Several other conspirators were captured and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, a fate Fawkes avoided by jumping off the scaffold to his death.

James allowed his subjects to celebrate his survival with bonfires, and the observance became mandatory the next year with the passage of the Thanksgiving Act. Early celebrations involved artillery salutes, bell-ringing, sermons, and fireworks.



Special Collections has a few dozen pamphlets related to Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, from King James' speech in 1605 to Victorian tracts and sermons. Find a full list of holdings in the MERLIN library catalog.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Special Collections in Vox Magazine

Special Collections in Vox Magazine

Ever wonder who your favorite comic book superhero would vote for in the upcoming election?  SCARaB’s own Rebecca Vogler helped Vox Magazine sort out the issues, superhero style.

Tyler McConnell, “The Presidential Election: Super Hero Style,” Vox Magazine, 1 November 2012.

home Events and Exhibits, Special Collections and Archives Food Revolutions digital exhibit now online

Food Revolutions digital exhibit now online

If you missed Food Revolutions, our exhibition of food- and diet-related publications last spring, you can now view it online!  This exhibition examines our changing notions of healthy eating over two centuries.

The digital version of the exhibit features a video of Dr. Ingolf Gruen’s opening talk, as well as images and links to full text for many of the books we featured in the Ellis Library Colonnade. Food Revolutions was an event affiliated with Food Sense: The 8th Annual Life Sciences and Society Symposium.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Banned Books Week: Comics and Controversy

Banned Books Week: Comics and Controversy

Today marks the beginning of Banned Books Week, a yearly celebration of the freedom to read.  Special Collections is home to many banned books, and our extensive Comic Art Collection of more than 15,000 comic books contains some of the most-suppressed literature in the library.

Horror and Suspense

Tales from the CryptHorror, crime, and suspense comics became quite popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  EC Comics, edited by Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman, was one of the main publishers of this type of literature.  The company published several highly popular titles, including Tales from the Crypt, Frontline Combat, Panic, and Shock SuspenStories.

Sparked by the publication of Seduction of the Innocent by psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, movements to censor these types of comics began popping up around the country after World War II.  Wertham claimed that children would be conditioned to emulate what they saw on the pages of the comics, and that an entire generation was at risk of moral and mental corruption because of their reading material. Congress held an official inquiry on comics and juvenile delinquency in 1954, and many cities throughout the country passed or considered municipal bans on comic books in general.

The Comics Code Authority

PanicFearing government regulation, the comics industry turned to self-censorship, forming the Comics Code Authority (CCA) in late 1954.  The Code set a number of content and artistic standards, including the stipulation that good must always triumph over evil, a general ban on the words “horror” and “terror” in comic book titles, and strict guidelines for the handling of crime, race, sexuality, and political issues.

Although the CCA had no legal power, most distributors refused to carry comics without the CCA seal of approval.  Some publishers adapted to the new regulations, while others went out of business.  EC Comics cancelled all of its titles except for Mad magazine (which was not subject to the Code), and was later absorbed by DC Comics.

The Comics Code remained in effect as it was written in 1954 until it was challenged by Marvel over a Spider-Man cover in 1971. The Code’s authority began to break down in the late 1980s, but it remained in force with major publishers until Marvel officially abandoned the Code in 2001, and DC dropped it in 2011.

Underground Comics

The New Adventures of JesusBy the late 1960s, artists began exploring themes banned by the Code in self-published or small-press “underground” comics.  Many were inspired directly by EC Comics, Mad, and the work of Harvey Kurtzman.

Frank Stack, an emeritus professor of art at MU, is credited with creating the first underground comic book when he published The Adventures of Jesus in 1964 under the pseudonym Foolbert Sturgeon.  Artists such as Gilbert Shelton and R. Crumb also established the genre with publications such as The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Fritz the Cat.

Crumb stated that the appeal of underground comics was their lack of censorship – and this is certainly expressed in their content.  Many underground comics offer commentary on drug use, sex, racism, the anti-war movement, and women’s rights. These were all topics that could not easily be treated by mainstream comics publishers.

Book Banning Continues

MausComics and graphic novels of all genres, particularly those for children and teens, remain reading materials often targeted by bans.  The American Library Association releases a yearly list of the top 10 most challenged books, and graphic novels often figure among them. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Genderqueer by Maia Kobabe, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and, most recently, Maus by Art Spiegelman are all graphic novels that have been banned or challenged in public and school libraries. They and many others are represented in the Comic Art Collection in Special Collections, where they are available to all.

For more information about current attempts to ban books, see Mapping Censorship from the Banned Books Week website and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

This post was originally written for Banned Books Week 2012 and was updated in January 2022.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Welcome back, students and faculty!

Welcome back, students and faculty!

Today is the first day of classes at MU, and campus is bustling with new and returning students and faculty, just as it has for the past 173 years.  Today's collection highlight provides a glimpse of campus as it was one hundred years ago.

University publisher Joseph Chasnoff produced a booklet entitled Every Day at the University of Missouri in 1912.  In the introductory text, he noted,

"To this town students come each year in ever increasing numbers to attend the University.  This year 3000 came.  They flooded out at the Wabash and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railway stations.  They poured into and filled dormitory and rooming house.  The student is a predominant factor in Columbia.  He is one to three in numbers.  The population of the town is 10,000."

"This Year 3000 Came" 

The library, Chasnoff notes, was a hub of campus in 1912 – as it is today. At that time, the library was housed in the west wing of Jesse Hall (then called Academic Hall).  In 1912, the library owned over 100,000 books.  Today, that number is over 3 million.

The Library is a Quiet, Busy Place

Most of the buildings pictured in the booklet are still standing.  A few photos, however, provide an idea of how much campus has changed.

Laws ObservatoryDormitories in 1912A bird's eye view

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections and Archives Special Collections is on C-SPAN!

Special Collections is on C-SPAN!

Watch our very own Alla Barabtarlo show off a few highlights of our collection on C-SPAN’s Book TV.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives The Fourth of July Orations Collection: Independence Day 1812

The Fourth of July Orations Collection: Independence Day 1812

July 4, 2012, will likely see many Americans partaking in backyard barbeques and enjoying fireworks displays. However, generations of earlier Americans celebrated Independence Day in a different way: with a sermon.

On this day two hundred years ago, the young United States was preparing itself to go to war yet again with a world superpower, Great Britain. In Washington, renowned orator Daniel Webster delivered an impassioned anti-war address on the subject.  The war, he argued, would damage American business and place American liberty in peril:

Under these circumstances we believe that the War, “instead of elevating will depress the national character; instead of securing, it will endanger our rights; instead of improving, it will prejudice our best interests.”

Page from Webster's speechNot only that, but the war would in effect ally the U.S. with Napoleonic France.  What could be worse than that?  Webster can’t think of much.

If there be any among us so infatuated, or so stupified [sic], as not to shudder at the prospect of a French Alliance, let them come and behold the nations that lie mangled and bleeding at the foot of the Tyrant’s throne, in a mixture of moral and political ruin.

Webster’s speech is one of the 450+ sermons and addresses that are now preserved in the Fourth of July Orations Collection in Special Collections.  Spanning 1791 to 1925, the collection documents the issues and debates that mattered to the American people across a broad span of our history.

The collection is completely digitized.  It is available online at the University of Missouri Digital Library, and also in traditional format in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Poems about Fathers

Happy Father's Day!  Today we're offering a selection of poetry by, for, and about fathers.  John MacKay Shaw, a father of two, was a businessman and bibliophile with a particular interest in the literature of childhood.  He wrote this volume of poetry, entitled The Things I Want, at the request of his young children, Cathmar and Bruce, in the 1930s. Shaw's library is now housed at the Florida State University Libraries.



Wyatt Prunty is a professor of creative writing at the University of the South, and his poem "To My Father" deals with a son watching his father struggle with disease.  This copy of the poem was produced as a broadside by the Palaemon Press.  The edition was limited to 126 copies; the Libraries' copy is number 99 and was signed by Prunty.


Finally, from the library of John Gneisenau Neihardt comes Father: An Anthology of Verse, published in 1931.  The anthology contains poetry both humorous and sentimental on the subject of fathers, fatherhood, children and families.  Neihardt received this book as a review copy, and the book still has its original review slip.




Gardens in Special Collections

June is prime time for gardeners in Missouri, and it’s also a great time to take a look at the rare and historic horticulture and gardening books in Special Collections.  Since MU has a long history as an agriculture school, Special Collections has a great collection of these early texts on plants, gardening, and landscape design.

The Edible Garden

The last decade has seen a renewed interest in local and sustainable food, including vegetable gardening and heritage or heirloom varieties.  The absence of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and modern machinery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries meant that kitchen and market gardeners had to be experts in the care of a wide variety of food crops. Advice for gardeners from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries contains information on historic plant varieties as well as natural solutions to problems with climate, soils, and pests.

Peach, from Charles Hovey's Fruits of America (New York, 1856).Fruit tree branches in flower, from Batty Langley's Pomona, or, The fruit-garden illustrated (London, 1729)Love-apples, or tomatoes, from John Abercrombie's The complete kitchen gardner, and hot-bed forcer (London, 1789).










The Flower Garden

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the introduction of a number of new flowering plants as botanists and nurserymen identified foreign species and developed hybrids.  Although color publications such as Curtis’s Botanical Magazine remained popular through the period, most gardeners learned about new flowers through descriptions or black and white plates.  Botanical gardens such as the Royal Gardens at Kew became popular spots for the public to see exotic and colorful plants in person.

A blue gentian, from Curtis' Botanical Magazine (v. 1-4, 1787-1791)

  A seventeenth-century flower garden, from Crispijn van de Passe's Hortus Floridus (Arnhem, 1616)Tulips, from Crispijn van de Passe's Hortus Floridus (Arnhem, 1616)






The Park

Garden design has changed dramatically from the formalized symmetry of Italian and French gardens to the informal plantings of today.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, English gardeners began to break away from the geometrical patterns of Renaissance knot gardens and Baroque parterres.  Instead, the new garden style focused on creating picturesque, naturalistic views.  Landscape architects during this period sought to shape the landscape without the outward appearance of control, creating “natural” scenery too perfect to exist in nature.








More Information

Search for Gardening, Fruit, Botany, or Landscape architecture in the MERLIN catalog.  Limit your search to Special Collections to find more primary sources on historic gardens and gardening practices.