The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

by Richard Telford

Author’s note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. Still, I believe it begins an important process of bringing renewed attention to natural history writer and photographer Edwin Way Teale. Teale himself frequently published chapters of his books first in the popular journals of his day, such as Natural History, Audubon, Nature, and Coronet. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section here or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.

 

Chapter 9: The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”[i]

Stephen Crane, from “War is Kind,” 1899

Again and again, reason refutes the claims of worry; again and again, the rational mind points out the mathematical odds and the laws of averages—but again and again, the fallible heart returns to its lonely suffering.[ii]

Edwin Way Teale, March 22, 1945

 

The evening of April 2, 1945 began joyfully for Edwin Way Teale. It was an evening that affirmed his rising stature among the natural history writers of his day and perhaps, too, amongst the former-age titans he revered—Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, W.H. Hudson, and others. Two years earlier, he had accepted the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing for his 1942 publication of Near Horizons: The Story of an Insect Garden. Now, two years later, he had returned to the American Museum of Natural History in Central Park West, New York, to look on as Rutherford Hayes Platt, a fellow Dodd, Mead natural history writer and photographer, received the Burroughs Medal. Platt’s 1943 This Green World was a book that in spirit, intent, structure, and design closely paralleled Grassroot Jungles (1937) and Near Horizons. Just as Edwin had suggested in 1937 that the amateur student of the insect world could be “like the explorer who sets out for faraway jungles” but do so in “the grassroot jungle at our feet,”[iii] Platt argued in 1943 that such wonders in the botanical world “were not rare nor discovered in a remote place, but were here all the time in the immediate surroundings of the everyday world.”[iv] That evening, Edwin noted later, “Platt pays tribute to my help in his acceptance speech.” He also celebrated his own election as “a Director in the John Burroughs Association” and expressed appreciation for the tenor of the evening, which “from beginning to end was in just the right key. I felt happy, enjoying every minute with no sense of impending doom.” It was “perfectly memorable.”[v]

The brief interlude of unrestrained pleasure that unfolded in “the Hall of the Roosevelt Wing”[vi] on that early April evening offered much-needed reprieve. It was a time marked largely by deep foreboding for Edwin and Nellie Teale as their beloved Davy, their only child, fought near the Siegfried Line during the final collapse of Hitler’s Third Reich. This fear had taken root in the elder Teales’ shared consciousness long before David’s August 1943 enlistment in the Army Specialist Training Program at Syracuse University, long before his transfers to Forts Benning and Jackson after the ASTP was disbanded, and long before his deployment as a Private First Class to the European Theater of Operations in the fall of 1944.[vii] Edwin would later characterize this fear as “the dread of seven years—from 1938 to 1945,”[viii] and it was a dread that consumed the collective consciousness of a generation of parents watching their children come of age during the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Italy and Germany—the future course of which became fully evident with the September 1, 1939 German invasion of Poland—and the apogee of Japanese Imperialism, made plain to the American public by the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Teales’ dread is evident in a brief but poignant anecdote near the end of the eighth chapter of Edwin’s 1945 book The Lost Woods, a book that, for Edwin, would become inextricably linked to David’s wartime service and to his death.

In the aforementioned chapter, “On the Trail of Thoreau,” Edwin chronicles the final leg of a 1939 car trip during which he traced the famous river journey undertaken by Henry and John Thoreau exactly 100 years earlier. Henry Thoreau, in his 1849 A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, wrote in great part to memorialize John, who had died in excruciating pain in his brother’s arms three years after the trip, succumbing to tetanus. Edwin too, in The Lost Woods, would later recount a trip he and David took by canoe on Middle Saranac Lake in upstate New York. “The Calm of the Stars” would be the last chapter completed for the book’s first draft, written while David was declared Missing in Action in Germany. It, too, would later serve as a memorial. In “On the Trail of Thoreau,” Edwin noted how, one century after the Thoreaus’ journey, on September 2, 1939, “the Merrimack flowed as placidly as before around the great bend of Horseshoe Interval.”[ix] The world’s waters, however, were turbulent and troubled: “Thoreau’s September day had been one of comparative peace in the world,” while, “a century later, it was a time of fateful decisions, of onrushing war, of the breaking of nations.”[x] The conclusion of Edwin’s 1939 journey came one day after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland, one day before declarations by France and Britain of war on Germany, and six days shy of David’s fourteenth birthday.

Pulling into a filling station that evening, Edwin noticed the attendant, “a young man in his early twenties,” who appeared “silent and preoccupied” as he listened to a “radio […] shattering the Sabbath quiet, raucous with direful news.”[xi] Edwin’s description of this young man is telling. It stands in stark contrast with most of the book’s content, which largely lives up to its subtitle, “Adventures of a Naturalist,” and strays only rarely into social commentary or overt emotionality. Edwin wrote:

We spoke but a few sentences that morning. I have never seen him again. I don’t know his name. Yet, often he has been in mind and his face, like a stirring countenance seen under a streetlamp, has returned many times in memory. Under the blare of the radio, that late-summer Sunday, we were drawn together by a common uncertainty, by a common experience. Although we were strangers before and strangers we have remained since, we were, for that tragic moment, standing unforgettably together. I have often wondered about his fate in the years that followed.[xii]

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Archives & Special Collections reading room closed for holidays

American Brass Company employees singing Christmas carols, 1955

Our reading room will be closed from Monday, December 19, 2016, through Monday, January 2, 2017. We will open at 9a.m. on Tuesday, January 3, 2017, and resume our regular hours of Mondays through Fridays, 9a.m. to 4p.m.

In the meantime we’ll sing Christmas carols with these employees of the American Brass Company in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1955.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from all of us here in Archives & Special Collections!

Teaching Nineteenth-Century Media

A fascinating interview with UConn Professor Jennifer Terni went live this week on the Humanities Institute’s new blog Brain Bytes: Digital Humanities and Media Studies. Professor Terni discusses her teaching methods and “experiments” incorporating 19th-century artifacts into the classroom experience.  She reflects on a recent visit with her students to Archives and Special Collections where they examined 19th-century photographs with Archivist Kristin Eshelman.  Below is a clip from that interview

This past semester I taught a new graduate course on 19th-century media.  It would have been impossible to give this course even a decade ago, since it was built on the shoulders of major digitized archives including Gallica at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Hathi Trust, and ARTFL, to name but a few.  To make use of them effectively, however, I had to build an extensive website as a platform from which to organize the many primary sources that we explored as a group as well as to give a picture of what 19th-century media would have looked like. What is more, I tried, as much as possible, to get the students to experience what it would have been like to consume media in the 19th century, for instance, by reading a pulp fiction novel in installments in a newspaper.

This experiment was more successful than I could have hoped.  What is more, occasionally I sent the students to the Dodd archive to encounter 19th-century artifacts more directly (illustrated newspapers, daguerreotype, stereoscopes, photographic technology).  The impact of those encounters was intense in large part because the students had been engaged with primary sources throughout the semester: they had seen the exploding variety of media forms in the 1800s, but also knew firsthand how even very disparate forms were interconnected. They had also read theoretical and historical articles that helped them think about what kinds of cultural work these different genres and platforms were performing.  Touching the actual artifact was meaningful because to them it was already embedded in a web of references and ways of thinking about media, but also because it contrasted with all of the digital content they had been using throughout the semester.  It was thus doubly a material encounter with material culture.

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75 Years Later: Pearl Harbor Remembered

Editor's column, December 8, 1941 edition of the Connecticut Campus

Editor’s column, December 8, 1941 edition of the Connecticut Campus

December 7, 1941 was a Sunday. In Storrs, UConn students prepared for end-of-the-semester exams and the upcoming winter break. That evening, History Professor Andre Schenker traveled to Hartford with his family to see a play. At some point, an usher approached him with an urgent message. Five thousand miles to the west, at 1:18pm that afternoon (7:48am Hawaiian time), Japanese naval and air forces had attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, inflicting heavy casualties and causing severe damage. Schenker immediately set off for radio station WTIC, where he served as a world affairs commentator. Later that night, he began his broadcast with the following words:

“It has happened. Japan has decided to commit suicide by attacking the strongest power on earth, the United States…As you all know by now, this morning in the Far East, which means this afternoon our time, a Japanese force suddenly attacked Manila, in the Philippines, and another force attacked the Gibraltar of the Pacific, our base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.”

(You can hear Professor Schenker’s full commentary on the attack here)

Maurice “Moe” Daly

Maurice “Moe” Daly

The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt called for a declaration of war against Japan, which led to Germany and Italy issuing similar declarations against the U.S. on December 11th. America had officially entered the Second World War.

Even as the students and faculty at Storrs processed the news, Connecticut alumni halfway around the world already found themselves in harm’s way. Major Maurice F. “Moe” Daly, a popular football player from the Class of 1923, was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines during the Japanese attack there on December 8th. After participating in its heroic defense, he would eventually be taken prisoner when Bataan fell the following April, and died in captivity.

The attack on Pearl Harbor signaled a major transformation in campus life at Storrs. Blackouts were put into effect, ROTC training was ramped up, and the pages of the student newspaper were increasingly filled with war-related news. Soon, male students and faculty members alike left the campus in droves to join the armed forces. At least 114 of them would not return after the war’s end in 1945.

Greater New Haven Labor History Association Collection

Sewing Department, D&I Shirt Company, New Haven, ConnecticutThe Greater New Haven Labor History Association’s mission is to collect, preserve and share the history of working people in the New Haven, Connecticut, area. For years they gathered the historical records of labor unions that served New Haven businesses, conducted oral history interviews, and constructed traveling exhibits to disseminate this history. Recently they’ve had to close their office and offered to Archives & Special Collections the labor history records they have collected through the years. Working with their archivist Joan Cavanagh we’ve received many records in batches in the last several months, with more to come.

Collections we have received so far include those of the following labor unions:

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Local 125/International Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 151

Typographical Union of New Haven

American Association of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1939

New Haven Council for Unemployed Workers

United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, Local 299

and the papers of local labor activists Nicholas Aiello, Dorothy Johnson, Joseph M. Rourke, and David Montgomery.

You can find out more information on the materials in the collections through the finding aid.

 

Great Years, Great Crises, Great Impact: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

by Richard Telford

uconn_asc_1981-0009_box270_env1724_ed_and_nellie_1948Shortly before American natural history writer Edwin Way Teale died in 1980, he agreed, with his beloved wife and working partner, Nellie Donovan Teale, to donate all of his literary and personal papers and related materials to the University of Connecticut. It was an extraordinary gift. Teale documented his working life and his personal life to an astonishing degree, often keeping several journals concurrently, each with a distinct purpose. For example, from 1938 until 1980, Teale kept an annual daily diary. In 1945, of these diaries he wrote, “These books record the days of the great years of our lives.”[i] These were short but highly detailed records. During the same period he kept these diaries, Teale likewise wrote more elaborated journal entries in Adventures in Making a Living, an unpublished, ongoing narrative of his life. This he called the “book of my heart.”[ii] While here, too, he recorded daily events, frequently overlapping those recorded in the diaries, he also reflected on them in deeper ways. Here, he celebrated the triumphs of his life and reconciled the tragedies. Here, he tried to confer order and sensibility on the world of human affairs, a world that often bewildered him. The ninth and final volume of this 43-year journal was dedicated solely to the final days of his life, beginning with his prostate cancer diagnosis in 1974. Even this most personal and final journey he documented in detail and left as a record. And, these two records of a meaningfully-spent life, as rich as they are, represent only a very small fraction of the materials housed in his voluminous papers.

This year, through the generosity of the Administration and the Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy, where I have taught for two decades, I have been granted a year-long sabbatical to complete research at the Dodd Research Center, research that will enable me to write a book-length work on Edwin Way Teale. This builds upon three years of generous support of my work by the Archives and Special Collections Department at the University of Connecticut, which has provided me financial assistance through the Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant program. I am very grateful for this support, and for the extensive on-site help of the Archives staff, particularly Melissa Watterworth Batt.

John Burroughs, whom Edwin Way Teale admired greatly, wrote in 1902, “The day inevitably comes to every writer when he must take his place amid the silent throngs of the past.”[iii] While this has come to be the case for Edwin Way Teale—and John Burroughs too—I am not convinced it has to be. Teale has much to offer us now, especially as we face an environmental crisis in which our resource exploitation and waste production cannot continue at current rates without grave consequences for the Earth and, ultimately, for ourselves. Now, as I continue my research within the vast holdings of the Teale Papers and begin the book in earnest, I am both awed by the enormity of the task and excited by the opportunity. Teale’s significant body of published work and his profound impact on the modern conservation movement—particularly through his support of and influence upon many of its principle figures, including Rachel Carson and Edward Abbey—merits reexamination.

The generosity of the Archives and Special Collections staff has extended so far as to allow me to publish a series of representative chapter drafts in this forum as the research and writing processes unfold. These will inevitably evolve as I make new discoveries in the collection. Still, even in draft form, I believe that these chapters can play a meaningful part in bringing the contents of the Teale Papers out into the light of public view, perhaps prompting thoughtful reflection on their importance. I am deeply grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for this opportunity, and I welcome public comment and insight on my work here, either through the comment forum on the blog or through direct communication (contact information below). .

On a practical note, the first three chapters to be featured in this forum document events in roughly the middle period of Edwin Way Teale’s life. Though I plan to address Teale’s early life in the book as well, my intuition told me to start where I did, during the period when Edwin and Nellie’s beloved son David, their only child, was serving in Europe late in the Second World War, a period that Edwin called “one of the great crises of our lives.”[iv]

Richard Telford teaches literature and composition at Woodstock Academy in Connecticut.  He has a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire, an MS in English Education from the University of Bridgeport, and an MS in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College. Working with the Connecticut Audubon Society, he helped design and found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he directs.  He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his manuscript for a book-length work on naturalist, writer and photographer Edwin Way Teale.

References

Burroughs, John. Literary Values and Other Papers. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company,1902.

Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living: Volume II, unpublished journal, February 1944 to May 1946. Box 113, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary, 1945. Box 99, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Footnotes:

[i] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 3 January 1945.

[ii] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II.18 April 1945.

[iii] Burroughs, John. Literary Values and Other Papers. 1

[iv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 April 1945.

The Romano Papers: Stolen Childhoods in 4D

Students from Prof. Anna Lindemann's Motion Graphics I course explore the Romano Stolen Childhoods Collection.

Students from Prof. Anna Lindemann’s Motion Graphics I course explore the Stolen Childhoods Collection, part of the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers.

At the end of October, I was delighted to help facilitate a class visit to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, along with Graham Stinnett, the Archivist for Human Rights Collections and Alternative Press Collections at the Archives & Special Collections Department. Digital Media & Design Professor Anna Lindemann brought her Motion Graphics I course to see the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers in person; the two classes were able to get a look behind the curtain of the Stolen Childhoods collection, to see and handle the physical materials and to learn some context surrounding the digital collection that they were already familiar with.

Professor Lindemann charged her students with exploring the application of motion graphics to still photographs, and then added the challenging component of upholding the intentions of a collection dealing with the gravity of child labor. To Lindemann, it was integral that the students experience the physicality first-hand, and were able to learn more about the motivations behind Romano’s work.

“Working with the Robin Romano collection was eye-opening. Seeing his life-long devotion to photographic art form as a way to raise awareness about child labor definitely made the class and me reflect on our own modes of working and the potential significance of our work. There was something especially striking about seeing his boxes upon boxes of work prints, negatives, photographs, and hard drives, including one of his hard drives labeled “not working.” This brought to mind so many of the aspects that we grapple with in digital media classes: the great mound of (often unseen) work behind a single effective image, and the capacity for an image or animation to be at once impactful and ephemeral.” – Professor Anna Lindemann

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Major Gift of Victorian Illustrated Children’s Literature to be Preserved in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

DoyleREVArchives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut Libraries has acquired a major collection of illustrated children’s books by prominent Victorian authors from Melissa Dabakis, Professor of Art History at Kenyon College, Mt. Vernon, Ohio and wife of the late Daniel P. Younger.  For thirty-five years, Daniel Younger collected rare nineteenth and early twentieth-century children’s illustrated books.  Hand-selected by Younger for donation to the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, this generous gift includes one-hundred and forty-four illustrated books for children published between 1841 and 1935.  Included in the gift are works by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Charles Kingsley, Edward Lear, Christina Rossetti, John Ruskin, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Many of the works selected by Younger for the gift represent the origins of the fairy tale in children’s literature.  The early period of children’s literature that was characterized by stories intended to teach morality, gave way to the magic of fairy tales designed to provide an alternative to ordinary life.  This shift in story-telling was also accompanied by improvements in the quality of illustration in children’s books.  Books by the illustrator George Cruikshank, who worked in copperplate etching, and Richard Doyle, founder of Punch, are examples of the detailed, imaginative style developed during the Victorian period. The collection includes George Cruikshank’s Fairy Library, 1865 and The Princess Nobody: a tale of fairy land, illustrated by Richard Doyle, 1884.  The donation includes an American edition of [Hans Christian] Andersen’s Tales for Children published in 1861.  In 2001, Younger, who served as Director of Olin Art Gallery at Kenyon College, featured many of the works in the collection in an exhibition Once Upon A Time: Victorian Illustrated Children’s Books dedicated to the memory of puppeteer and children’s book collector Herbert Hosmer..

In August 2015, Younger contacted Kristin Eshelman, archivist for the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, “looking for a good home” for a collection of one hundred and fifty titles. The works, Eshelman discovered later, were hand-selected by Younger especially for Archives and Special Collections at UConn.  “Dan wanted to know why we didn’t have these important illustrated children’s books in our collection,” said Eshelman.   The history of the children’s literature collection at UConn goes back to 1965, when then Director of Special Collections Richard Schimmelpfeng began collecting works from the period 1860 to 1900, a period that had been overlooked by other regional collections.  Illustrated material was also of particular interest. The establishment of the NCLC in 1983 shifted the emphasis to the archives of twentieth-century artists and writers working and residing in the Northeast and East coast.  Younger saw a way to fill the gap created by this shift in collecting focus through his gift of illustrated children’s books by prominent Victorian authors.

Younger’s interest in children’s literature and connection to UConn dates back to a 1979 graduate internship at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.  It was there that he met the puppeteer and collector of children’s books and toys, Herbert Hosmer.  Hosmer knew Francelia Butler, who taught children’s literature at UConn. Younger noted, “Butler was an informal board member of Hosmer’s all-things-juvenile enterprise, as was I.”  Younger was also mentored by William E. (Bill) Parker, UConn Emeritus Professor of Art in the history of photography during his graduate studies in photography and photographic history.  Younger’s wife, Melissa Dabakis, is also an alumna of UConn.

Kristin Eshelman, Archivist

 

The Romano Papers: An Introduction To Archiving The Collection

 

Toddler Screams Atop Garbage At The Bekasi Dump

As a University of Connecticut alum, I can think back to a handful of trips to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center while working on projects and papers as an undergraduate. Back in June, I set foot in the stacks of the Archives and Special Collections Department for the first time as I interviewed for the position of Archivist Assistant for the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers. I was introduced to the side of the ASC that students don’t typically get to see, and was presented with a literal mountain of material that would soon become my charge. Continue reading

Human Rights, Children’s Literature, and the Art of Youth Activism

CLHR-Image-300x214Join us for the presentation of the 2016 Raab Associates Prize and a discussion of Human Rights, Children’s Literature, and the Art of Youth Activism featuring Professor Jonathan Todres, Author of Human Rights in Children’s Liteature: Imagination and the Narrative of Law (Oxford University Press, 2016), Pegi Deitz Shea, author of numerous books for young people including Abe in Arms (PM Press, 2010) and The Carpet Boy’s Gift (Tilbury House, 2003), and Reven Smith Spoken word poet, musician, writer, social activist, and UConn student.

TODAY, November 10, 2016
4:00pm to 6:00pm
Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
University of Connecticut

Public reception to follow.  Directions to the Dodd Research Center and event details can be found at Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Events.

ABOUT THE RAAB PRIZE:
The Raab Associates Prize has been given since 1999 to give University of Connecticut students the opportunity to learn about illustrating for children and the children’s literature field. The competition was created and sponsored by Susan Salzman Raab, founder and co-owner of Raab Associates, a children’s book marketing agency based in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

This year, for the first time, the prize has focused on human rights, and specifically children’s rights, and represents a joint effort between UConn’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the School of Fine Arts.  Ms. Raab, who is also a 1980 UConn alumna with a degree in English, especially wants to encourage and support people who have interests in the arts and in human rights. The competition is held annually and the prize is awarded to students enrolled in the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts’ illustration courses.