Spotlight: Billings Library Souvenir Ceramics

One of the best parts of working in a library is that there is always something to discover (or rediscover) in the collections. While preparing for our move to new quarters in the Billings Library, we came across an unassuming carton—the kind that we use all of the time to store manuscripts, serials, and other materials—labeled “FRAGILE: Realia from wooden display case.”

Inside the container, just as the label had promised, was a small stash of everyday objects that once stood on display in our old quarters at the Howe Library. Ranging from a Vermont politician’s box of keepsakes to turn-of-the-century toothpaste manufactured by Burlington’s Wells & Richardson Co., these artifacts have entered our collection over the years as individual gifts or as parts of larger donations of written or printed materials. Even when an artifact’s provenance has been clear, though, its story—how its owner came to possess it, the role it played in its owner’s life, and the social ties linking the individuals that passed the object through the generations—has often been hidden in the threads of fraying memories. Nothing stays buried forever, however, and with a little digging and a lot of determination, one can unearth the stories of these objects and their place in our history.

In this artifact spotlight, we highlight a fitting find from our cache of objects: a partial set of Billings Library souvenir whiteware. The saucer and two teacups each feature a transfer-printed image of the library, beneath which is printed “Billings Library, Burlington, VT, U.S.A.” A trade mark on the foot of each piece declares its point of departure and destination: “Made in England: C.G. Peterson, Burlington, Vermont.” Another mark on one teacup’s foot supplies a design registration number.

The story of our “Billings-ware” begins with this registry mark, which was assigned by the English Patent Office. The registration number for the design on our whiteware falls near the end of the range of numbers assigned in 1888, three years after the dedication of the Billings Library. The Billings-ware, then, would have arrived in Vermont when the public was enamored of the new building and eager to “buy” and claim a piece of the library for themselves.

The trade marks on the artifacts link this period of enthusiasm for the library to one of the many Burlington merchants who capitalized on the public’s craving for Billings keepsakes. Individuals wishing to admire the library’s beauty as they drank their tea and coffee could purchase crockery like our Billings-ware from the shop of Charles G. Peterson, a home furnishings dealer in downtown Burlington from 1877 to 1906. Peterson’s shop sold everything from glassware to wallpaper, catering to the needs of locals and tourists alike. Customers could purchase souvenir crockery featuring a variety of Burlington buildings and landmarks, including butter dishes commemorating the dedication of the Fletcher Free Library and cups and saucers depicting the Ethan Allen Monument.

Although its design was registered in 1888, the Billings-ware was first advertised in 1890. Just before Christmas, the Burlington Free Press announced that “Mr. C. G. Peterson has just received a large lot of fine English China made to order which bears fine representations of the Billings Library.” Peterson ran advertisements for the Billings souvenirs in the UVM yearbook, the student newspaper, and the Free Press from 1890 through 1895.

Although we do not know who purchased our Billings-ware from Peterson’s shop, we do know that the pieces ultimately came into the hands of UVM alumna Roberta F. Powers (class of 1932), who donated them to Special Collections in 1984. Powers was the youngest daughter of George M. Powers (UVM 1883), who served intermittently as a justice on the Vermont Supreme Court between 1904 and 1938. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Roberta Powers took part in several honor societies and student organizations relating to theater, literature, and debate, and received honors and scholarships for her “literary scientific” coursework. The editors of 1932 year book described Powers as “a dynamo” who “radiate[d] personality, friendliness, and ability in all directions.” Her witty and thoughtful observations in her father’s biography, which she composed during the last decade of her life, evidence the truth of these claims.

It was during this period of biographical research, as she was weaving together the threads of her family’s history, that Roberta Powers donated the Billings teaware, a piece of UVM’s history, to Special Collections.  As we settle into Silver Special Collections here in the renovated Billings Library, these souvenirs remind us how highly the community regarded H. H. Richardson’s architectural landmark on the UVM campus.

This post was contributed by Hannah Johnson, who graduated from UVM in 2018 with a degree in English and History. Hannah worked in Special Collections as a student and joined our staff full-time this fall.

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An Extraordinary Manuscript

In 2017, President Thomas Sullivan generously allocated $100,000 to the University Libraries to support acquisitions in the humanities. At the recommendation of College of Arts and Sciences faculty from the departments of History, Romance Languages, Religion, and English who specialize in medieval Europe, Special Collections was able to purchase an extraordinary sixteenth-century manuscript which the specialty bookseller Les Enluminures had just put on the market.

Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France (The Kings of the Very Christian House of France), written in French, is an illuminated manuscript on parchment that probably originated in northern France, possibly Paris, between 1500 and 1525. It lists each king and the dates and key events of his reign, beginning with legendary King Pharamond and ending with just a heading for Louis XII, who ascended to the throne 1497-1498. The dealer’s description compares our manuscript to the only other known copy, held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and suggests that with its elegant script, decorated initials and red velvet binding, our copy may have been made for a person close to the royal family.

The faculty members who recommended the purchase believe that the stunning manuscript has enormous potential for teaching and research at UVM. They regularly use our collection of medieval manuscripts as teaching tools, and see this very accessible manuscript as a great addition. It is tailor-made for a seminar that Charles-Louis Morand-Métevier will be teaching next spring on royal chronicles in the late medieval/Renaissance period. It will also be a good building block for a TAP course that Sean Field hopes to teach in 2019, “Medieval History through Manuscripts.” At the same time, UVM will be participating in a program sponsored by Les Enluminures, “Manuscripts in the Curriculum,” that will bring a curated collection of manuscripts to campus for use in several courses. Special Collections Director and Rare Book Curator Jeffrey Marshall and Charles Briggs will teach a seminar designed around our manuscript holdings, including the new Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France.

Several UVM faculty members plan to begin work on an edition of the manuscript text. Collating our copy with the one at the Bibliothèque national de France would allow the production of a critical edition. In the future, Special Collections will add the manuscript to our Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts digital collection.

Faculty members Ann Clark (Religion), Jenny Sisk (English), Charles Briggs (History), Charles-Louis Morand-Métevier (Romance Languages), and Sean Field (History) visited Special Collections to examine the manuscript.


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Fall 2017 Events

We kicked off our fall programming on October 4 with two events. Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator and University Archivist, participated in #AskAnArchivist Day, when archivists around the country answered questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Read highlights from Chris’s tweets, and learn which of our photos he would choose for an avatar. In the evening, students, faculty and community members filled the Special Collections reading room for the first presentation in the 2017-2018 College of Arts and Sciences Medieval Studies Lecture Series, Dartmouth professor Andrea Tarnowski’s presentation “On the Long Road of Learning with Christine de Pizan.”

We have three more events scheduled for the fall semester. All events are free and open to the public. They will be held in Special Collections, Bailey/Howe Library at UVM. For more information, call 802-656-1493 or email Special Collections. Please join us!

Drawing from the Past: A Nonfiction Comics Workshop
Friday, October 20, 2017, 10 am – 2 pm


Marek Bennett’s graphic noel for teen readers.

NH teaching artist Marek Bennett will lead a hands-on nonfiction comics lab featuring materials from the Vermont Folklife Center and UVM Special Collections or materials that participants bring. Workshop participants will look at basic techniques of cartooning and comics creation, then try drawing original comics based on primary source texts. Discussions will address elements of readability, historical accuracy, point of view, research, and the responsibilities of the artist as an interpreter of historical narratives. Participants will each create 1+ pages of original comics drawn from primary source texts, and go home with the skills necessary to continue their work independently. The workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

The workshop is presented in conjunction with the Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium that will be held at UVM October 19-21, 2017.

The Cultural Transformation of Vermont in the 1930s: A Complex Web of Archival Sources
Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 5:30 pm

UVM Professor of History Dona Brown will lecture on “The Cultural Transformation of Vermont in the 1930s: A Complex Web of Archival Sources.” Professor Brown’s presentation is part of a series organized by the Vermont Historical Records Advisory Board (VHRAB), for Archives Month, when archives and repositories around the nation highlight the importance of historic documents and records.

Hands On Artists’ Books with Vamp and Tramp, Booksellers
Friday, November 10, 2017, 10 am – 12 pm 

Vamp & Tramp, Booksellers, which represents 400+ makers of contemporary fine press and artists’ books, will be showcasing current inventory. Drop in any time for this rare chance to look at and handle the best of today’s melding of art and books. Free and open to the public.

At our first Vamp and Tramp open house last fall, students, librarians and book artists explored a wide variety of works.

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Champlain Valley Fair Album

As the Champlain Valley Fair winds down for this year, we are sharing an album of fair photos from the 1940s and 1950s. Manuscripts curator Chris Burns created the album using a wonderful selection of photographs from the James Detore Collection. Detore, a commercial photographer and a staff photographer for the Burlington Daily News, recorded all aspects of the fair, from the midway rides and shows to the farm and home exhibits. Open the album to see horse pulling, performing bears, horse racing, the demolition derby, and more.

Click on the image to view the album.

James Detore documented the social lives and public events of the Burlington area from 1932 until his death in 1969. The Detore collection at UVM consists of approximately 40,000 negatives. The collection emphasizes World War II homefront activities, Burlington businesses and buildings, and activities at the University of Vermont.

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Haven in the Mountains: The Lake Mansfield Trout Club

This post was contributed by Erin Clauss, who has been working as a processing archivist in Special Collections since August 2016. Erin graduated from UVM in 2016 with a degree in history and classical civilization.  In September, she will start a graduate program in library science and history at Simmons College.

As my time working in Special Collections is coming to a close, I’ve been thinking about which projects have been the most rewarding to me, both professionally and personally. One that most certainly falls into the latter category is our collection of records from the Lake Mansfield Trout Club, a private fishing club in Stowe, Vermont. I am very familiar with Lake Mansfield as several generations of my family have frequented this spot. When I learned that Special Collections housed a collection of records and photographs from the Lake Mansfield Trout Club I excitedly requested to work with them and in the process I learned more about the history of the club.

The Lake Mansfield Trout Club sits nestled in the shadow of Mount Mansfield. The man-made lake provides a spot for trout fishing, while the surrounding mountains supply a beautiful backdrop. The idea for a dam and subsequent lake and fishing club originated with Orlo Luce. According to the legend, Orlo Luce and Mark Lovejoy went fishing one day at Miller Brook, later known as Nebraska Brook. Seeing a young bull grazing, Lovejoy questioned if it was wise to approach, but Luce paid him no mind. Shortly after, the bull charged Luce and drove him up a tree. Laughing, Lovejoy left Luce to his own devices and fell asleep under a tree. As Orlo sat in the tree waiting for the bull to give up, he apparently got to thinking how nice it would be to build a dam and lake in that spot for trout fishing.

This idea percolated for a decade or so, until in July, 1899 Luce and Lovejoy hosted a promotional party on the spot they wanted to build a dam. They invited local men who agreed to form a corporation and fishing club. It was official by September of that year. They leased land from brothers Charles and Frank Burt and bought additional land from Plummer Pratt and the “Culver farm.” Stocks were purchased at $50 each to finance the dam, which ended up costing $6752 and was completed in October, 1901. The dam was accompanied first by a horse barn which was then converted into the clubhouse. The new lake was stocked with trout and was ready for fishing five years later.

The Club has undergone transformations in the years since, including draining the lake in 1924 and again in 1946 in order to improve the dam as well as several renovations of the clubhouse. For members, it remains today a haven for “trout fishing, swimming, boating, walking, hiking, and serenity” as well as simply soaking in the beauty of Vermont in the summer. The first verse of “The Trout Club Song,” sung by the Lake Mansfield Trout Club Choral Society, sums it up best:

There’s a haven in the Mountains
Nestled ‘mongst the trees,
Where we are always happy
With hearts as light as breeze;
Where friendship is the password
And fish bite when they choose.
Our old Lake Mansfield Trout Club
Will chase away the blues.

The Lake Mansfield Trout Club Records contain financial, business, and membership records, historical accounts, descriptions of the buildings and grounds, photographs, and various other records documenting the club, its members, and their guests.

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All Will Sing: Burlington’s 1918 Bastille Day Tribute

“All will sing; all will pass in solemn procession up the street where Lafayette once passed himself when he was the guest of the city of Burlington; all will lay flowers before the statue which is the symbol of freedom-loving, freedom-giving France; all will join in adopting a message of gratitude to France.”              —Burlington Free Press, July 8, 1918

In early July 1918, Burlington Mayor J. Holmes Jackson assembled a committee to plan a Bastille Day celebration. The Burlington Free Press reported the committee’s plans in detail and encouraged everyone to participate. Photographer L.L. McAllister was on hand to document the crowd with his panoramic camera.

According to the Free Press, the committee believed Burlington should recognize Bastille Day for a number of reasons, including the region’s association with French history, the many Burlington citizens with French heritage, and the memories of French General Lafayette’s  visit to the city in June 1825. Most importantly, the committee wanted to pay tribute to France for its “defense of freedom and civilization” during the long years of World War 1.

The celebration started with musical exercises in City Hall Park. Following a short concert by Sherman’s band, community members sang French and American patriotic songs.  It has been estimated that McAllister’s photograph of the crowd gathered in City Hall Park shows 1400-1500 people. Only the central portion of the 40.5 inch-long panorama is shown above. Sherman’s band is visible in the bandstand behind the crowd.

Then a procession marched up College Street to UVM’s College Green to lay flowers–from field and garden–at the base of the Lafayette memorial in front of the University of Vermont’s Old Mill building. Women holding flowers for the tribute can be seen at either side of the McAllister photo. A chorus sang French and American songs as the procession passed the monument.


To learn more about the L. L. McAllister Collection, view the finding aid or browse the digital collection.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty,
Public Services Librarian

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Literary Archives at UVM: Kinsey, Mosher, and Budbill

Vermont lost three literary giants in the last year: Leland Kinsey, Howard Frank Mosher, and David Budbill. Special Collections is fortunate to house the papers of all three of these authors, and their collections serve as a rich source for understanding the connections between these writers.

Mosher reviews Kinsey’s Not One Man’s Work. (Click image to enlarge.)

A particularly deep connection existed between Mosher and Kinsey. Their friendship spanned nearly 50 years, dating back to a time when Mosher taught Kinsey at the University of Vermont. Mosher became a great champion of Kinsey’s work and his papers are full of correspondence advocating on Leland’s behalf.

One example of Mosher’s advocacy is from 1995, when a series of letters show Mosher attempting to assist in getting a collection of Kinsey’s poems, Not One Man’s Work, published. As part of this effort, Mosher reached out to a number of writers asking them for letters of support for Leland, including David Budbill.

Budbill’s letter of support for Kinsey’s poems shows the respect he held for the work of his fellow Northeast Kingdom poet. In an excerpt from the letter, Budbill notes:

But perhaps the most touching and powerful of these poems are the ones about family. Whether Lee is writing about pushing his son on a swing—“Swinging into the Night”—or his son’s nightmares—“Night Terrors”—or the light sensitivity he’s given to his daughter—“Sneezes”—or about the farming life his parents led—numerous poems throughout—he writes with a passion and compassion and an accuracy that is both tender and powerful.
The sound, the tone, in these poems stands outside the current anguished shrillness of much contemporary poetry; here instead I hear a kind of formal calm, a gracious and distanced respect toward idea, situation and character that is shocking, practically revolutionary, in its contrariness to what is au courant.

Budbill responds to Carruth’s suggestions. (Click image to enlarge.)

In the papers of David Budbill and those of his fellow poet and great friend, the late Hayden Carruth, one sees a similarly generous relationship. Budbill often asked Carruth for advice on his poetry, and the following letter shows Budbill’s mixed reaction to some of Carruth’s advice on the manuscript for Judevine.

Judevine is both a collection of poems and a play that Budbill created from those poems. Lost Nation Theater, in Montpelier, opened their new season with a production of Judevine, “in honor & in memory of David,” and an opening night gala hosted by Rusty DeWees and Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, with David’s widow, Lois Eby, and daughter, Nadine Budbill, in attendance. Performances of the play continue at Lost Nation through May 7.

An example of Budbill’s revisions to Judevine. (Click image to enlarge.)

The passing of these three writers is a great loss, for their families and friends, and for the many fans of their work. All three leave behind their literary works, and all three had the foresight to leave us with their archives, revealing the stories behind the stories and poems, as well as the deep relationships that informed these works.

Here at Special Collections, we will miss periodically touching base with all three, as well as reading their latest works, but we are honored and deeply appreciative that they selected us as the home for their archives. Our hope is that their papers will be a great source for many years to come for those wishing to gain a deeper insight into these writers and their works.

For more information about these collections, see the following guides or contact us.

David Budbill Papers

Hayden Carruth Papers

Leland Kinsey Papers

Howard Frank Mosher Papers

Submitted by Chris Burns,
Manuscripts Curator


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UVM Experiments with Rubber Plant


I’ve been on the lookout for photos of local World War II victory gardens, so this image caught my eye as I was searching through a carton of publicity photographs that Special Collections received from UVM’s Extension Service.  It is one of three photos taken by Burlington photographer L. L. McAllister that show a group of women in a field. The photos immediately led to questions. Where were the photos taken? Who were the women in uniform? Why were they working in what looked like a field of planted dandelions? Many photos later, in another carton, I found a fourth photo in the series that provided the clue I needed to answer my questions.


In the fourth photo, a UVM agronomist displays a full-grown dandelion plant–including roots–with a label that reads, “Taraxacum-kok-saghyz/Russian Rubber-Bearing Plants/65 Days From Planting.” At that time, UVM’s Agricultural Experiment Station generally undertook projects designed to solve problems related to Vermont conditions, but during World War II , the Experiment Station worked on projects to help the war effort. One of those projects was a study of the potential yield of seed and rubber from a Russian dandelion, Taraxacum-kok-saghyz.

When the Japanese cut off most of the world’s supply of natural rubber, the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Plant Industry initiated an emergency rubber project to explore the potential of growing rubber within the continental United States. From 1942-1944, the Department of Agriculture conducted a program of field-scale production and research at various locations with conditions suitable for growing Russian dandelions. Vermont was one of the 23 test sites.

Under the direction of agronomists Paul Miller and H. L. Smith, one acre of the Russian dandelion seed was planted at the UVM Farm, then located off East Avenue in Burlington. A major challenge to growing the dandelion was the need to keep the plants free from weeds. With farm labor at a shortage, the Experiment Station turned to volunteers. On July 27, 1942, the Burlington Free Press included an article headlined “Women’s Volunteer Drivers Corps Gives Up Sun. Comforts To Weed Taraxacum-kok-saghyz.” Thirty-five members of the Drivers Corps gathered on a Sunday to weed, thin and transplant the dandelions. The article is illustrated with the L.L. McAllister photographs.


Mrs. Gerald E. Prescott, the leader of the Burlington unit of the Volunteer Drivers Corp, and platoon leaders Mrs. Esther I. Adler, Miss Barbara Mitchell, and Mrs. Thomas Loudon directed the weeding.

The Extension Service continued the trial the following summer. In August 1943, the Burlington Free Press reported that almost a ton of roots were harvested and sent to a research laboratory in Philadelphia for analysis. Unfortunately, the analysis revealed that the Burlington harvest contained mostly rogue dandelions that yielded little or no rubber.

For more information about the emergency rubber project:
Whaley, W. Gordon and John A.  Bowen. Russian Dandelion (Kok-Soghyz): An Emergency Source of Natural Rubber. USDA Miscellaneous Publication No. 618. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1947.

Learn about current research on rubber-bearing dandelions:
Bomgardner, Melody. Dandelions, the Scourge of Lawns, May Be a Fount of Rubber. Chemical and Engineering News 94 (2016): 28-29.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty
Public Services Librarian

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Spring Semester Events and Exhibits

The Spring 2017 semester is off to a busy start. In addition to teaching classes, building collections and supporting researchers, we have been planning some exciting outreach events and installing exhibits. We hope to see you this spring at one or more of these events.

The World’s Most Mysterious Manuscript
Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 6:00 pm
Ray Clemens, the Curator of Early Books & Manuscripts at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, will talk about the Voynich manuscript, an early 15th-century codex that has been called the world’s most mysterious book. The book was written by hand in an unknown language that no one has yet been able to decipher. Colorful illustrations of unidentifiable plants, zodiac signs, astronomical and cosmological diagrams, and naked women in bathing pools add to the mystery.

Dear Diary
Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 6:00 pm
For Women’s History Month, we are joining Preservation Burlington to showcase the words of Vermont women. We will read selections from the diaries, letters and writings of women who attended, worked, or taught at colleges and universities, including Ellen Hamilton, one of UVM’s first female students. Audience participation is strongly encouraged. Bring your own journal to read.

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare
Friday, April 21, 2017, 12:00-1:30 pm
Join us to celebrate the birthday of William Shakespeare with festivities and cake.

Exhibits: “Illustrated Herbals” and “Cures What Ails You
We are displaying a selection from our collection of illustrated herbals in the Bailey/Howe Library lobby, including our Italian manuscript (circa 1500), outstanding 16th-century examples, and work by contemporary book artists. Downstairs in Special Collections, “Cures What Ails You” features bold advertisements promoting patent medicines made in Vermont from about 1860-1915.

All events are free and open to the public. For information, call 802-656-2138 or email

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A Desirable Gift Book

In 1857 UVM graduate (1839, 1845) Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr. wrote a hymn that became a beloved Christmas carol. Some accounts say he wrote “The Three Kings of Orient” (now known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are”) for a Christmas pageant at the General Theological Seminary, while others say he wrote it for his nieces and nephews in Burlington, Vermont, where his father was the Episcopalian bishop. He included it in his 1863 collection, Carols, Hymns, and Songs, and in 1865 it was issued as an illustrated seasonal gift book.

An advertisement for the gift book that ran in the December 12, 1865 issue of the Baltimore Daily Commercial noted that “each page was printed in oil colors from exquisite designs” and was available in “extra cloth gilt” for $5.00 or “morocco, gilt or antique,” for $8.00. The ad included a description from the Christian Intelligencer, “This famous carol is richly embellished by colored lithographs, six in number, representing the adoration of the Babe of Bethlehem …. The designs are good and the execution admirable,” making it “a desirable book for Christmas.”

kings-0001A search of the Burlington Weekly Free Press, Hopkins’ hometown paper, found that a local bookseller offered Three Kings of Orient for Christmas giving in 1866. Our copy was given to a Kitty Thompson by her Uncle Frank for Christmas in 1870.


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