Thanksgiving of 1975

The day before Thanksgiving is rather quiet at CCEPS and the Honnold Library. Most staff and students most likely travel already or prepare the food. I’m not traveling so I’m here enjoying the, as I would call, “easy finding parking day” on campus.

While looking through some stack of Mr. Seymour’s letters I found this small packet diary from 1975. That year Thanksgiving came on November 27th, so five days later than this year. There is no note on that day and I do not know where or with whom Mr. Seymour spent the day, but he must be somewhere since the next day he wrote “leave for home” and than “bus to C.C.” Well, safe travel everyone and have a great Thanksgiving day! 

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Visiting the White House

In September 1963, Irving Wallace visited the White House to conduct research for his novel The Man. He was shown around the grounds and offices by Pierre Salinger, JFK’s press secretary. Wallace’s notes from the trip make for fascinating reading. I’m particularly struck by the fact that the White House was not known as intimately by the public then as it is today. Whereas a contemporary researcher can access almost unlimited images, videos, and writings which promise to take us “inside” this most famous of American domestic spaces, Wallace appears to have been relatively ignorant about the building’s inner life prior to his visit.

A case in point: Wallace refers to what we now know simply as the Oval Office–familiar from endless presidential speeches and Saturday Night Live sketches–as “the President’s Office or Corner Office,” further noting that “the President’s room is round or almost round.” Albeit a small detail, this point underscores how our idea of the presidency is subject to the ebb and flow of potent symbols, images, and public memories. In our media-saturated conception of the presidency (which arguably began with JFK and the access his administration granted to photographers and writers), the inside of the White House has achieved a level of mass familiarity and symbolic currency that it did not have, say, in the 1860s.

Here’s one more nugget from Wallace’s White House notes, which I think is worth quoting in full. Enjoy!

I studied the President’s desk carefully…The President has a tall backed executive chair, swivel, black. A green matted writing board at right elbow. To his left on desk he has a green phone with 18 punch keys, then another phone tying him into the Signal board, a single phoned [sic], then to his right a black phone like any phone which Salinger called “the hot phone.” Wouldn’t tell me where it went to, except admitted domestic and said, “Oh, for your book say it ties straight into the Pentagon.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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This week I finished processing the vast majority of the photographs in the collection and begun processing the 35mm slides in the collection. Since I am simply taking 35mm slides out of their boxes and slide trays and placing them into protective plastic sleeves, the process was in fact quite therapeutic. 

The 35mm slides mostly recorded the travels and daily lives of the Yao family in the early and mid-1980s. They travelled rather extensively to China, Europe, Israel, and New Zealand. Among the 35mm slides, I came across a few taken on Yao family’s Thanksgiving party. 

Happy Thanksgiving and please enjoy the photos! 



Cutting the Turkey


Having a Food Baby


Strike a Pose

What can you buy for $1.00?

The value of one dollar has really changed since the 1970-s. In 1973, Mr. John Seymour spent $1.00 to pay for a year of subscription to the “FAD” magazine associated with the LDS  Church – Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). What is even more interesting is that a month later the magazine stopped circulating and the editor credited him with $0.70. This is financial particularity! Is there is anything today we could buy for 70 cents?



Photos by Yao

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For the past few weeks, I have almost finished processing the photos in the Yao Family Collection. The next step is to process the 35mm slides, placing them into plastic protection sheets. 

Even though most of the photos are in black and white, I could not help but to appreciate Norman Yao’s sympathy for his photographed subjects and his great artistic sensibilities, especially given that he took up photography as a hobby in college and had never received any formal training in art schools. One could notice his early passion for photography in his college graduation book, in which he described the most painful thing that happened to him during college had been that he lost a part of his photo collection in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Yao worked as a photographer for nearly two decades in Hong Kong for US Information Service and in Claremont for the Claremont Colleges. Here are some of my favorite photos by Yao, enjoy! 

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                                                   Pomona Theater Production

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Behind the Bleachers


Woman by the Window

Have a nice week! 


The Many Sides of Irving Wallace

While traveling in Rome in August 1963, Irving Wallace sent word to his research assistant in California that he had received the green light for The Man, a speculative novel about the rise of America’s first black president. The letter, written in a midnight burst of energy and excitement, provides fascinating insight into the multiple sides of Irving Wallace’s nature.

There is, of course, Irving Wallace the writer; he calls The Man “the most important thing I’ve ever attempted” to write. Irving Wallace the researcher and delegator is present here, too, as evidenced by the thorough directives Wallace lays out for his research assistant. One particularly urgent task was to clarify the line of presidential succession in the event of assassination. Wallace tells his researcher to “locate at UCLA, Pomona, USC, [or] U of C some very very smart political science or Washington expert, a graduate or instructor, who would be willing to answer questions for payment” about succession procedures. “I don’t understand it all,” Wallace lamented. “This is important and not too soon to get to work finding someone” who could provide expertise. Wallace’s preoccupation with presidential succession seems eerily timed; John F. Kennedy was assassinated a mere two months after this letter.

Last but not least, the letter gives a clear picture of Irving Wallace the businessman and publicist. Wallace wanted to write and publish The Man in time for the 1964 election, which, he was sure, would boost his sales. “Now my situation is this,” he explained. “To beat anyone else with a parallel idea AND to come out before the 1964 Presidential election.” Wallace saw The Man as a “big deal,” and he wanted to be sure that nobody else beat him to the punch. As far as we know, nobody else did. The Man spent 38 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for 1964.

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Irving Wallace to Elizabeth Kempthorne, August 14, 1963, Irving Wallace Collection.

Greetings from Rome…

John Seymour’s papers include not only letters but also interesting postcards from all around the world. Some of the postcards were sent to Mr. Seymour’s from his students. The students were so excited to share what they saw with their professor. How unique is to have this kind of relation between students and their teacher. It shows appreciation of the art and aesthetics that only the teacher would understand as they wrote: ..”Today we went to St. Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel! They were unbelievable! It is a feeling and experience we will never forget! There is just so much to see and experience. It’s just marvelous! […] We are also going to the Catacombs tomorrow…” 

Art appreciation… one of the unique skills that all students should possess…The postcard shows the masterwork of Michelangelo – La Pieta. 


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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“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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Halloween Revelry

For this week’s blog, I wanted to take a break from my usual work and check in on the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. The CCDL provides access to a rich store of visual resources from across the Claremont Colleges community. I am particularly drawn to the site’s photographic collections of early Claremont, including the Boynton Collection of Early Claremont, the City of Claremont History Collection, and the Claremont Colleges Photo Archive. The images in these collections open a window into the people and landscapes of early Claremont as only photographs can. Trust me: you will get lost in these photographs! 

In the spirit of the season, here are some selections from the CCDL which depict Halloween traditions in early twentieth-century Claremont. Enjoy!
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A brick wall and cannonball placed at the top of the stairs leading to Sumner Hall, Pomona College as a Halloween prank in 1901. A notice reads, “Trespassers Will Be Given The Grand Boot.”
This room inside Pearsons Hall, Pomona College was used as a museum. Written on the back of this photograph: “This horse grazed on the roof of Pearsons Hall of Science one Halloween.”
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Another prank by those Pomona College tricksters, circa 1914-1918. A large sign in front of Sumner Hall reads “Claremont Nurseries.”
Claremont Colleges Photo Archive, Claremont Colleges Digital Library,