League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area finding aid updated

The League of Women Voters (LWV) was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader in the women’s suffragist movement. Its purpose is to encourage citizens to participate actively in government by supporting the party of their choice. While the LWV is a nonpartisan organization, and therefore does not support individual candidates, it does take a position on issues of a national, state, and local scale selected by the membership. In the past the LWV has garnered support for such issues as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and equal opportunity for women in government.

I recently had the opportunity to update the finding aid for the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax area with new accessions from 2012 and 2013. Within these new accessions I noticed a folder for the Observer Corps with materials dating from 1970 to 1980. Inside the folder is an Observer’s Manual from the League of Women Voters of Michigan. I was instantly interested. What is the Observer Corps, I wondered. The graphic on the manual is of a young woman peeking from behind a notebook.

Observer’s Manual, League of Women Voters of Michigan, December 1970. League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area records, Collection #C0031, Box 72, Folder 2. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Apparently members of the Observer Corps go to meetings of interest, observe the proceedings, and report back to the League through a short report that is featured in a bulletin. A position description from 1980 specifies qualifications such as: “1. Interest in government and desire to learn. 2. Ability to keep eyes and ears open and mouth shut. 3. Reliability.” According to issues of the Fairfax Voter from 2010 and 2012 it seems that the Fairfax league has restarted their Observer Corps and is looking for interested individuals.

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth!

Key to the city of Fairfax from the Joseph L. Fisher papers, Collection #C0028, Box 116, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Although we don’t collect a lot of political memorabilia, this key to the city of Fairfax from the Joseph L. Fisher collection is a pretty cool piece. It was given to Fisher on July 4, 1979.

Fisher’s career, spanning over fifty years, included planner member of the United States House of Representatives from Virginia’s 10th congressional district (1974-1981), Virginia Secretary of Human Resources, special assistant to the president of George Mason University, and president of the National Academy of Public Administration. In addition, Fisher was deeply involved in community activities, having been chairman of the Arlington County Board, chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), president and chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG), and moderator and chairman of the board of the Unitarian Universalist Association. He also wrote several books, including World Prospects for Natural Resources (1964) and Resources in America’s Future (1963).

The Joseph L. Fisher collection relates to Fisher’s career as an economist, educator, and U.S. Congressman. The materials include lectures and comments on conservation and natural resources, scrapbooks, pamphlets, appointment books, and correspondence. Materials that relate to his political career in U.S. House of Representatives include correspondence, speeches, press releases, reports, newspaper clippings, issue papers, testimony, statements, questionnaires, background publications, guidelines, charts, and legislation.

The finding aid for the Fisher collection has been recently updated.

Newly installed public phones ready for local and long distance calls

Detail from "Drugs store", Midwest commercial architecture photograph collection, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

The newly digitized Midwest Commercial Architecture Photograph Collection consists of 32 photographs depicting commercial buildings in rural northwestern Ohio with Central Union Telephone Co. signs indicating recently installed telephones. There are a variety of commercial buildings present in the photographs, as well as telephone poles, merchants’ signs, displays of goods, customers, horse drawn wagons, and bicycles. Three of the photographs do not depict buildings but, instead, one is of a telephone operator office, and the two others depict three men posing humorously for the camera. The photographs date from the early 1900s.

The details shown here are examples of signs found in the photographs. Details above are from “Laundry office”, “House with telephone sign”, and “Piper’s Grocery storefront”. Details below are from “Building with Bell telephone sign”, “Lease & Twining storefront”, and “A.D. Baumhart: The Druggist Store”. Each image of a telephone sign links to the larger photograph.

The Central Union Telephone Company was originally based in Chicago and in 1883 took over the Midland Telephone Company, a Bell organization also based in Chicago. Many Bell patents expired in 1893 and 1894 resulting in an increase of competing telephone companies. By the early 1900s the Central Union Telephone Company was headquartered in Indiana and was organized to develop telephone service in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. Mergers in the telephone industry in the early 1900s resulted in Central Union Telephone becoming part of Indiana Bell, Illinois Bell and Ohio Bell. In 1920 Central Union Telephone Company was purchased by the Ohio Bell Telephone Company which emerged from the Cleveland Telephone Company. In the 1920s telephone service in Ohio was unified under Ohio Bell. [More information can be found at the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History].

Images from other collections that feature the Central Union Telephone company in Ohio and Indiana can be found on SC&A’s Pinterest board.

American Public Transportation Association Records Now Available!

After several years of reprocessing, the American Public Transportation (APTA) records are once again open to research with a new and improved finding aid.  The records document a pivotal time in the history of mass transportation in the 20th century.  Private companies operated nearly all of the mass transportation systems in the United States prior to World War II.  However, the owners of those private companies struggled to compete with private automobiles, perform proper maintenance on the vehicles, and meet the payroll for workers, and most companies ceased operations or sold the systems to public transit authorities in the decades following World War II.

The organization that would eventually become APTA first organized as the American Street Railway Association on December 12, 1882, in Boston, Massachusetts. The initial meetings focused on the price of oats for the horses that pulled omnibuses, but that focus evolved as more transit companies built electric systems for streetcars. In 1905, the group met in New York and reorganized as the American Street and Interurban Railway Transportation and Traffic Association. To encompass even more modes of electric transit, the group changed its name once again to the American Electric Railway Transportation and Traffic Association in 1910. By 1932, many of the transit systems relied on motor buses and trolley buses in addition to electric streetcars, so the organization executives chose to be known as the American Transit Association (ATA). In 1966 the ATA relocated from New York City to Washington, D.C., as a result of the transit industry’s increasing reliance on federal funding sparked by the passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act and the creation of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now the Federal Transit Administration) in 1964. The American Public Transit Association (APTA) was created in 1974 when the American Transit Association and the Institute for Rapid Transit (IRT) merged.

Some of the most interesting items in the collection can be found in the local transit series that consists of clippings, public relations information, reports, brochures, and maps sent in from transit systems around the country.  The maps, such as the one below, are particularly popular with researchers because they show the development of transit systems over time as well as interesting representations of the cities.  A small selection of other maps is available through this online collection.

A color map of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) elevated and subway lines in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, July 1, 1932. American Public Transportation records C0051. Box 169, Folder 47.Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries. This work may be protected by copyright laws and is provided for educational and research purposes only. Any infringing use may be subject to disciplinary action and/or civil or criminal liability as provided by law. If you believe that you are the rights-holder and object to Mason's use of this image, please contact speccoll@gmu.edu.