Western Penman Journal Collection Now Online

The University is pleased to announce that our substantial collection of Western Penman and American Penman journals has been digitized and is now publicly available online as a part of the Library’s digital collections. The Western Penman can be accessed here and The American Penman here.

Contained within the Library’s extensive Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection, the journal is one among many penmanship periodicals published during what is known as the “Golden Age” of penmanship, extending several decades before and after the year 1900. Austin Norman Palmer began The Western Penman in 1884. A contemporary and competitor of Charles Paxton Zaner (who would begin publishing his own journal, The Business Educator, eleven years later), Palmer created a simplified method of manuscript writing designed for speed and relying on muscle memory and whole-arm movement. Palmer’s technique contrasted with the more ornate Spencerian script that was the standard of the time. The insistence on speed, evidenced even in Palmer’s habit of closing letters with “Rapidly yours,” aligned perfectly with the growing American obsession with the automobile and his ideas were soon taught in schools across the country. In 1900, Palmer began publishing separate student and professional editions of The Western Penman. In 1906, the publication was renamed The American Penman and ran until 1938, resulting in a total of fifty-five volumes of issues.

The Library’s collection encompasses the entire span of the Penman’s life cycle, although some volumes and issues are missing. While a substantial amount of the Library’s penmanship journals, consisting mostly of the Penman’s Art Journal and the Zaner-Bloser publications, were digitized in 2010 by the Internet Archive as a part of the Lyrasis Mass Digitization Collaborative, the Western Penman and American Penman journals remained available almost exclusively in their print editions. In 2017, twenty-two bound volumes were digitized by Backstage Library Works. Our digital collection now contains 519 issues, with a total of 17,119 page images. The master TIFF image files, which are stored in our digital preservation repository, add up to 652 GB.

We extend our warmest thanks to all of those involved in the process of making these journals digitally available! They are sure to offer great value, both historically and artistically, to our Library’s users.

Below are examples representing various elements of the journal: examples of penmanship completed by students at a business school in Michigan, a page of exercises written by penman R. H. Robbins, and an excerpt from a detailed lesson by Palmer concerning his Muscular Movement technique. Palmer wrote that he considered his readers to be an “immense writing class” led by his teachings.


Scranton Family Papers Collection

“It was unanimously voted to call it Scranton” – Excerpt from an August 28, 1850 letter written by George W. Scranton, discussing the naming of “our place”

Following our recent Scranton Family Papers Scanathon, held in partnership with the Lackawanna Historical Society, the Scranton Public Library, the State Library of Pennsylvania, and our own University of Scranton Department of History and Royals Historical Society, the Weinberg Memorial Library is proud to announce that over 570 letters and documents (dated 1840-1875) digitized from the Lackawanna Historical Society’s Scranton Family Papers Collection are now publicly available online in the Library’s digital collections at www.scranton.edu/library/scrantonfamily.

The majority of the digital collection is made up of 423 letters (dated 1850-1854) digitized from 2 volumes of George W. Scranton’s outgoing office correspondence. The letters document Scranton’s management of his many business concerns, including Scrantons, Platt and Co., the Ligett’s Gap Railroad, the Cayuga & Susquehanna Railroad, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, and the Lackawanna Iron & Coal Company. The correspondence also provides insight into the development (and naming!) of the city of Scranton, including the construction of the city’s first hotel, the Wyoming House. Thanks to transcriptions prepared by LHS volunteers Dennis, Sharleen, and Scott Martin, the digitized letters are full-text searchable.

The remainder of the digital collection holds loose correspondence, ledger books, and other documents (dated 1840-1874) belonging to Joseph H. Scranton, Selden T. Scranton, George W. Scranton, and William W. Scranton. Transcriptions for most of these handwritten documents have been completed by Weinberg Memorial Library staff; additional transcriptions will be added into the collection as they are completed.

We thank all of our partners and volunteers for their time, effort, and moral support in this project, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration in the future!

Scranton Family Papers Scanathon: Success!

Slide3As part of the City of Scranton’s yearlong 150th Anniversary celebration, the Weinberg Memorial Library hosted our very first Scanathon this weekend. In collaboration with the University’s Department of History and the student-run Royals Historical Society, along with community partners the Lackawanna Historical Society and the Scranton Public Library, we set out to digitize materials from the Scranton Family Papers Collection.


A volume of the George W. Scranton letters
A peek inside at the copy-pressed letters

The Lackawanna Historical Society’s Scranton Family Papers collection includes 19 bound volumes of over 9,000 letters written by George W. Scranton, Joseph Hand Scranton, and William Walker Scranton, dating from 1850 to 1917. The Scranton Family collection is quite large; the full set has over 11,000 pages. Our goal for this Scanathon was to completely digitize the  first two volumes of the collection: the George W. Scranton Papers (approximately 414 letters, 625 pages), which cover the time period June 1850 through June 1854.

The Historical Society also loaned us a box of loose correspondence from the Scranton Family, with letters to and from Joseph H. Scranton, Seldon T. Scranton, George W. Scranton, and William W. Scranton, dating from 1841 through 1874.


We knew we’d need a lot of help, and the History Department stepped up. Faculty member Dr. Adam Pratt came and brought students from his HIST140: Craft of the Historian course. The Royals Historical Society also volunteered in force. In total, more than 30 students came to the Library to work three-hour shifts. Staff members from the Lackawanna Historical Society and Scranton Public Library joined in, working side by side with our students.


History Department volunteers at the Scribe Station

Bound volumes are always difficult to scan. Luckily, we got some extra help from the State Library of Pennsylvania, which loaned us their brand new table top Scribe Station for the weekend. The Scribe Station is part of a new initiative to support the digitization of important cultural heritage materials in the state of Pennsylvania, and we were the first to sign up! We also used the Library’s flatbed scanners to digitize the loose correspondence.

The result? Success! Not only did we completely digitize both George W. Scranton volumes, we also made a serious dent in the loose letters. Over the course of the weekend, volunteers created 1,608 digitized images (over 20 GB).

Why digitize? The most important reason is access. Up until now, the George W. Scranton volumes  have only been accessible to researchers visiting the Lackawanna Historical Society in person. Digitization and online publication will make the letters much more accessible (and full-text searchable!) to historians, students, genealogists, the citizens of Scranton, and any other interested members of the public. Digitization also helps to protect and preserve the papers, which are in rather fragile condition – most researchers will be able to use the digital versions, reducing the wear and tear and decreasing the risk of damage to the original physical volumes.

Description and Transcription

Volunteers hard at work on metadata

The Scanathon wasn’t just about scanning, though. In order for digitized images to be discoverable and useful, they need to be described. In between shifts on the scanners, our volunteers captured descriptive information (called metadata) about the letters and prepared a spreadsheet that we can use to prepare the digitized images for online publication. Lackawanna Historical Society volunteers had previously prepared transcriptions of the George W. Scranton volumes (thank you!!), which our volunteers copied into our metadata spreadsheets. We also got a start on transcribing the loose correspondence — our students really stepped up to the challenge of reading scrawling, 19th-century cursive.

What’s Next?

The Scanathon may be over, but our work isn’t done quite yet. In the next few weeks, Scranton Public Library and University of Scranton Library faculty and staff will match up the digitized letters with the descriptions and transcriptions and publish them online in the Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives. (To get a sense of how they will look, take a look at this letter that we digitized a few years ago as part of a collaborative Civil War digital history project.)

Update: Full volumes (sans transcriptions) are live on Internet Archive!! (Volume 1Volume 2)

Update: All digitized letters and documents are live in the Scranton Family Papers digital collection!

Early next year, the letters will also be discoverable in the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) via the brand new Pennsylvania Digital Collections Project service hub. The University of Scranton and the Scranton Public Library are both founding members and active participants in this statewide initiative, so we’re thrilled to be able to give this new digital collection the exposure it deserves.


Weinberg Memorial Library, Scranton Public Library, and Lackawanna Historical Society staff putting our heads together to calibrate the Scribe Station (photo courtesy of Julia Frakes)

This was our first Scanathon, and it was certainly a learning experience. Perhaps the most important lesson learned was how wonderful it is to have help and support from so many people. Our deepest thanks go out to: Weinberg Memorial Library faculty and staff (especially Sam Davis, Sheli McHugh, Mary Kovalcin, Sharon Finnerty, Kym Fetsko, Kevin Kocur, Ian O’Hara, and work study Kate Reilly), History Department faculty and students (especially Dr. Adam Pratt and RHS president Julia Frakes), Lackawanna Historical Society staff and volunteers (especially Sarah Piccini and the Martin Family), Scranton Public Library staff (especially Scott Thomas, Martina Soden, Sylvia Orner, and Elizabeth Davis), and the State Library of Pennsylvania (especially Alice Lubrecht and Bill Fee). We’ll scan with you any day!

Happy Birthday, Scranton: Kickoff to the 150th Anniversary Celebration

Scranton150Tomorrow morning at 9:15 am, the City of Scranton will kick off its year-long Sesquicentennial Anniversary Celebration. Scranton was incorporated as a city on April 23, 1866, so next spring (April 23, 2016) will be the city’s 150th birthday.

While the University of Scranton itself wasn’t around back at the very beginning (founded in 1888, we just celebrated our 125th anniversary in 2013-2014), we’re proud of the close ‘town and gown’ relationship we’ve had with the city of Scranton throughout our shared history.

Here at the Weinberg Memorial Library, we’re looking forward to joining in the fun throughout the anniversary year. Beginning in May, each month of the City celebration will highlight a decade (or two) in the city’s history, and here on our Library blog we’ll be highlighting how the University grew alongside the city during that time.

Our University Archives and Helen Gallagher McHugh Special Collections include many rare and unique resources related to the history of the City of Scranton, its residents, and its major institutions.  For example, the Library holds the records of the International Correspondence Schools of Scranton – and in the fall, we’ll be exhibiting materials from this collection in celebration of the 125th anniversary of ICS (now known as Penn Foster), which was founded in 1891.

We’ve been working on digitizing archival and special collections materials and making them publicly available for searching and browsing in our digital collections, but there’s always more to do. We’re currently tossing around new ideas for increasing public, digital access to local history materials with some of our friends on campus (the History and Communication Departments, Royals’ Historical Society, Hope Horn Gallery, and Community Relations) and in the community (the Lackawanna Historical Society, the Everhart Museum, Scranton Public Library/Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives, and Marywood University). More to come on this as our plans develop!

At the state level, we’re collaborating with other academic and public libraries on a broad initiative to establish a Pennsylvania service hub for the Digital Public Library of America, which will make Pennsylvania history and cultural heritage more accessible and discoverable to students, teachers, genealogists, historians, scholars, and others in our communities and around the world.

So happy birthday, Scranton! Let’s get this party started.

Newly Digitized: Penman Photographs from the Zaner-Bloser Collection

Penman PhotographsOne of the most highly prized jewels in our Helen Gallagher McHugh Special Collections is the Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection, one of the most extensive collections of American ornamental penmanship from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over time, we’ve been digitizing parts of the Zaner-Bloser Collection to make it more accessible to researchers and penmanship enthusiasts around the world.

We’re now happy to announce that more than 500 photographs of celebrated masters and instructors of penmanship from the Zaner-Bloser Collection are now publicly available online. The photographs (96 portraits of women and 453 of men) were gathered by Zaner-Bloser for publication in penmanship journals like the Business Educator. Few of the photographs are dated, but we estimate that most of them were taken between the early 1900s and early 1940s.

Some of the photographs are portraits of celebrated master penmen, including several members of Michael Sull‘s Penman’s Hall of Fame. Others are lesser known teachers and instructors, some of whom we weren’t able to identify (please contact us if you recognize them!).

None of these photographs would be online today were it not for Thomas W. Costello, who spent many hours carefully digitizing the portraits for us. Tom’s great-grandfather is Scranton’s own master penman P. W. Costello, who has three portraits in the collection. Tom described the photograph collection as a “wonderful, well-deserved tribute to the masters and many of the dedicated unsung heroes who worked under the radar teaching penmanship.” We couldn’t say it better ourselves. Thank you, Tom, for bringing the men and women behind the pen into the spotlight.

125th Anniversary Website highlights content from Archives and Digital Collections

Visitors to the University’s 125th Anniversary website (125th.scranton.edu) will notice photographs, historic documents, and other materials from the Weinberg Memorial Library’s University Archives and Digital Collections. Library faculty, staff, and student workers contributed to the website’s timeline, photo galleries, and history pages, as well as the upcoming University history book and of course our Heritage Room anniversary exhibit.

125th-scranton-eduWe encourage all our University community members to submit “Your Scranton Story” in celebration of the University’s 125 years. At the end of the year, we’ll be capturing the Scranton Stories in our web archives, preserving your memories for the 150th anniversary and beyond.

University of Scranton Commencement Programs

Commencement Programs

The Weinberg Memorial Library is excited to announce our newest digital collection – University of Scranton Commencement Programs – which includes programs from commencement exercises and related activities (like Class Night and Baccalaureate) held by the University of Scranton and its predecessor, St. Thomas College. Dated from the 1910s through the 1970s, the programs generally list names, degrees, and awards received by that year’s graduating class. Some programs also include biographies of honorary degree recipients.

We’re still working on digitizing programs from the 1970s to the present – but due to privacy restrictions related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), we are unable to provide public access to programs dated after August 1974 that include student names. (For more information regarding FERPA, please contact the Office of the Registrar.) The original, printed programs are still available in the Library’s Special Collections and University Archives, where they may be viewed by appointment.

We hope that the collection will interest our alumni as well as our current students, faculty, staff, and friends.  Please let us know at digitalcollections@scranton.edu if you have questions or suggestions for us, and make sure you take a second to browse through our other digital collections.

University of Scranton Basketball Collection

University of Scranton Basketball Collection

Here’s something we’ve been working on for a while as part of our ongoing digitization of materials from the University Archives: The University of Scranton Basketball Collection. We haven’t yet digitized the whole archival collection, but we thought we’d go ahead and make the part that *is* done available to all of you – especially with the University’s 125th Anniversary coming up!

So far, the digital Basketball Collection includes more than 600 photographs and documents, dating from 1917 through 1979, that relate to basketball at St. Thomas College and the University of Scranton. The collection includes team and player photographs, game programs, rosters, and selected newspaper clippings. Most of the material is from the 1920s-1950s, but we’ll be adding content from more recent years as we’re able to digitize it. Don’t forget, of course, that the original photographs and documents are available in the Library’s University Archives and can be viewed by appointment.

We hope that the collection will interest our alumni as well as our current students, faculty, staff, and friends.  Please let us know at digitalcollections@scranton.edu if you have questions or suggestions for us — or if you recognize one of our unidentified photographs! If you like what you see, make sure you take a second to browse through our other digital collections.

Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives

There’s a great new resource available for anyone interested in local history.  The Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives, hosted by the Scranton Public Library and funded by a grant from the Willary Foundation, contains digitized photographs, manuscripts, maps, paintings, letters, and videos related to the history of the Valley and its surrounding areas.

While the Digital Archives will continue to grow, there are already three great collections available to the public:

We’re partial to the Out of the Wilderness collection since it contains Civil War era materials found, described, digitized, and transcribed last spring by University of Scranton history students in Dr. Kathryn Shively Meier’s Civil War class.

The Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives is a collaborative effort involving many of our local cultural heritage institutions, including the Scranton Public Library, the Lackawanna Historical Society, the Steamtown National Historic Site, the Scranton Times-Tribune newspaper library, the Anthracite Heritage Museum, and our own Weinberg Memorial Library.  In addition to the Willary Foundation, other funding partners include the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority and the Scranton Area Foundation. We’re looking forward to working together with all of our colleagues on more digital projects in the future!

For more information, see About LVDA or take a look at Go Lackawanna‘s 500 Vine column from November 20th, “New Digital Service Preserves History.”  You can also subscribe to the Digital Archives’ Facebook page for updates.

Hands on Civil War History

We’re in the Scranton Times-Tribune today!  Many thanks to reporter Josh McAuliffe and photographer Michael Mullen for sharing the story of our exciting Civil War project.  Here’s what it’s all about:

This semester, students from Dr. Kathryn Shively Meier‘s Civil War and Reconstruction class (HIST314) partnered up with the Weinberg Memorial Library, the Lackawanna Historical Society, and the Everhart Museum to get a hands-on feel for local Civil War history.  Dr. Meier designed the class project in collaboration with Digital Services Librarian Kristen Yarmey to give the students a taste of what life as a historian, curator, or archivist is like while they simultaneously learned about the experience of the common man during the Civil War.

The class project kicked off with a visit to the Everhart’s exhibit “With bullets singing all around me”: Regional Stories of the Civil War, where the students got to chat with curator Nezka Pfeifer about how the exhibit came together.  The class of 33 students, most of whom are history majors, then split up into five groups, each with a specific task.  The first group worked at the Historical Society with executive director Mary Ann Moran-Savakinus and Pennsylvania Conservation Corps member Sara Strain, going through genealogical files to search for original, Civil-War era correspondence.  A second group of students focused on preserving those found letters in appropriate archival storage and prepared them to be lent to the Weinberg Library.

A third group of students spent time here at the Weinberg, digitizing the found letters and describing them.  The fourth group of students got a primer in 19th century handwriting from Dr. Meier and is currently working on transcribing the documents.  A final, fifth group of students will design a web page layout to interpret the digitized letters for the public.

The end result of the project will be a set of fully searchable, digitized, Scranton-related Civil War documents.  These documents will all be made freely available to the public as part of a local collaborative digital history collection called “Out of the Wilderness,” hosted by the Albright Memorial Library.