Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun

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Cover of the “Carnival of Fun 2 Step” music for piano solo by Dan Ball, 1897

The first Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun was held in October 1897 and organized by the Hesperus Club. Modeled after the “Carnival of Rome,” Grand Rapids’ carnival was a four-day festival of parades, music, Midway acts and games, and the election of Carnival King and Queen. Advertisements and souvenirs featured images of leprechauns, devils, jesters, and people in fanciful costumes.

At a meeting of the Hesperus Club in November 1897, heated debate arose about the worth and morality of the recently concluded festivities. It was reported in the Grand Rapids Herald that during the 4 days of the carnival there were 61 arrests for drunkenness, compared to 8 from the preceding week and 10 for the following week. Such public displays of “immorality and degradation” were met with furious opposition from a number of the city’s prominent businessmen and ministers, including Gen. Byron M. Cutcheon, the very founder of the Hesperus Club itself.

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However, since the carnival’s events and attractions brought a great financial boost to the city, Grand Rapids’ Mayor,  Lathrop C. Stow, declared that the city was none the worse for having held it. The following summer the organizers petitioned the city once again to repeat the Carnival of Fun. The new mayor, George R. Perry, citing “no law to prevent” the holding of the carnival, granted permission for its use of public streets once again.

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Carnival of Fun 1898 commemorative envelope – “More fun than last year.”

The 1898 Carnival of Fun was nearly twice as large as the previous year. It held opening ceremonies, three parades, free shows on four stages, fireworks, Midway games, food stands, and more. Local businesses even ran special carnival sales to attract both locals and out-of-towners.

Following the rousing “hot time” of the 1898 Carnival of Fun, a conference of ministers gathered to oppose the “immorality and drunkenness” of the carnival. The conference demanded that the carnival never be repeated, noting that arrests for public drunkenness increased threefold from the first year to the second. They vowed to fight any future proposals of carnivals with all of the weapons at their disposal. Their efforts were victorious, and the Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun was never held again.

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National Poetry Festival at Grand Valley

In the summer of 1971 Robert Vas Dias, Grand Valley’s own Poet-in-Residence at Thomas Jefferson College, organized the first National Poetry Festival at Grand Valley State College.

National Poetry Festival poster, 1971
Poster for the 1971 National Poetry Festival at GVSC

Vas Dias, whose poetry and criticism had appeared in national magazines such as The NationThe New Yorker, and Partisan Review, invited poets of national acclaim to a 10-day experience of workshops, discussions, readings, performances, and exhibits relating to poetry and art on the Allendale, Michigan campus. Poets in attendance at the first festival included Gregory Corso, David Henderson, Toby Olson, John Logan, Robert Kelly, Al Young, Allen Planz, Donald Hall, George Quasha, Robert Bly, Robert Creely, Sonja Sanchez, Anselm Hollo, Tom Weatherly, Diane Wakoski, Joel Oppenheimer, Ted Berrigan, Jerome Rothenbert, Dudley Randall, and Philip Whalen.

Jackson Mac Low at National Poetry Festival, 1971
Jackson Mac Low, poet of chance, working on a tape collage at Thomas Jefferson College’s first National Poetry Festival in 1971.

The National Poetry Festival was repeated in 1973. At this event three of the four Objectivist Poets, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, and Charles Reznikoff, were brought together in the same space for the first time.

National Poetry Festival poster, 1973
Poster for the 1973 National Poetry Festival

Also in attendance at this event were Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Theodore Enslin, Allen Ginsberg, Diane di Prima, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Edward Dorn, George Economou, David Meltzer, and Rochelle Owens. A recording of the discussion “Objectivists and After,” is available through PennSound, an online poetry archive at the University of Pennsylvania.

Allen Ginsberg at National Poetry Festival, 1973
Left: a poster inviting participants to register for National Poetry Festival; Right: Allen Ginsberg speaking to a group in Seidman House in 1973

 


The third and final National Poetry Festival was held in 1975.

National Poetry Festival poster, 1975
Poster for the 1975 National Poetry Festival

The event included poets Robert Bly, Robert Creely, Galway Kinnell, James Wright, Carol Bergé, Kathleen Fraser, William Heyen, Ira Sadoff, Diane Wakoski, Mei-Mei Berssenbruggi, Nikki Giovanni, Jessica Hagedorn, Lawson Inada, June Jordan, Etheridge Knight, Alex Kuo, Alison Mills, Howard Norman, Simon Ortiz, Ishmael Reed, Leslie Silko, James Welch, and Shawn Wong.

Robert Bly at National Poetry Festival, 1975
Poet Robert Bly at the 1975 National Poetry Festival at Grand Valley

Though the festivals were a resounding success, they were discontinued after Vas Dias left Grand Valley. The University Archives contains additional news releases, photographs, posters, and audio tapes documenting these events.


This April celebrates the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world. Visit the Student Scholars Day exhibition on the Red Wall Gallery in Lake Ontario Hall to read Grand Valley students’ poetry and short fiction excerpts from this year’s issue of the student-run journal fishladder.

Birds and Fish of Japan

In March of 1852, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry received orders to command a diplomatic mission to Japan. Some 18 previous expeditions, 4 of them from America, had failed to breach the Japanese wall of isolation. And while the Perry expedition is famous as a diplomatic coup, less well known are the expedition’s contributions to the sciences of astronomy, hydrography, ethnology, botany, geology, medicine, ornithology, ichthyology, and conchology.

The three-volume report of the expedition to the U.S. House of Representatives, Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852, 1853 and 1854 under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by order of the government of the United States, was printed in Washington, D.C. by A.O.P. Nicholson in 1856. In addition to the narrative report, the set includes a multitude of charts, fold-out maps,  and illustrations.

Volume II of the set contains a myriad of reports on the agriculture, geology, medicine, biology, and botany of Japan. It includes these beautifully engraved color illustrations of birds, fish, and shellfish, as well as other engravings and illustrations.


Birds

Plate 2 _ Ornithology. Phasianus Scemmering II _ Temminck. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock Phila.
Plate 2 _ Ornithology. Phasianus Scemmering II _ Temminck. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock Phila.
Plate 5 _ Ornithology. Heterornis Sericea (Gmelin). On Stone by Wm E Hitchcock.
Plate 5 _ Ornithology. Heterornis Sericea (Gmelin). On Stone by Wm E Hitchcock.
Plate 6 _ Ornithology. Ixos Haemorrhous _ Gmelin. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock, Phila.
Plate 6 _ Ornithology. Ixos Haemorrhous _ Gmelin. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock, Phila.

Fish

Nat. Hist. Pl. III. No. 1 - Serranus Tsirimenara. No. 2 - Serranus Marginalis. Bayard Taylor del.
Nat. Hist. Pl. III. No. 1 – Serranus Tsirimenara. No. 2 – Serranus Marginalis. Bayard Taylor del.
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Nat. Hist. Pl. IV. No. 1 – Sebastes Marmoratus. No. 2 – Sebastes Marmoratus. H. Patterson del.
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Nat. Hist. Pl. V. No 1. Pelor Japonicum – Life Size. No. 2 – Sebastes Inermis – Life Size. No. 3 – Trigla Burgei. H. Patterson del.
Nat. Hist. Pl. VIII. 1. Serranus Urodelus. 2. Iulis Quadricolor. 3 & 4 - Iulis Lutesens.
Nat. Hist. Pl. VIII. 1. Serranus Urodelus. 2. Iulis Quadricolor. 3 & 4 – Iulis Lutesens.

 

Shellfish

Conchology Plate II. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate II. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate V. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate V. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York

 

Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China seas and Japan… is a part of the U.S. Serial Set, which is a series of over 14,000 volumes containing hundreds of thousands of numbered congressional reports and documents which have been published since 1817. Grand Valley State University houses this set in Special Collections & University Archives in agreement with the Grand Rapids Public Library.

Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and many documents preserved in the Grand Valley State University Archives illustrate the valuable contributions made by African-Americans to the campus community, to West Michigan, and to the country as a whole.

For Grand Valley, the 1970s constituted a rich period for the founding of new organizations dedicated to supporting students of color, defending civil rights, and promoting a greater awareness of African-American history and culture.

(2) Fred Hampton Documentary for Think Black Month (Black Student Coalition)
Promotional poster for Fred Hampton documentary, Student Services Activities Files (GV 028.01)

In February 1973, the Black Student Union at Grand Valley hosted multiple on-campus screenings of a documentary about Fred Hampton, deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party at the time of his death in December 1969.

Through his work with the Black Panthers, Hampton was a founding member of the Rainbow Coalition, founded in the 1960s to unite many Chicago ethnic organizations in the struggle against discriminatory housing practices, police violence, and other abuses. In this capacity, Hampton worked alongside members of the Young Lords, a community organization formed in response to the displacement of working-class Latinos by gentrification and urban renewal programs.

(5) Young Lords Black Panther Party
Black Panthers & Young Lords Poster, Young Lords in Lincoln Park Collection (RHC-65)

 

By 1979, students at Grand Valley had established a campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The existing records of this student organization include a booklet of the Constitution and Bylaws to be observed by NAACP branches, published in 1978.

(1) NAACP Constitution and Bylaws
Constitution and Bylaws for NAACP Branch Organizations, Student Services Student Organization Files (GV 028.02)

 

(4) Black Alumni Association Formally Established 1978
Letter from GVSC President Lubbers to GVSC Black Alumni Association President John Cryer, Student Services Affirmative Action Files (GV 028.05)

The Grand Valley State Colleges Black Alumni Association was also established in 1979, earning commendation from GVSC President Arend “Don” Lubbers.

(3) GVSC Black Alumni Association Logo
Grand Valley State Colleges Black Alumni Association Letterhead Logo, Student Services Affirmative Action Files (GV 028.05)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Black History in Grand Rapids

(6) Paul Phillips GR Press April 29 1962
Cartoon of Paul Phillips from the Grand Rapids Press (April 29, 1962), Paul I. Phillips Reference Collection (RHC-19)

With regard to African-American history in Grand Rapids, the GVSU Special Collections are also home to the papers of Paul I. Phillips, Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Urban League from 1947 to 1976. Phillips became the first African-American to hold elected office in the city when he won a position on the Grand Rapids Charter Commission in 1951. He was also elected to the Grand Rapids Board of Education, on which he served from 1962 to 1970. Phillips received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Grand Valley in 1972, and was appointed by Governor William G. Milliken to the institution’s Board of Control in May 1976. He passed away late in December of that year.

For his distinguished record of public service, Phillips was the recipient of many posthumous honors. Several scholarship funds and local athletic awards came to bear his name. In 1979, the Kent County Board of Commissioners dedicated its new Social Services facility in Grand Rapids to his memory.

(8) Paul Phillips Building Dedication 1979
Paul I. Phillips Building Dedication Pamphlet in the Paul I. Phillips Reference Collection (RHC-19)
(7) Paul Phillips GR Press February 8 1964
Photo of Paul Phillips and colleagues from the Grand Rapids Press (February 8, 1964), Paul I. Phillips Reference Collection (RHC-19)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


From Grand Valley to Grand Rapids and beyond, these collections at the GVSU Special Collections & University Archives help to document the history and contributions of African-Americans in our communities.

Books Go To War

Armed Services Editions, 1943-1947

During the Second World War the paperback series known as the Armed Services Editions were distributed free to American soldiers, sailors, and airmen overseas.

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The idea for the program came from two Army officers and was further developed by the Council on Books in Wartime, an association of publishers, booksellers, and librarians.  This group was able to convince the armed forces, publishers, and printing firms of the positive impact that this initiative would have on the American men in uniform.

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Not sold or available in the United States, these paperback books introduced thousands of servicemen to the pleasures of reading.  Between 1943 and 1947, almost 123 million copies of 1,322 titles were printed.  All types of literature were available: classics, best-sellers, non-fiction, mysteries, and westerns, among others.

The books displayed here are from the Grand Valley State University Libraries’ collections and loaned by J. Randall Bergers.

A Creative Process, Illustrated

Every writer develops his or her own process for creation. Some writers make copious notes, doodles, and drafts to flesh out their ideas. Others allow an idea to germinate and grow internally before committing the nearly-complete story or poem to paper. In Conversations with Jim Harrison, edited by Robert DeMott, Harrison describes his own process thusly: “I write my original drafts by hand – The Road Home was in pen on yellow, lined legal paper. Then Joyce Bahle types my manuscript and gives it to me and then I check it against the manuscript, go through it again and give it to her. I don’t revise substantively” (204).

Jim Harrison signed logo

Within the Jim Harrison papers, this process is documented again and again. The collection, donated to Grand Valley State University in 2005, comprises over 360 boxes of drafts, correspondence, publications, photographs, and other material by and about the Michigan-born writer, and spans his life from 1938 to the present day.

Though possibly most famous for his fiction and as the author of Legends of the Fall, the novella which inspired a 1994 film adaptation starring Brad Pitt, Harrison identifies himself first and foremost as a poet. The “yellow, lined legal paper” Harrison describes in the quote above can be found throughout the many boxes of his own writings, which include poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays.

In the image below, a section of Harrison’s poem “Geo-Beastiary” is shown in its three development phases: first as a handwritten draft, then as a computer typescript (this one is dated April 1998), and finally as a printed broadside. The 34-part poem was initially published in full in The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems (1998).

from "Geo-Beastiary"
Jim Harrison’s creative process demonstrated with a section of “Geo-Beastiary.” (click the image to enlarge)

Later in the same conversation with DeMott, Jim elaborates on his creative journey:

“This outpouring is a cumulative process, and when it ends, as with The Road Home, and then with “Geo-Bestiary,” you just don’t always have any idea how it happened. You think maybe it was more like a seizure, a long seizure” (208).

What is particularly striking about Harrison’s creative process is his sheer prolificacy coupled with the near-completeness of his first drafts. He is the author of 20 major works of fiction, 5 non-fiction books, 18 books of poetry, a children’s book, and either scripted or co-wrote three screenplays.


Works cited:

DeMott, Robert, ed. Conversations with Jim Harrison, Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2002.

Harrison, Jim. “Geo-Beastiary,” The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems, Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1998.

D. J. Angus: In search of adventure

The people, places, and things that captured the imagination of a Midwestern original

Donald James Angus (1887-1966), born in Wisconsin, was a self-educated electrical engineer specializing in measuring and recording devices. He was co-owner of Esterline-Angus Co. of Indianapolis, and was an amateur radio enthusiast and photographer.

D. J. Angus was especially interested in photographing man-made engineering feats, and recorded dams, mills, bridges, and Mt. Rushmore under construction. He was drawn to the culture and architecture of ancient civilizations and traveled to the Southwest for cliff-dwellings and Aztec ruins, and to Mexico for pre-Columbian pyramids. Angus traveled at a time when the National Parks were being established and before restrictions were placed on access by visitors. He photographed natural phenomena — geysers, lava fields, canyons, and craters and natural disasters. His documentation of the aftermath of floods, shipwrecks, tornadoes and cyclones throughout the mid-West captured his adventurous spirit as well as these one-time events. His images provide a visual chronicle of technological changes at a time when the country was undergoing rapid modernization and provide a lasting record of the country during the late 1920s – mid 1930s.

Visit the Digital Collection

The Midwest

D. J. Angus grew up in Wisconsin, and lived most of his life in Indiana and Michigan. He had an understanding and an eye for the Midwest and the lives of Midwesterners. His family and friends were willing subjects of some of his most interesting photos.

Angus family picnic
Angus family picnic at Highland Park on the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan
Angus family members dressed for a game of golf, 1923
Angus family members dressed for a game of golf, 1923

Angus was often on site recording the latest disasters, from cyclones to shipwrecks.

Cyclone damage in Indianapolis, 1927
Cyclone damage in Indianapolis, 1927
Plane crash in Grand Haven, 1931
Plane crash in Grand Haven, 1931
Beach erosion at Highland Park on Lake Michigan, 1952
Beach erosion at Highland Park on Lake Michigan, 1952

Personal Interests and Travel

Angus was a founder of the Indianapolis Radio Club in 1914 and a licensed ham radio operator. He helped design the first portable radio sending and receiving units for the Indiana State Police.

D.J. Angus at Radio set W9CYQ in Room 66 at the YMCA, Indianapolis, Indiana.
D.J. Angus at Radio set W9CYQ in Room 66 at the YMCA, Indianapolis, Indiana.
D.J. Angus with ca. 1910 motorcycle he rode from Lafayette, Indiana to Niagara Falls, New York.
D.J. Angus with ca. 1910 motorcycle he rode from Lafayette, Indiana to Niagara Falls, New York.

D. J. Angus spent many summer camping trips exploring the American Southwest. Traveling during the 1930s, gave him unprecedented access to the National Parks and wilderness areas not available to visitors today.

Cliff-dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado
Cliff-dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado

The country was rapidly changing to accommodate Westward expansion, and National Parks protected the country’s natural wonders for the enjoyment of future generations. Angus traveled west in 1934 when George Washington’s face was dedicated at Mt. Rushmore and the Hoover Dam was under construction.

Zion National Park in Utah.
Zion National Park in Utah.
Shoshone Dam near the entrance to Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.
Shoshone Dam near the entrance to Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.
Mt. Rushmore under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Mt. Rushmore under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

In all, D.J. Angus traveled throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Waterwheel at mill near Cumberland, Tennessee.
Waterwheel at mill near Cumberland, Tennessee.
Pushing a wicker “taxi” in Coney Island, New York.
Pushing a wicker “taxi” in Coney Island, New York.
Caracol (The Observatory) at Chichen Itza, Mexico
Caracol (The Observatory) at Chichen Itza, Mexico

The collection was donated to Grand Valley State University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives by Charles Angus in 1986.