Just Bits of Paper | Newberry

Just Bits of Paper

So the next Next Chapter event (after the success of Forbidden Newberry) is coming up on February 22. The program, Preserving Protest, is all about the Newberry’s collection of historic protest materials through the years. If you want to know more about the event, look around on this very webpage, and if you want to know more about the protest material, come hear the program. (The Next Chapter is a group for Newberry supporters between 21 and 45, but if you look as young as Uncle Blogsy, they won’t card you at the door.)

The Book Fair has had its own adventures with protest material. Several donors have dropped off collections from the history of Chicagoan contrariness, on this side AND that of every question, and these bits of controversial and ephemeral paper are generally a big hit. (The Library does NOT necessarily collect all those flyers and newsletters you folks hand around at the Bughouse Square Debates every July. We would, but there’s something else going on inside the Library at the same time, and we can do only so much at a time.)

Just this year, as we were going through an accumulation of rolled posters and picking out some too damaged to sell, we looked over a water-damaged pin-up and decided to do a little more research. The printer was known as one of the great purveyors of trouble-making posters in the late sixties. It turned out to be a classic of the days after the Democratic National Convention of 1968, and shows three tired policemen, one of whom is greeting the photographer by raising his hand in half of a peace sign. (Barry Goldwater’s joke.) It now sits in someone else’s office, being evaluated for a spot in the Newberry’s protest collection.

I have blogged before about the collection of books by W.H. Hudson, an ornithologist and author of the last century known as a one-hit wonder for his Green Mansions, a tale of a jungle paradise and life therein. The donor had, however, collected all of his books, and had tossed in a piece of paper to mark this as a “Collection of W.H. Hudson”, in case I hadn’t noticed.

You know how it is: you grab any piece of paper you have lying around for these important memos. The piece of paper used for this one was half as old as some of the books, and was a flyer inviting supporters to come to O’Hare to cheer on Edmund Muskie as he arrived in Chicago to attend the convention. I haven’t checked the history books to see how many people turned out.

Enough people turned out in response to another piece of paper I found at the bottom of a box. This was years ago, before I learned the power and price of odd scraps of paper. The man who bought it from me for a dollar seemed very pleased, and even a little startled that he could just hand me a dollar and walk off with this plain, ordinary piece of typing paper. All that made the paper special was that someone had printed on it that a group was going to gather in Grant Park and present their views. I don’t recall right now whether it mentioned that Abbie Hoffman was going to be present. Later on, someone suggested I could have gotten a higher price for this flimsy bit of paper.

Oh, well. Give it time, and someone will be weeping that I DIDN’T go out and collect all those flyers that random passersby hand out at Bughouse. All hail the power of paper.

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