03/31/15

What A Difference A Year Makes!

It seems like only yesterday that the first shipment of what would be 710 boxes of the historic Institute of Public Administration Collection with its papers of Luther Gulick arrived at Baruch on April 1, 2014. Now after a year of processing, and the generosity of Carnegie Corporation of New York, we met the deadline, posting a finding aid on the Baruch Library website.

Drum roll, please.

http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/library/alumni/archives/IPA.html

Here’s what the beginning looked like.

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Many boxes were a mess and needed to be checked for contents and preservation issues.

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A project of this size required a massive infusion of supplies, which soon came rolling in by the palette.

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The detritus was soon counted in hundreds of emptied old boxes.

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Discarded metallic fasteners, paper clips, clasps, rubber bands, and other bindings abhorred by archivists made for quite a collection in itself.

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Pencils were ground down labeling thousands of folders.

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Finally it was time to put permanent labels on new acid-free Hollinger boxes.

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And transport them to their happy resting place in the Archives.

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Where they will patiently await their summonses by researchers.

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The year flew by. Now we’re looking ahead to digitizing as much of the collection as practicable, and continuing to mine its treasures for this blog.

03/11/15

Impressions of Office Life

During its century-long existence, the Bureau of Municipal Research, and later the Institute of Public Administration, occupied at least five different locations throughout New York City. From as far downtown as City Hall, to as far north as the Upper East Side; every couple of decades was moving day.

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Entrance to the IPA office at 684 Park Avenue

In the 1960s, relocating from their location at 684 Park Avenue, someone at IPA thought it worthwhile to pack a few mementos of their sojourn at this neo-Federal townhouse.

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The first item of note was one that both employees and visitors would come in frequent contact with over the course of their day: a door handle from the outer door.

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Once inside, the visitor would probably note the type of paneling present on the walls of the office.

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Working late into the night, the last and largest item in the box would have been indispensable for anyone still left in the office:  a crystal light fixture.

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12/23/14

How to Spell Mystery in 3 Letters

Not everything in the Gulick files is explainable. Take the three handwritten letters from Poland that arrived at the Bronxville, N.Y., home of Luther and Helen Gulick in March and April, 1948.

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What’s so mysterious about that? you may ask.

Well, for one thing they all turned out to have come from the same person and said much the same thing.

And none of the three letters had ever been opened — although the last had a small section torn from the corner, as if the recipient had started to open it and stopped. That letter, too, remained unread, as it could not have been extracted through that opening.

Silently begging the Gulicks’s pardon (neither being around to ask), project archivist Aleksandr Gelfand set about carefully slitting open the envelopes and removing the contents.

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The letters, penned in careful Polish script, were postmarked March 23, 1948 (two of them on the same day!) and April 26, 1948. They were signed by one Zofia Zalewska  in Serwatki, a village in northeastern Poland.

The first two, addressed to Mrs. Gulick and all but identical began : “Dear Madam, I have received from madam packages  for my betterment  for which I am very grateful to madam for that aid helped to nurture my sick son, and I ask madam to provide more aid.”

The letter went on to plead “for help to clothe my family which has been reduced to difficulties because of the war.”

The letter to Luther a month later expanded on their suffering during the war and provided details: “There are 10 persons in the family, a husband and eight children from 18 to 6 years of age.”

So the Gulicks seemed to have helped a struggling Polish family after the war.

But who were the Zalewskas? How did they find the Gulicks? And why did Zofia’s letters remain unopened?

In Hamlet’s dying words, “The rest is silence.”

12/9/14

Something Sweet for the Holidays

You might not recognize the name of the letter-writer, or even the limited Newark partnership on the letterhead, but Bruce Murrie, who sought Gulick’s organizational advice in 1944, was half of the team (with Forrest E. Mars, Sr., ) that pioneered M&Ms.

(Yes, that Mars, as in Mars Bars.)

Candy

Gulick at the time had other things on his mind — winning World War II, for one thing — so he seems to have put Murrie off. Still, it looks like he sampled the revolutionary new chocolate candy.

His reaction? We don’t know.

And by the way: how do they get the initials on each little piece?

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30494/what-do-ms-mms-stand-and-how-do-they-get-them-there

12/4/14

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy…

The terrible day at Pearl Harbor 73 years ago this Sunday – Dec. 7, 1941 (a Sunday also!) — is seared into our collective memory. The Japanese surprise attack killed 2,403 Americans by official Navy count, crippled the US fleet and air force and hurled us into World War II, already raging for more than two years in Europe and longer in Asia.

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Here’s a draft of FDR’s unforgettable speech to Congress:

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On that Sunday, Luther Gulick — then working on the National Resources Defense Council as a member of the Committee on Post-War Planning (typical – he was already thinking ahead!) — had traveled to Boston to deliver a speech on military preparedness and budgeting to the Harvard Business School.

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Gulick’s text seems at first glance to record the exact moment when he hears of the Japanese attack. He changes his opening from “We have been threatened” to “We have been attacked…”

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But wait! He goes on to cite, not the Japanese but “an insane group of Nazi political racketeers and military adventurers…”

Moreover, he could not yet have known of the Pearl Harbor attack. His speech was scheduled for noon. The attack began at 7:53 am Hawaii time — with the five hour-time difference, 12:53 pm on the East Coast — and was over in two hours. The Associated Press sent out the first bulletin while the bombing was still underway, at 2:22 pm eastern time.

Meanwhile, Gulick, unaware, along with his audience, of the world-shaking events across the Pacific, went on with his talk, citing estimates and projections as far off as 1950.

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The title of his talk on Dec. 7, 1941 — ill-chosen or amazingly far-sighted?:  “When Peace Comes.”