“The West Chamber”

As highlighted in a previous blog post, John Laurence Seymour’s
production of A Protegee of the Mistress constituted the first
production of that particular play in the United States. Nine years after that
performance Seymour picked another play to perform for the first time in the
United States. For the first time ever, the English-language production of
The West Chamber took stage in 1938. Touted as a “Chinese
Classic” in local newspapers the show included meticulous research on
traditional Chinese stage-makeup, props, and staging in order to faithfully
re-stage the production in the United States. However, one glaring issue with
the production is that the entire cast was white. Actors donned makeup which relied
on thick black eyeliner to create sharp, angled eyebrows and also to create the
illusion of almond-shaped eyes. This heartily begs the question, is this considered
an example of “yellowface”? A significant effort was made by Seymour
to share his appreciation of Chinese culture and to teach both actors and the
audience about traditional Chinese Theater (see program notes included
below). Far from creating a caricature of Chinese peoples and cultures,
the production seemingly constituted a faithful recreation of the play originally
written in 1250AD by the Chinese playwright, Wang Shih Fu. Regardless of good
intention though, it is hard to forget the fact that the Chinese Exclusion Act
would not be repealed until 5 years after this production.

 

One year prior to this production, the Hollywood movie version
of
The Good Earth was released. Set
in Northern China during the years leading up to WW1, the film follows a
Chinese farming family and their numerous struggles. Even though Asian-American
movie star, Anna May Wong had been considered for the main role, she never
received an offer for the part because of the white, male lead, Paul Muni. Due t
o anti-miscegenation rules in Hollywood during that time, any actress
playing Muni’s wife also had to be white. Due to these kinds of laws and
ever-present racism, it became basically impossible for Asian’s and
Asian-Americans living in the United States to tell their own stories in any
kind of theater.


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A Touch of Flare

I
have always been fascinated by abbreviations. Abbreviations are kind of cool;
they are like placards with a touch of flare. I got this one thrown at me
the other day: HMU. At first I didn’t know what to make of it but thanks to
Google I was able to get down to the bottom of it. It says Hit Me Up! As
I was scrolling down pages of the San Antonio Water Company History, Inventory
and Appraisal report, I came across a list of abbreviations which I found to be
really cool. Try to see if you can get them right. The correct answers are in
the image below.

 

mg
m.i.

stg.

D.D.
D.W.

In
the meantime, DFTBA! (Don’t forget to be awesome!)
Page Abbreviation_450.jpg

Megastorm in Southern California

This week, I had continued working on the metadata for the Willis S. Jones papers. Several of them consisted of water flow measurements and discharge measurements from the Temecula Creek, the Harrison Canyon and dams. The measurements corresponding to the dams had insuffuicient information compared to the measurements on the canyon and the creek. What was surprising was that, in the same week I read news about a rare L.A. storm, termed as the ‘Megastorm’ or ‘Arkstorm’ by experts, which could possibly occur and if it does, would severely damage the Whittier Narrows Dam causing massive flooding. This in turn could affect several cities such as Long Beach, Lakewood, Montebello and so on.
Many weather scientists claim that the reports generated so far under-estimate its effects. That is when I started to understand how important preservation of weather reports are as it could be used later for generating averages and estimates that would aid in determining catastrophic events.

Do you know Victoria Woodhull?

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In The Nympho and Other Maniacs: The Lives, the Loves and the Sexual Adventures of Some Scandalous and Liberated Ladies Irving Wallace wrote a series of biographies about sensational women. In “Book Three: The Rebel As a Scandal” Wallace featured Victoria Woodhull as “The Prostitute Who Ran For President.” But do you know who Victoria Woodhull was? She was quite a remarkable woman.

Victoria Woodhull (1838 – 1927) has her own biography on the History Channel’s website and is featured in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. On their website they claim that Woodhull was “a passionate campaigner for social justice who combined deep belief in Spiritualism, radical views on achieving equal rights for women, advocacy of divorce law changes, birth control, working people’s rights, and tax reform as her platform for change.
She was the first American woman to address Congress and the first to run for the office of President of the United States.” Tidbits I’ve read about Woodhull suggest that she certainly had no end of lovers, but there’s nothing to indicate she made a vocation of her sex or that she sold it.

I wonder if Mr. Wallace may have misunderstood her advocacy for what she called free love.
Unlike the “free love” of our hippie parents or grandparents who lived (and loved) their way through the 1960s, Woodhull’s call for free love was more akin to equality–to the end of racism in many ways. The History Channel noted that in one of Woodhull’s speeches she claimed, “I want the love of you all, promiscuously. It makes no difference who or what you are, old or young, black or white, pagan, Jew, or Christian, I want to love you all and be loved by you all, and I mean to have your love.” While the use of the word “promiscuously” here was often taken to mean sexually, it is quite likely that Woodhull used it as an ill-chosen synonym for the word “freely” or “equally.” After all, though she was quick to spot and take advantage of an opportunity, her education did not begin until age 8 and only lasted sporadically for about three years.

Irving Wallace certainly thought she meant it sexually, however. In John Leverence’s Iriving
Wallace: A Writer’s Profile
, Wallace said of his book, “I am writing about individual women of the recent past who, whether by plan or by accident, wittingly or unwittingly, refused to accept any simplistic biological definition of female as mere childbearer and the second best of the sexes.” He went on to explain more about the women he profiled in Nympho
and Other Maniacs
placing Woodhull among his rebels. Apparently openly discussing sex during the Victorian era while declaring women have a right to decide what happens with their bodies and calling for birth control and better divorce laws made her a prostitute in Mr. Wallace’s eyes. I wonder who else he profiled among the “uninhibited ladies” in his “magnificent tour de force“?

Remembering “Grammable” Food

Unquestionably, Instagram provides a space for users to share photos of amazing memories. One particularly popular category of photos shared on the platform revolves around food. Users often seek out meals or snacks simply because they know the food will create a “grammable” photo. But how did people remember these “grammable” meals prior to the invention of Instagram? For John Laurence Seymour, it was by recording the meals in his diaries. From the years 1928-1982 Seymour wrote in his journals meticulously. In his daily entries, he nearly always recorded the weather, kept track of what operas and other theatrical shows he saw with his mother, and notated various meals and snacks he ate. Typically, his mother Rose (whom he affectionately called “Rosie”) would be the chef or baker behind the corn chowders or banana cakes notated on the diary pages. Seymour would often notate picking fruit, such as oranges, nectarines, or apricots, and the next day would write about the upside down cake Rosie made out of the fresh harvest. 

Below are 3 excerpts from Seymour’s 1933 diary. Each entry highlighting a Rosie specialty, such as chicken dinner, plum upside down cake, and duck served alongside Birthday Cake!
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chicken dinner001.jpg

Rich History

As I was
skimming through the San Antonio Water Company History, Inventory and Appraisal,
I came across a little incident with big implications on the history of SoCal.
This incident is called “the Battle
of Chino” which was more like a minor skirmish between Spanish-speaking
Americans and Californios loyal to
the Mexican government. In fact, the Battle of Chino became the first step
towards the capture of California by American forces. The general location of the Battle of Chino is located on Eucalyptus Avenue near the 71 in today’s Chino Hills.
Chino was founded by the Kukamonga Indian tribe who
had
established a village-like
clustering around the land mass we know as Red Hill.
I am always amazed at the rich history
of California.

 

References

 

The
Battle of Chino: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41168019?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

 

Back
in the Day: The Battle of Chino https://www.pe.com/2014/10/12/back-in-the-day-the-battle-of-chino/

 

History
of Rancho Cucamonga https://www.cityofrc.us/cityhall/planning/hpp/history.asp

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The Author’s Process and Revision

While working through the archives related to The Almighty by Irving Wallace this week, I could not help but notice the number of revisions at each stage of the writing process. For anyone wanting to research a prolific author’s writing process, the Irving Wallace Papers offer a phenomenal opportunity. Wallace not only saved multiple drafts of each of his works, but he also tended to write notes on the top page reflected what changes he’d made.
On the original manuscript of The Almighty, before even sending to his agent, Wallace’s inscription indicated his multiple drafts. His note, dated March 25, 1982, stated, “This is the original draft written and typed by me from October 8, 1981 to January 28, 1982, and revised by me six times.” Six!
But those six revisions were just the beginning. Once the book was accepted for publication by Double Day, the manuscript went through at least another twelve to fifteen revisions between working with his editor, his agent, and the printers. At least point up until the very last moment before the printer was set to print the work, Wallace not only corrected errors, but also inserted whole changes to sentences, sections, and sometimes whole pages. Wallace’s notes throughout made mention of the number of revisions sent to editors, publishers, and printers as well as the extent of those revisions. One note I recall seeing mentioned that his editor, his publisher, a friend, his children, and his wife Sylvia had all provided feedback that he had incorporated into the draft—as well as some new material that was in his mind and he wanted to add to the manuscript.
I can only imagine how the publishers might have felt about these last minute changes. It might have been upsetting at first, but the man did publish more than 30 works and is considered a best-selling American novelist. At some point, I would guess, a publisher learns to let the artist be the artist and just works as quickly as they can. Certainly the archives indicate there was no shortage of adaptations to work with Wallace. For example,  one file includes multiple letters between Wallace and his editor and the publisher and Wallace all discussing the logistics of getting a set of galley proofs to him in Paris while he was traveling and setting up a telex call to send revisions via shorthand noted in the letters. He ultimately gave the revisions verbally over a phone call, but what a nightmare trying to coordinate all that for the publisher!
Stay tuned for more writing insights from The Irving Wallace Papers…

Travelling further in the ‘meta’ world

This week, I continued to work on the metadata on the items left over. I am happy to know that I am nearing completion on one of the boxes, which would lead me to work on some new items from next week.
Another interesting aspect that I came across was when I was working on preparing a tweet for the social media page. I had to do some research on rainfall and water discharge measurements which was the main topic we were planning to address through the tweet. Thus, I had to look out for any interesting items that we thought we could share to the viewers. While looking for items I did come across many rainfall reports that were done in the regions surrounding the Temecula Creek. It ultimately led me to looking at the developments that took place in meteorology. Though some of the technical terms were new to me, I was able to get a broader perspective on what lead to such accurate developments on weather forecasting.

A Rose Among Flowers

John Laurence Seymour’s mother, Rose A. Seymour, loved flowers. Photographs spanning the decades of her life frequently feature her posing with flowers. Sometimes she is holding the flowers, sometimes she is standing next to them, and sometimes she is in the shrubbery with them. For Valentines Day, I thought it would be apropos to have Rose Seymour share some flowers with you.

The first photo is of Rose in either 1898 or 1899, on a porch in South Pasadena. The second photo is Rose posing at home in a large shrub of blooms in 1947. Finally, the last photo is from 1960, taken by John Seymour while the two were on vacation to the Colorado River Canyon.
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Driving Down Arrow Highway

What
I am about to share is not a Hollywood movie script but a true story. If you
remember my post from last week, you will know that John Rains married Maria
Merced in 1856. The marriage led to five children,
three murders, and
reportedly the juiciest scandal of the time (Maria married Rains only a day
after her father’s death). Was the marriage
a
love-filled haze?  It is reported that
his relationship with Maria was stormy but was a love match!
The couple lived
in a beautiful fired-brick home (the house is still standing today on Vineyard
Ave. north of Foothill Boulevard). But was he a cowpoke? Maybe. But he was also
described as gallant and impulsive. This love story reminds me of one of the
most memorable lines from the classic movie Casablanca,
when Rick tells his former lover; “We’ll always have Paris.” In this case,
maybe John and Maria will always have Rancho.
After all, he purchased Rancho Cucamonga for $16,500.

 

Rains
was ambushed, lassoed, shot, dismembered, and tossed into the bushes along
today’s Arrow Highway. Thus, Arrow Highway is the silent witness of the
unsolved mystery of John Rains’ final moments! May he and Maria have a happy Valentine’s
Day wherever they may be.

 

 

Citations:

Murder in Mud Springs by Paul McClure http://www.lawesterners.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2014-06-14-Murder-Mystery-Story.pdf

San
Bernardino County Museum http://www.sbcounty.gov/museum/branches/rains.htm

Eternity Street by John Mack Faragher
https://books.google.com/books?id=kfR1CQAAQBAJ&pg=PT296&lpg=PT296&dq=was+the+marriage+of+john+rains+and+maria+merced+based+on+love&source=bl&ots=lc6_duIUJM&sig=ACfU3U2edreNjJ7E7DMDzTY7oBshwAMaDQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwid_Kv8i7fgAhXdPH0KHX0pBKc4ChDoATAAegQIABAB#v=onepage&q=was%20the%20marriage%20of%20john%20rains%20and%20maria%20merced%20based%20on%20love&f=false

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