Our former reference librarian, Virginia Wright, used to say our vertical files are full of “trash and treasures.” You can find magazine and newspaper articles, brochures, pamphlets, photographs, and all kinds of snippets of information about glass and glassmaking in the file folders.
I like to think the files are full of stories. I’m a former Girl Scout named “Elizabeth” and I couldn’t resist the stories found in one folder containing clippings dated 1947 about a gift which the Girl Scouts gave Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present.
One clipping shows an excited 13-year-old Girl Scout, Janice Samuels, reading a thank you note:
…the message from the Princess to the Girl Scouts of the United States was in answer to the crystal paperweight inscribed with the Girl Scout trefoil insignia that the organization had sent the heir presumptive to the British throne. The insignia is similar to the emblem of the British Girl Guide organization in which the Princess is a Chief Ranger.
Another identifies the Girl Scout paperweight as made by Steuben Glass, Inc.
Princess Elizabeth received two other gifts created by Steuben Glass: an engraved “Merry-Go-Round” bowl from President and Mrs. Truman and 12 engraved Audubon plates from Ambassador and Mrs. Lewis Douglas.
According to an account in the Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review, Aug. 1948, The British Glass Industry presented “a full suite of cut and engraved table ware … for 24 persons” with a design selected by the Princess. Each piece was “engraved with the Princess’s cornet.”
These pieces of glass were among thousands of gifts Princess Elizabeth received. A newspaper article by Elizabeth Raymond in the Lawrence, Kansas Journal-World describes crowds thronging to see the Princess’ wedding gifts at The Palace of St. James in London: “There are … all the things any bride has ever dreamed of and as many more. Their common characteristic is the obvious fact that each giver tried to offer the very nicest thing imaginable … [with] … loving intent.” In addition to glassware, china and silver, there were diamonds given by … the maharajahs of India and diamond merchants of South Africa.” In contrast, she also received a Frigidaire and a dishwasher. The author comments, “Princess Margaret gave a fitted picnic basket which struck us as one of the most useful presents anyone could have.” Six weeks after the wedding the exhibit was still drawing 3,500 to 4,000 people a day.
Other clippings in the folder describe a display at the Fifth Avenue showrooms of Steuben Glass Inc. where, for “25 cents a look,” you could view reproductions of the wedding gifts from President Truman and Ambassador Lewis W. Douglas. The proceeds were used to buy food for the needy in England.
Some libraries are eliminating their vertical files in the internet age. These types of files were often used by public and school libraries to collect information about current events for school children and they rapidly became outdated.
Our files are still in constant use. They provide access to a wide variety of historical ephemera by subject, ranging from information about the little-known Addison Glass Works, to scholarly articles about medieval engraved Hedwig beakers. Would you like to read about Frank Lloyd Wright and his use of Pyrex tubing to create “window-walls”? We have a folder ready for your perusal.
The Rakow Library is open to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm weekdays. We are also open Sunday afternoons from 12:00-5:00 pm until September 9, 2012.
For more information, please call the reference desk: 607-438-5300 or email: [email protected]