Posts tagged: biography

What is ephemera?

By , October 12, 2015

What is “ephemera”? And how do you pronounce it, anyway? Ephemera (pronounced: “i-FEM-ur-uh”), refers to anything short-lived. Today we may be more familiar with the adjective, “ephemeral,” used to describe fresh-cut flowers, a misty morning, or the rapidly changing colors of a fading sunset. But the noun, used in a library or archives setting, more often refers to two-dimensional objects, usually made out of paper, designed for limited use, often for just one day. It can include items such as tickets, advertising broadsides, performance programs, handbills, and a variety of other items.

In the Special Collections Division at the Nashville Public Library, we use the term a little more broadly, encompassing those materials described above, but also including items that may be more enduring or substantive, such as essays, booklets, promotional literature, catalogs or other materials. In this instance, think of ephemera as a broad “miscellaneous” category. Typically, it is individual items that have come to us in isolation, without any accompanying materials and often no information about the item’s background. It might be a pamphlet someone found at a garage sale; a ticket stub between ancient floorboards; or any number of other items found under various circumstances.

For ease of access, we have grouped these random items into general subject categories, such as Businesses, Schools, Communities (including neighborhoods), Biography, Parks, and innumerable other headings. Let’s take a look at a few examples, to get a better sense of the variety of materials that come under this broad heading of “ephemera.”

Eddie Jones for Mayor, 1987


Eddie Jones for Mayor brochure, 1987

This brochure, from Eddie Jones’ 1987 campaign for mayor outlines his experience and qualifications for the job, his vision for the city, and encourages supporters to get involved in his campaign. He lost the election to Bill Boner. (Source: Biography Ephemera Subject Files).


Community Bridge and Liberation Message, 1972


Cover of Community Bridge magazine 1972

This is the cover from a local publication serving Nashville’s African-American community in the early 1970s. It includes articles about a national meeting of black social workers held in Nashville; the inequitable attention given public works projects in the Music Row area, while neighborhoods in North Nashville needed maintenance and upgrades; and other subjects. Advertisements for black-owned businesses and events of interest to the community are also included. (Source: Black History Ephemera Subject Files).










Nashville Conservatory of Music Recital, 1905


Nashville Conservatory of Music recital program, 1905


As a student at the Nashville Conservatory of Music, Ellen Lovell gave a piano recital on Jan. 27, 1905. This program shows her portrait on the cover, as well as a full listing of the performances and performers at the recital. (Source: Schools Ephemera Subject Files)






Although the majority of materials in the Special Collections Division’s Ephemera holdings date from the 20th century, it’s not uncommon to find items from the 19th century as well.


Fearless Railway Threshing Machines, ca. 1878


Ad for horse powered saw 1878

This illustration is from a catalog brochure for products of the Fearless Railway Threshing Machine Company, dated around 1878. George Stockell was a Nashville dealer who served as an agent of the company, which was headquartered in New York state. Most of the company’s products used literal horse-power, with one or more horses walking on a treadmill-like device to drive gears, belts, and machinery – which included devices like a thresher or a saw. This particular contraption was listed with a retail price of just over $200 – but did not include shipping charges from New York to Nashville. (Source: Businesses Ephemera Subject Files).

The Ephemera Subject Files in the Special Collections Division at the Nashville Public Library contain literally hundreds of documents related to a tremendous variety of subjects relating to Nashville’s history. Search the catalog for “Ephemera Subject Files” to learn more.

- Linda B.


Book review: For Biography Lovers

By , April 6, 2015

Short Nights of the Shadow CatcherShort Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis
by Timothy Egan

This inspiring biography reads like an adventure story.  Edward Curtis was a photographer who gave us much of what we know about traditional Native American life.  He not only produced many iconic images, he also documented a huge collection of folklore, songs, languages, religious rituals, and details of daily life before they disappeared.  This was amazing both because of the scope of the project and because Curtis dreamed the idea up and then devoted his entire life to it, despite innumerable obstacles and physical and financial hardships.

It’s inspiring to read about someone wholeheartedly giving themselves to a work that they think is important, with no thought of reward. This also made me love photography even more than I already did.  The author, Timothy Egan, is best known for his book about the dust bowl, The Worst Hard Time.


Dearie: The RemarkabDeariele Life of Julia Child
by Bob Spitz

This super-detailed, enthusiastic biography does a great job of giving you a sense of Julia Child’s ebullient personality–you really feel like you get to know her. It starts off a little slow, but once she gets to France you don’t want it to end. I love that she went from being an aimless late bloomer to a super-celebrity just by doing exactly what she wanted to do, with no promise that it would ever pay off.


Book review: Biography Bonaza!

By , November 25, 2014

Why does it seem like biographies are always really popular this time of year? Is it because people get more reflective as fall fades into winter? Do falling leaves make people more contemplative of their own mortality? Wait – is this my own biography? No…I don’t think so. *shakes head* You can tell it’s not my biography because although there is a mention of Joss Whedon, there is not enough glitter. Ok. Whew. Dodged that bullet.

So I really don’t have any answers to the questions above, but I have noticed a significant increase in the number of biographies of people I think are cool. Let’s kick it off with the king, shall we?

Joss Whedon 
By Amy Pascale

No, not Elvis (EWW). This one. Joss Whedon. You know – the father of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and savior of The Avengers.

Amy Pascale packs A TON of information in her recent release about Mr. Whedon. There were things in there that even I didn’t know, and I could run the category on Jeopardy if anyone ever wrote one about Joss. Pop quiz hotshot: did you know he wrote most of the dialogue in Speed? I didn’t, but it totally makes sense because it’s the best part of the movie. I did know he wrote comics, but I didn’t realize how many I hadn’t read. Looks like ILL will be busy in my future. This book also made me want to watch A Cabin in the Woods – and I HATE horror movies. But in typical Joss fashion, the description in the book made it sound like so much more than just a gorefest. (I still might need a buddy to watch though.)

This book is a little bit of commitment because it is dense and chock full of fun Joss tidbits. While it did take me a little time to make it through, I enjoyed every last minute of it and was sad to pass on the book to the next patron. I hope you, whoever you are, will enjoy it as much as I did.

I’m still looking for my “Joss is my King” t-shirt though – just if anyone needs any Christmas present ideas for me.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler was on Saturday Night Live  back when I actually used to watch it. And while she was more Robin to my favorite Batman, Tina Fey, I did think some of Amy’s characters were funny. I’ll be honest – I picked up this book to learn more details why she and Will Arnett got divorced, but I – sigh – was totally denied. She mentions the divorce and how hard it was, but doesn’t give us any details. Sure, Amy, take the classy road the one time I want you to be your usually irreverent self. Curses *shakes fist*  foiled again.

While I completely don’t identify with Amy’s somewhat manic, drug-taking, up all night partying personality, I do respect her work ethic. Most of us just saw her once she was on Conan or SNL, but she had years at Second City and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade to hone her craft. They had to hussle it to make a name for themselves – which they did. It also sounds like her parents are a hoot and a half. Apparently the funny doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Didn’t love this one as much as Tina Fey’s, but it was a pretty good effort for Robin.

Choose Your Own Autobiography
By Neil Patrick Harris

To read what I thought about NPH’s tell-all (well tell-most) bio, skip the next sentence and continue here. To learn how to do a card trick – go to NPH’s fabulous new book.

I heart NPH almost as much as Joss Whedon. From Doogie to Rent to Dr. Horrible – what’s not to love? But I have to say initially I wasn’t in love with his Choose Your Own format. If anyone else would have tried it, I would have deemed it a cop out and mocked him to my friends (and/or blog readers). But for some reason, as you dig in, with NPH it just works. I haven’t actually skipped around in the book as offerred, choosing instead to read straight through like a regular book. But hey – he told me I could choose my own autobiography, and this is what I chose.

It’s funny. It’s snarky. It’s honest. And there is a disturbing amount of magic in it. (I dislike magic. Sorry, I just do.) But I wish I could have been in his head while he was writing because I’m sure it was a fun place to be. Still love NPH, in spite of all the magic weirdness.

So if your life has hit a rut and you want to see how some other really cool people live check these out. Maybe they will inspire you to dance and sing – maybe at the same time!

Happy reading…

:) Amanda

PS Even though it didn’t come out this year, I also just finished listening to Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents on audio, read by the author herself. Also a great biography -maybe for a holiday road trip. The fourth quarter really is a BIOGRAPHY BONANZA!!!!

Popmatic Podcast September 24th, 2014: Banned Books All Year

By , September 24, 2014

Lolita by Vladimir NabokovKnock knock. Who’s there? Humbert. Humbert who? Humbert Humbert. It’s Banned Books Week. We celebrate the freedom to read by plugging our favorite challenged books. If you have a favorite banned or challenged book, tell us in the comments. Later in the show, a book about giant ants proves too much for Mike to handle.


Banned Books Week events happening an NPL

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm large format edition illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Mommy Laid an Egg! or Where Babies Come From by Babette Cole

What’s “Happening to My Body” Book for Girls by Lynda Madaras

What’s “Happening to My Body” Book for Boys by Lynda Madaras

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Homeland by Cory Doctorow read by Wil Wheaton

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow


The Colony by A.J. Colucci

Hello Goodbye” covered by The Cure

Stark Raving Black by Lewis Black

In God We Rust by Lewis Black

Every Kingdom by Ben Howard

Opulence by Brooke Candy


Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

Pioneer in Flight: Cornelia Fort and the WAFS

By , September 8, 2014

Photo of Cornelia FortCornelia Clark Fort was the first female pilot to die on active military duty. In honor of the start of school and her new place on the Tennessee school curriculum, today we are going to highlight the Cornelia Fort Papers. This is one of the many one-of-a-kind collections in the Special Collection that tell personal stories about remarkable Tennesseans.

Cornelia was the eldest daughter of Rufus and Louise Clark and grew up on a farm in East Nashville with her brothers and sisters. Rufus made all the boys swear to never become pilots because he felt it was too dangerous but it never occurred to him to make his daughters swear. Cornelia fell in love with flying and became a flight instructor in Hawaii. In 1942, Cornelia joined the Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS) and transported planes for military use. The WAFS were a predecessor to the WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots), a group that has been the subject of many books and films. Cornelia’s plane crashed when she was hit by a fellow pilot during a ferrying trip in 1943.

Cornelia Fort License with picture

Cornelia Fort’s license from the War Department issued in 1942

The Cornelia Fort Papers include her personal papers as well as information about her immediate family. Some of my favorite items include her various pilot licenses like the one shown here. This is her official license from the military proving her employment with the Ferrying Division. As you can see on the license, Cornelia and her co-pilots were civilians employed by the army, not enlisted members of the military. It was not until 1976 that the Air Force officially let women enlist in their ranks.

Letter from Cornelia Fort to her mother

Letter from Cornelia Fort to her mother, October 1942

Cornelia’s papers also include several handwritten letters like the one to the right. In them she describes her social life and her flights to her family. In this letter, she talks about her graduation and the first orders she received. As one of the senior members of the group, Cornelia was one of the first six given official orders after they completed their training.

There is so much more to see! The Special Collection is open during regular library hours on the second floor of the Main Library. If you are interested in looking at the Cornelia Fort Papers, feel free to call 615-862-5782 to set up an appointment or stop by our service desk.

Look at these books and films for more information on Cornelia Fort and Female Pilots:

United States Women in Aviation, 1940-1985 cover, by Deborah G Douglas


United States Women in Aviation 1940-1985

by Deborah G Douglas




Ladybirds: The Untold Stories of Women Pilots in America cover, by Holden and Griffith


Ladybirds: The Untold Story of Women Pilots in America

by Henry M Holden and Captain Lori Griffith





Zoot-Suits and Parachutes and Wings of Silver, too! cover, by Doris Brinker Tanner


Zoot-Suits and Parachutes and Wings of Silver, too!: The World War II Air Force Training of Women Pilots 1942-1944

by Doris Brinker Tanner




WASPs: Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II cover, by Vera Williams


WASPs: Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

by Vera S Williams




Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of World War cover, by Molly Merryman


Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of World War II

by Molly Merryman





Fly Girls DVD cover


Fly Girls





- Amber

Book review: Manson: the Life and Times of Charles Manson

By , February 5, 2014


Manson: the Life and Times of Charles Manson, by Jeff Guinn

Manson: the Life and Times of Charles Manson, by Jeff Guinn

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

When Charles Manson ordered Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian to go to 10050 Cielo Drive on the night of August 8th, 1969, he intended to leave the world reeling in shock. He got his wish, but not quite the way he’d anticipated: instead of kicking off a race war in which the white race would be wiped out, Manson was hailed as the Devil incarnate once the world learned that his followers had eagerly killed for him. What was his hold on them? What was it about this scruffy half-illiterate redneck that inspired otherwise normal young men and women to become murderers?

In this superb new biography, Jeff Guinn tells us that it was nothing more astonishing than a con-artists’ gift of gab, a psychopath’s lack of conscience, and serendipity. Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson  traces Charlie’s beginnings in rural McMechen WV to his heyday as a self-made guru in 1960’s Los Angeles in such detail that it’s not at all hard to see the seeds of what would later become “Helter Skelter.”

In Depression-era McMechen, women served men, blacks were persona-non-grata and the Bible was God’s literal word to a sizeable chunk of the population. Incorrigible from an early age, Charlie quickly learned to manipulate the adults around him; relatives shook their heads at his tendency to lie and steal and his criminal propensities only increased as he grew older. He spent his adolescence in and out of reform schools and picked up his first federal charge—transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines—at age 16.

Primarily a thief, Charlie also had a violent nature. At six, he attacked his cousin with a sharp sickle blade. Later he would sexually assault younger, weaker boys while he was incarcerated. When he reached adulthood, he racked up charges for forgery and prostitution. As a pimp, he wasn’t particularly successful but he was fascinated when fellow pimps told him their secrets for keeping girls in line. They advised him to look for girls with emotional problems, girls that were “cracked but not broken” then seduce them, intimidate them, isolate them and make sure they had no one to lean on but Charlie.

Charlie remembered their advice.  He also studied Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People  and used many of Carnegie’s techniques on his followers. Later, he became interested in Scientology because it played into his own belief that he was (or should be) the center of the universe. He became obsessed with rock n’ roll and taught himself to play the guitar. The hysteria surrounding the Beatles’ arrival in America convinced him that music would be his path to greatness and that in time; “Charlie” would be an even bigger name than John, Paul, George, or Ringo.

Manson was released from MacNeil Island prison in Washington in 1962. He headed south to California and in the hippie culture of Haight Ashbury, he found a perfect hunting ground. Hippies believed in peace, love and that all people were essentially good. Charlie parroted these ideas whenever he wanted sex, drugs, or someone to listen to his music. He also noticed that self-styled gurus were a dime a dozen; hundreds of lost young people were wandering around looking for a leader and Charlie loved anything that made him the center of attention. As a guru, he would have his very own captive audience.

Jeff Guinn describes Charlie’s brand of pseudo-philosophy as “a hybrid, cobbled together from Beatles song lyrics, biblical passages, Scientology, and the Dale Carnegie technique of presenting everything dramatically.” The ideas he spouted weren’t new, but Charlie had plenty of charisma, so it wasn’t long before his efforts paid off. His first follower was Mary Brunner, a plain girl from Wisconsin who worked in the UC Berkeley library. Next came Lynette Fromme, later to be known as “Squeaky”, then Patricia Krenwinkel. According to Guinn, there was no reason for the girls not  to love Charlie:

Mary, Lynne and Pat rarely went hungry or without a comfortable place to sleep at night. Charlie preached to them about surrenderingtheir egos. He made love to them and told them they were beautiful. He sang them his songs and promised that soon he’d get a record contract and become a star and then they could share the love they felt for each other and all the universal truths that they’d learned with the rest of the world because they were so special.

Eventually, Charlie and the girls moved to Los Angeles, where he acquired even more devotees and became acquainted with rock producer Terry Melcher and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. It was on these  men that Manson would pin his hopes for musical stardom. His association with them would have a cataclysmic effect on the events that became Helter Skelter. With each failure to secure a recording contract, Charlie got angrier and more paranoid, his rhetoric became more violent and his behavior more extreme. Terry Melcher knew that Manson’s talent was minimal, but he didn’t mind making reassuring noises while enjoying the sexual favors of the Family women. When Charlie realized that Melcher was never going to give him a contract, he lashed out in a murderous rage, choosing Melcher’s former home as his target.

Guinn’s portrait of Charlie as a failed artist and a ruthless predator is stark and unequivocal. When contrasted with Guinn’s vivid description of life in late-60’s California, the reader comes away wondering how anyone could make the mistake of thinking of Charles Manson as a hippie. Peace and love were the last things he was about.

-A.J. Price

Popmatic Podcast December 2013: Family Matters

By , December 2, 2013

Reed / West / Kardashian / AndersonHolidays are often a time we spend with family and loved ones. On this episode we feature projects created by families or loved ones in collaboration. You know like Gustav Klusis and Valentina Kulagina… sorry, I mean The Carpenters. Listen and you will be enlightened. And what is tickling our fancy this month.


Björk & Matthew Barney

Drawing Restraint 9

Charlotte Church’s John Peel Lecture on women in music

Melissa McCarthy & Ben Falcone


Wild Belle

Charles Todd

Ian Rutlege series

Frank & Eleanor Perry

David and Lisa

Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson

Metal Machine Music

“O Superman”

Kanye West & Kim Kardashian


 Astronauts Wives Club by Lily Koppel

Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide by Hiroko Yoda

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn (read by Jim Frangione)

Jim Henson by Brian Jay Jones (read by Kirby Heyborne)

The Lost Art of Ah Pook is Hereby Malcolm McNeil

Barnaby Rober’s video for David Bowie’s Love is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix)


A transcript of the show is available upon request.

Graphic novel pick: Drawn Together and other Crumby stuff

By , December 10, 2012

Drawn Together by Aline and Robert CrumbDrawn Together
by Aline Kominsky-Crumb & R. Crumb

Drawn Together is the collected collaborative work of underground comics superstar team Aline and Robert Crumb. Married for over thirty-five years, they have shared their personal relationship through uncensored autobiographical comics. Covering 1974 to 2010, it charts their critical and financial rise from (literally) a trailer in California to a chateau in France. Individual vignettes are hit or miss, but overall we are given a portrait of a successful, long term, non-traditional relationship. They have an open marriage. The entire volume is evidence that the strongest couples are those in which the constituent personalities are complementary, as opposed to clones, of one another.

Need More Love by Aline Kominsky-CrumbWhat’s lacking is the narrative arc of Aline’s underrated mixed media biography Need More Love.  That book is a life affirming exploration of being damaged and the journey we are all on to fix it. It is an antidote to the negative portrayal of Aline found in Terry Zwigoff’s biopic of her neurotic husband, simply titled Crumb. If Need More Love is about the ability of people to change, Crumb is about one artist’s psychodynamics trapping their owner in an obsessional loop. Its vision may not be hopeful, but is it shockingly honest and simultaneously enlightening like turning a light on in a darkened room. The room being Robert Crumb’s bizarre childhood.


Crumb DVDThough Crumb ranks as of the best films of the 1990s, Robert’s actual comics have never spoken much to me. I don’t possess his self-loathing nor his sexual obsessions. In this regard, Robert’s influence on other comics auteurs has been negative. Artists like Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Chester Brown share his technical excellence but also his misanthropy and confessional self-indulgence. The library owns numerous examples of Crumb’s work in this, for him, classic mode, but if you wanted an alternative you could check out his illustrated version of The Book of Genesis. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than Robert Crumb illustrating the Bible but it was a bonafide event when it was published a few years back.

I would be remiss not to mention the Crumbs’ daughter Sophie’s recently published notebooks Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist. The aesthetic relevance vs. cash cow status of that particular artifact is up to the reader. I would call out the haters who say the same thing about Need More Love. My opinions deserve the same scrutiny.

CrumbNeed More Love, and Drawn Together intimately document one couple’s decades long artistic and romantic life. It’s one for the history books. I feel privileged to have been witness. It has filled me with fascination and joy.

- Bryan

Book review: Roots of Style

By , May 9, 2012

Roots of Style: weaving together life, love and fashion.

Roots of Style shows how Toledo’s artistic development was influenced by her family’s immigration from Cuba, follows her first fashion steps in NYC in the late 70s, and concludes with recent projects like her collaboration with Payless Shoes.

Isabel Toledo has worked with many of the best known and most talented designers and tastemakers of the past 40 years, including fashion editors Diane Vreeland and Grace Mirabella, photographer Peter Beard, designer Katy K, Patricia Field, artist Keith Haring, and New York Times style icon Bill Cunningham.

What lends the book a great deal of its authenticity is the tale of her partnership with her husband, Ruben Toledo. Ruben illustrates the book and at first reading the illustrations are cute, whimsical and just a tad distracting. As their story progresses, the illustrations become an intricate and essential element of the history the two of them weave, as warp and weft.

This is a story of talent and impeccable timing stitched together by a hand-me-down green Singer sewing machine. Artistes, crafters, aspiring designers and doodlers will all find something to love in this book.

- Laurie

Book review: And the Pursuit of Happiness

By , December 15, 2011

And the Pursuit of Happiness
by Maira Kalman

     I first discovered Maira Kalman in 2007 when I was wandering around the art section at the bookstore. Her book The Principles of Uncertainty was faced out and I was drawn to the cover illustration of a man in a black suit tipping precariously forward. I loved the concept of the book “a year in the life,” it featured bold colors, handwriting instead of a traditional type font and fabulous illustrations. It was like a picture book, but for adults, unlike anything I had ever seen before.

     Maira Kalman is like the fun, funky, aunt we all wished we had. Her books don’t disappoint, they are clever, original and her Matisse like illustrations are wonderful. In her latest work And the Pursuit of Happiness Kalman documents her year long journey traveling around the United States. Each month of her adventure reflects a different historical theme. Beginning with the thrill of being in the crowd in Washington, DC for Obama’s inauguration to her love affair with all things Abraham Lincoln you’ll wish you were able to travel with her to see Jefferson’s Monticello, tour the Supreme Court and celebrate the genius of Benjamin Franklin. Everything is fun and fresh with Maira Kalman, and you’ll soon be wondering why you haven’t made your own pilgrimage to our nation’s best historical places.

     Don’t miss Kalman’s other works that are available in the library. She has written and illustrated over a dozen children’s picture books and was the illustrator of The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

- Karen

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