The Man

Just in time for election season, I’ve begun processing materials related to Irving Wallace’s book The Man¬†(1964), which tells the story of America’s first African American president. Wallace’s protagonist, Douglass Dilman, ascends to the Presidency by accident, as a result of the deaths of the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House (he is next in the line of succession). Dilman’s presidency is besieged by white supremacists, black political activists, and an attempted assassination. With its controversial premise and page-turning plot,The Man was a major success for Wallace, spending some 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

As I take my preliminary pass through newspaper reviews of the book, it’s hard not to wince at some of the headlines (see below). To be sure, The Man was something of a cultural moment, and the book’s coverage by the mainstream press poses many questions for students of race and American politics in the Civil Rights era. How, we might ask, was Wallace’s book received by the mainstream press? Was the book’s premise seen as sensational or realistic? And what drove Wallace to write about the first black president?

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An Unusual Turn

Digitization of the Willis S. Jones papers took a rather unusual turn this week as it consisted of a mixture of different types of archival materials such as sketch maps, weather reports, pump level notes, installation calculations, a few letters and reports. Few of the most interesting materials to work on were the pump level notes that consisted of calculations of horsepower, boost, lift, water elevation, transmission and gravity. Weather reports mainly consisted of rainfall measurements in different stations across the Los Angeles and Riverside County over different seasons leading to the calculations of the running hours of the pumps. An interesting item was the sketch map of a ‘portable derrick’ that was used for building of the pumping plants and pipelines. Another vital piece of information were the letters that were exchanged between Willis S. Jones and the Vail Company during the process of the building of the plants and pipelines. One could notice that many re-negotiations had taken place before the decisions on the rates were made. Additionally, the rainfall of each season played a crucial role in determining the rates of that particular season.

“Wearing many hats.”

If someone “wears many hats,” they have different roles or tasks to perform. John Laurence Seymour has written many chamber music selections and has composed numerous operas, for example Ramona and In the Pasha’s Garden. The last one was performed at the Metropolitan Opera stage. However, his B.A., M.A, and even Ph.D., degrees were not related at all to music. He actually studied Russian and received his doctorate degree in English. I find this interesting when people have many interests and are successful in different fields. Although, he studied violin and has done some critical studies in opera abroad, still, I think writing operas outside of daily work is quite impressive. Here is Mr. Seymour in “one of his hats.”
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Anything is possible

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Having jumped from Frankish
Letters book 1 to book 5 and back again (all over the course of this week), I can see that Mr.
Frankish had an entrepreneurial
spirit. According to
Marc de Grandpre, senior vice president of
marketing for KIND Healthy Snacks, “to have an entrepreneurial spirit, you need
people who think anything is possible and have the tenacity to accomplish it
.”

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Recycle II: Data Strikes Back

As mentioned before, Willis S. Jones and associates had this habit of recycling papers the worst way possible. For the discharge measurements, it looks like Mr. Jones was transferring raw data to another set of (medium rare) spreadsheets. However, instead of using a new piece of paper when messing up the numbers (which he did quite often), he just added stuff left, right, up, down, making reading the documents a rather difficult task. Even after typing out the data out on a supposedly clean (well-done) piece of paper, he still penciled in more information. So kids, remember, save all your crap in one place, preferably with backup copies.