Last weekend, the museum screened John Ford’s epic 1940 drama Grapes of Wrath starring a young Henry Fonda. On April 10, visitors can see They Died With Their Boots On, the 1941 western directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Errol Flynn. These free films are being shown in conjunction with American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood, currently on view in the museum’s special exhibition galleries. With the museum awash in movie magic, it seems a good time to highlight some of the film-related treasures from the museum’s Karl Struss Archive.
Karl Struss (1886–1981), [Filming Ben-Hur], Rome, 1924-25
Struss was a cinematographer in Hollywood for 50-plus years, starting in 1919. He filmed some of the great movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age and won the first Academy Award in 1929 for his work on Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. The museum’s photography collection has thousands of prints and negatives from Struss’s work on various movie sets and publicity shoots. Here are some great stills from the set of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925).
Karl Sruss (1886–1981), [The Circus Maximus — Chariot Race Set], Rome, 1924-25
The chariot race in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur remains, even by today’s standards, a thrilling action sequence and was essentially recreated for the 1959 version starring Charleton Heston. Struss’s snapshots on set often reveal the behind-the-scenes magic of movie making—as is the case in [The Circus Maximus], which shows a set crew tending to an automobile being used to film the racing chariots.
Karl Sruss (1886–1981), [Rome Set — Front], Rome, 1924-25
Karl Sruss (1886–1981), [Rome Set — Back], Rome, 1924-25
These are just a few of the myriad images housed in the museum’s Struss Archive. The museum’s library has more items from his archive on view, including an original program from the first Academy Award ceremony and the institute’s formal letter to Struss announcing his award. The Library, which offers support to researchers at all levels, is open to visitors Wednesday through Saturday and other times by appointment.
Hi, I'm Pamela Skjolsvik, currrently a library science master's student at the University of North Texas. In January, I began my practicum at the museum's research library. As an author and an avid reader, I love books, not only for the information they provide, but as objects. I especially love preserving books so that others can continue to use them in the future, so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to work on a book preservation project in the research library.
So, what am I doing at the Amon Carter? I am helping to preserve the library's collection of bound Harper’s Weekly magazines published in the nineteenth century. As you can see, some of the books in this collection are in need of major repair work. Several have detached boards, while others simply need a custom mylar cover and a good dusting of the text block. Library patrons access these books quite often - mainly to view their spectacular wood engravings. The first step in the preservation process was to assess what the volumes needed. While I don't have time to fix all of the books, my goal is to make protective boxes for 8-10 books and to do minor repairs on those that need less work.
In addition to my focus on the Harper’s Weekly collection, I also repaired two of the library's rare volumes comprising Catlin’s Notes of Eight Years’ Travels and Residence in Europe With His North American Indian Collection. Both volumes had detached spine pieces and damaged corners.
I reinforced the spine with wheat paste and Japanese paper and created a new hollow back spine piece that I tucked beneath the old cloth. In addition, I created a new spine label. You will notice that I condensed the title of the book.
I fixed the corners with a mix of PVA, methyl cellulose and pressure. I also dabbed a bit of paint on the exposed board of the cover for purely aesthetic reasons. Ta da! These books are now stable and can be perused by the patrons of the library.
Here I am in my workspace at the museum:
What do a lawyer, architect, curator, social worker, librarian, student, gallerist, and a retired English teacher have in common? Each attended the museum’s first Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, held on Saturday, October 10, in the museum's research library. The Amon Carter joins other museums around the country in realizing the important role the community can play in improving the encyclopedia’s content by helping share the art knowledge available in museums.
With access to one of the most important American art research collections in the country, twelve participants spent the day working under the guidance of a seasoned Wikipedian to either create or improve a diverse list of American art articles. With no promise of a byline and knowing the likelihood that their work would be shaped by future Wikipedia writers, our participants came together in a very altruistic way to share the museum's intellectual assets via this collaborative and cumulative knowledge-sharing platform. A clever Wikipedia reporting tool, Herding Sheep, collects the impressive amount of work that was accomplished that day.
Thanks to all our participants who helped us mobilize our knowledge and stay tuned for details about our next Edit-a-Thon!
The Roman Bronze Works of New York was the premier art bronze foundry in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. In 1991, the Amon Carter bought business records of the foundry, recognizing them as key to documenting the work of American sculptors.
Several public sculptures in Fort Worth were cast by the Roman Bronze Works, including the monumental equestrian statue located off Lancaster Avenue in front of the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The statue of Will Rogers sitting on top of his horse was commissioned by Amon G. Carter, publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and longtime friend of Rogers. Rogers was killed in a plane crash in 1935, and when the complex was completed in 1936, Carter named it after him. Carter chose for the commission an artist with a long Texas pedigree, Electra Waggoner Biggs of the Waggoner Ranch family (who were also owners of Fort Worth’s W. T. Waggoner Building).
With the museum’s acquisition of the Roman Bronze Works archive, the story of the statue’s casting can be fully documented. The Amon G. Carter Papers and the Roman Bronze Archive provide both sides of the correspondence and planning of the sculpture from its inception in 1942 to its official unveiling in 1947 (as well as two further copies erected at Texas Tech, Lubbock, and the Will Rogers Memorial Museums, Claremore, Oklahoma).
One of the earliest businessmen in Fort Worth, Julian Feild [sic] opened the first gristmill on the Trinity in 1856. He was also the first postmaster in the city. After this first gristmill floundered, he later opened a more successful mill near what was to become Mansfield. The research library preserves and makes available an early accounting book kept by Feild, with the first entry dated January 1, 1856. It would appear that most of the entries date from that year, though there are entries as late as 1869. As you handle this book, you're instantly taken you back in time, and you find yourself imagining what it must have been like sitting in front of this document, recording what were the mundane transactions of the day, not realizing their captivating power over 150 years later. This document preserves some of the earliest commercial activity in Fort Worth and establishes the importance of Feild as an influential entrepreneur. Read more about Julian Feild in the Handbook of Texas Online and in the Fort Worth History document available on the city's website.
Wilson is mainly known as illustrator of his monumental bird book American Ornithology, published in nine volumes from 1809–14, which is in the library’s holdings. Before starting American Ornithology, Wilson made a visit to Niagara Falls with two companions and wrote a long poem, The Foresters, based on the journey. The poem first appeared serially in The Port Folio before being published in book form in 1818. The poem provides one of the earliest descriptions of the American wilderness. This modern edition published by Bird & Bull Press on view now in the library reading room features original wood engravings by Wesley Bates that depict several scenes from the poem.
Alexander Wilson (1766–1813)
Wood engravings by Wesley W. Bates (b. 1952)
The Foresters: A Poetic Account of a Walking Journey to the Falls of Niagara in the Autumn of 1804
Newtown, Pa.: Bird & Bull Press, 2000
Late last year the research library acquired a unique artist book by Cynthia Brants, a member of the Fort Worth Circle. The pages fold out in accordion fashion and provide a moving-image-style recounting of a sometimes traumatic riding lesson. Though it appears she intended to make several of them, ours is the only known copy in existence. Yesterday library staff installed the book and accompanying printing blocks—a rarity to have both. This side-by-side arrangement gives visitors a chance to study the relationship of printing surface and resulting print. We invite you to come take a closer look in the library reading room during our public hours.
Cynthia Brants (1924–2006)
The Riding Lesson, or, The Nonzen of Riding a Moving Picture
Fort Worth, TX: The Mangle Press, 1959
Color woodcuts and accompanying wood printing blocks
The first Dust-to-Digital title to enter the research library's collection was Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950: Photographs from the Collection of Jim Linderman, published in 2009. We recently got the publisher's latest title, Lead Kindly Light: Pre-war Music and Photographs from the American South. With the other Dust-to-Digital titles in our collection, I Listen to the Wind That Obliterates My Traces: Music in Vernacular Photographs, 1880-1955 and Never a Pal Like Mother: Vintage Songs & Photographs of the One Who’s Always True, we're clearly making a statement that we're a fan of the publisher's approach of marrying vintage photographs and music. Founded by Lance Ledbetter in 2003, Dust-to-Digital is currently operated by him and his wife April in Atlanta, Georgia. Though a strong impetus in their mission is preserving and making available rare recordings, we've chosen titles from their catalog that have strong photography content. The combination of period music and images really creates an immersive and magical experience. I encourage you to drop by the research library during our public hours to see (and hear) them--we're the only library in Fort Worth to offer these publications to the public.
The library recently installed two very special books in the reading room. Though both offer botanical subjects, they represent divergent views of nature from two different time periods.
First up is Jim Dine’s exquisite set of drypoint engravings in book form modeled on the classic Temple of Flora first published in the very early nineteenth century by Dr. Robert John Thornton that combined images, poetry, philosophy, and botanical information. We’re also showing Dine’s bonded bronze sculptural box (bas-relief) made to hold the book, along with a single print on chine collé taken from the second state of the book’s frontispiece. We’re pleased to show this book as a tribute to longtime museum board president Ruth Carter Stevenson’s gardening interests and generosity to the museum. This copy came to the museum from Mrs. Stevenson in 2008.
Jim Dine (b. 1935)
The Temple of Flora: Twenty-eight Drypoint-engravings
Botanical notes compiled and poetry selected by Glenn Todd and Nancy Dine
Intaglio printing by R. (Robert) E. Townsend, Inc.
Bas-relief sculpture on lid: Flora’s Temple Gate cast in bonded bronze by Jim Dine
San Francisco: Arion Press, 1984
Edition of 150
Gift of Ruth Carter Stevenson
Next we have a very rare volume produced by Edward Vischer in 1862 of lithograph views documenting what was thought to be a singular grove of Sequoias in California in an area near Yosemite (the images in this book relate to the small exhibition on the second floor of the museum featuring Yosemite images). Many consider this collection of lithographs to be among the rarest pictorial records of early California. Vischer, a German-born artist, spent a good deal of his career in the commercial trade business in Mexico and Peru before turning his artistic focus to California. The museum’s copy has a distinguished provenance: it once belonged to Thomas Streeter, a famous bibliographer and collector of Americana and Texana.
This passage from the introduction which expresses the spiritual power of viewing these trees:
To the spirit bowed with affliction, or harrowed with cares, a pilgrimage to these shadowy shrines offords most soothing consolation. Behold the evergreen summits of trees that have withstood the storms of more than three thousand years! Gaze on the ponderous and almost imperishable remains of their sires. While lost in wonder and admiration, the turmoil of earthly strife seems to vanish; and the true harbinger of Peace, the olive branch of Hope, returns to the mind, in the comparison of Time with Eternity.
Edward Vischer (1809–1878)
Vischer's Views of California: the Mammoth Tree Grove, Calaveras County, California, and its Avenues
Twelve lithographs by C. (Charles) C. Kuchel (1820–1866) after drawings by Vischer; printed by L.
(Louis) Nagel (b. 1817)
San Francisco: Edward Vischer, 
During the last three months over 1,000 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students from schools in Palo Pinto County visited the museum as part of an education program generously funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Before their visits, students read the book Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein as the catalyst to explore the museum’s library and collections. The students toured through the art collection with our gallery teachers, and at each stop they solved challenges and puzzles that advanced them to the next stop, with the ultimate destination being the museum library—paralleling the action of the book. Once in the library they learned about the library’s collections, how a library functions within a museum, and how books can be works of art. We had such a surprising array of questions from the students that kept us on our toes and showed that a specialized library such as ours can touch a range of age groups and inspire curiosity about art.