New Acquisition: Kentucky Manumission, 1801

Special Collections and University Archives has recently added to its collections a manumission written in 1801 by Moses Hall of Nicholas County, Kentucky. This manuscript document is a contract stating that Hall will free Dinah, a black female slave, when she reaches her 23rd birthday in five months (March 10, 1802).

Manumission was the act of freeing a slave by a slave owner, through a deed or will. This act of an individual contrasts with a governmental directive to free slaves, such as the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863. Manumission in the United States was done for a variety of reasons, ranging from a sentimental gesture to a method of incentivizing obedience at the prospect of eventual freedom. However, the practice became increasingly regulated in order to limit the population of freed black residents in the colonies starting in Virginia in 1691 when a law was passed that required freed slaves to leave the colony within six months and for the previous slave owner to pay for the trip.

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New Acquisition: De Smet’s Missions de l’Orégon, 1848

A rare uncut edition of Jesuit priest Pierre-Jean De Smet’s Missions de l’Orégon et Voyages dans les Montagnes Rocheuses aux sources de la Columbie, de l’Athabasca et du Sascatshawin, en 1845-1846 (Gand [Ghent]: Vander Schelden, 1848) has been added to the Oregon Collection in Special Collections and University Archives. This collection includes published materials that reflect the history, literature, and life in Oregon and the Oregon Territory. The acquisition of Missions de l’Orégon broadens the De Smet holdings in the Oregon Collection and complements other editions held in the collection including the English-language edition (Oregon Missions) and the Flemish-language edition (Missiën van den Orégon, seen on the right below).

Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801-1873) was born in Belgium and emigrated to the United States in 1821 as a novitiate of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He moved to a Jesuit mission in Florissant, Missouri, near St. Louis, and began to study the languages and cultures of Native Americans. He went on first his mission among the Salish after they sent a deputation to St. Louis. De Smet returned with the messengers travelling west through Montana and Wyoming, also visiting the neighboring Nez Perce nation on this journey. In 1845-1846, De Smet undertook one of his longest missions throughout the Rocky Mountains and the Oregon Territory, including the Columbia and Willamette valleys, where he established schools and missions throughout. After these travels, De Smet published an account of the evangelizing expedition in Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky Mountains in 1845-46 (New York, 1847). The sale of this book, published in three languages, was part of his continued effort to raise money for Jesuit missions in the Northwest. These fundraising labors included many overseas trips to Europe to meet with papal and European state leaders where his translated books might illustrate his mission and impact to European donors. De Smet saw himself as an ally and advocate of the tribes he was in contact with in the West and was aware of the infringements and persecutions of the federal government toward tribal nations writing, “If our Indians become enraged against the whites, it is because the whites have made them suffer for a long time.”

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Progress With Limits: President Olum’s Quest for Change

This is the ninth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

The Governor — and others — have complained that President Olum can’ t have it both ways — continue to assert that the University of Oregon is of the quality of some of the best public universities in the United States and argue at the same time that faculty salaries at the University of Oregon are abysmally low compared with other institutions, and that this makes it extremely difficult to compete in the hiring of the best young faculty and in retaining our leading senior faculty against very large offers from various universities. Now, the truth is that it really is both ways. Our salaries are terribly, dangerously low and yet we are surely among the best 20 public universities in the United States and, in a number of areas, significantly better even than that.                            -President Olum, State of the university Address, 1987

Wartime ID badge photo of Paul Olum, courtesy  Los Alamos National Laboratory

Paul Olum stepped into the role of university president at Oregon with decades of academic experience. Having just served as provost at the University of Oregon, Olum had been groomed to take over for President Boyd (see previous post on Boyd).  Olum started his illustrious academic career in mathematics, even working on the Manhattan Project at one point.  He earned his bachelors in physics from Princeton in 1940, an M.A in physics from Princeton in 1942, and a PhD in mathematics from Harvard in 1947. Olum later served as a very popular and distinguished professor of mathematics at Cornell, and had a short stint at the University of Texas before beginning his tenure at Oregon.

Olum quickly developed a positive repoire with both students and staff.  Politically progressive, Olum publically called for nuclear disarmament and fought to make the University of Oregon more inclusive for all students. Although Olum’s tenure avoided the contention that filled the 1960s and 1970s, Olum faced recurring budget restraints and struggled to recruit more minority students to the Eugene campus.

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New Acquisition: Medieval Deed

The library has recently acquired a Medieval deed recording the sale of a parcel of land in Norfolk that will aid students and researchers interested in the study of the history of law and land-holding in Western Europe.

This document is a type of late Medieval land deed called a feoffment which records the sale of real land or structures between two parties. These types of deeds were born out of the feudal system of land holding in England where a vassal was granted possession of a lord’s land (a fief) in exchange for service and the serfs, peasants who lived on the land, in turn served the land-holders. When granting a fief a vassal promised an oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas or fidelity, which included military or non-military service to the lord.

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New Acquisition: Incunable Leaf

After the advent of movable type in Western Europe, books increasingly became printed works instead of labor-intensive manuscript copies. Printed books produced during this early period of print are commonly called “incunabula,” Latin for “swaddling clothes” or “cradle,” which references the technology’s period of infancy. The period conventionally encompasses works printed before 1501.

Special Collections and University Archives has added an incunable fragment to its collection of materials suitable for teaching and studying the history of the book. This new acquisition is a leaf from the fifteenth century edition of Arbor vitae crucifixae Jesu Christi (ISTC iu00055000) written by the Franciscan Ubertinus de Casali (1259-1329). Ubertino was an outspoken critic of the pontificate and wrote this text after being banished by Pope Benedict XI (1240-1304) from preaching at Perugia. The text espouses a strict interpretation of the Rule of St. Francis and critiques the Franciscan Order for not adhering to an extreme state of poverty.

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