The Many Sides of Irving Wallace

While traveling in Rome in August 1963, Irving Wallace sent word to his research assistant in California that he had received the green light for The Man, a speculative novel about the rise of America's first black president. The letter, written in a midnight burst of energy and excitement, provides fascinating insight into the multiple sides of Irving Wallace's nature.

There is, of course, Irving Wallace the writer; he calls The Man "the most important thing I've ever attempted" to write. Irving Wallace the researcher and delegator is present here, too, as evidenced by the thorough directives Wallace lays out for his research assistant. One particularly urgent task was to clarify the line of presidential succession in the event of assassination. Wallace tells his researcher to "locate at UCLA, Pomona, USC, [or] U of C some very very smart political science or Washington expert, a graduate or instructor, who would be willing to answer questions for payment" about succession procedures. "I don't understand it all," Wallace lamented. "This is important and not too soon to get to work finding someone" who could provide expertise. Wallace's preoccupation with presidential succession seems eerily timed; John F. Kennedy was assassinated a mere two months after this letter.   

Last but not least, the letter gives a clear picture of Irving Wallace the businessman and publicist. Wallace wanted to write and publish The Man in time for the 1964 election, which, he was sure, would boost his sales. "Now my situation is this," he explained. "To beat anyone else with a parallel idea AND to come out before the 1964 Presidential election." Wallace saw The Man as a "big deal," and he wanted to be sure that nobody else beat him to the punch. As far as we know, nobody else did. The Man spent 38 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for 1964.  

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Irving Wallace to Elizabeth Kempthorne, August 14, 1963, Irving Wallace Collection. 

Post-War Canal Maintenance

During World War 2, all non-essential maintenance on the All-American Canal was halted. By the end of the war, large section of the banks of the canal had become overrun with vegetation such as willows, and arrow weeds. Other portions of the canal needed repainting and replacements of deteriorated metalwork. To combat these issues, an accelerated program of maintenance and rehabilitation was inaugurated in 1946. 

Below is an example of some of the rehabilitation done in 1946. Note the difference of the gate roller before and after being sandblasted. Sandblasting, addition of protective coating, and repainting made up the majority of the rehabilitation work completed. 

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NARA Series: All-American Canal Project Histories, 1948-1954. Record Group 48: Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, 1826-2009. National Archives Identifier: 2292770

The book scanner is back!

This week, I spent a lot of time with the book scanner. The scanner resides in the Special Collections Reading Room and has been out of commission for quite a long time. Each week I come in hoping that maybe it will be working again. This week the scanner was up and running again! I'm not particularly excited to work with the book scanner, as its a little more tedious than working with other scanners, but it was nice to finish up a few projects! Last week, I reached a point in my work where all I had left to do for the San Antonio Water Company Oral History Collection was to scan the covers of the transcriptions with the book scanner. It seems strange that I have now completed nearly an entire box of transcriptions! I'm looking forward to new documents, but part of me will miss the amount of personal information that comes from oral history interviews.

Into the 'Meta' World

Beginning the week with a small trip back to the photo lab, I had the opportunity to start learning about how to use content.dm, which was interesting. While working on the descriptions of the materials that were digitized, I had to read through them in order to find out a proper way to condense the information. Some of the materials were an eye-opener into the way negotiations were made between Willis S. Jones and the owners of lands across the Los Angeles County through which some of the major pipelines and pumping plants were built.

What to put on my bucket list?

I don't make assumptions when it comes to Mr. Frankish's business transactions. He counts dollars and cents. Tells us which property and villa is on sale and writes colorful stories about "electric railroads," "exotic hotels," and "water pipelines." He throws words around like "ditches" and "trenches" on New Year's Eve, giving instructions tirelessly, while everyone else is at a party. Basically, he is always hard at work.  I take him at his word. Yet sometimes, he is a puzzle. Did he write "canon" or "caƱon" trip? Did he mean to write a "canoe" trip? You'll be the judge.

Maybe he is just an old soul and I am just a pampered brat swimming in the luxury of information technology... surfing the net... googling this and that.... expecting autocorrect to help me look smart..., and; in a nut shell I travel the world in a quantum jump right from my sofa.

Actually a canoe trip sounds like lots of fun... it is said to be liberating, in contrast to the "amenity-burdened lives we lead." I will place this trip on my bucket list!


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Greetings from Rome...

John Seymour's papers include not only letters but also interesting postcards from all around the world. Some of the postcards were sent to Mr. Seymour's from his students. The students were so excited to share what they saw with their professor. How unique is to have this kind of relation between students and their teacher. It shows appreciation of the art and aesthetics that only the teacher would understand as they wrote: .."Today we went to St. Peter's Basilica and Sistine Chapel! They were unbelievable! It is a feeling and experience we will never forget! There is just so much to see and experience. It's just marvelous! [...] We are also going to the Catacombs tomorrow..." 
Art appreciation... one of the unique skills that all students should possess...The postcard shows the masterwork of Michelangelo - La Pieta. 

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Area Man Done Scanning Box #2

"This is it, I'm free," exclaimed V, the local drone #1191. "After 2 months feeding the deadbeat Epson scanner with illegible documents from another century, I can finally reshelve this stupid cardboard box and move on to more meaningful tasks," said the average meatbag before converting files from one type of PDF to another.

Reclaimed Farm Land in the Coachella Valley

Below is a photo of flourishing corn crops in the Imperial Valley in 1946. Thanks to the All-American Canal, areas that were once barren were able to be reclaimed as farmland because of the steady water supply the canal provides.

Photos like this, as well as other farming related documents in the All-American Canal collection could be used by students to learn more about the always evolving farming communities in the Imperial Valley. They could learn not only what kinds of products were grown in the area, but how production increased and changed based on the various stages of completion of the Canal. Students can also learn about what kinds of produce were grown in the region. Students could even work with local farms to see if the produce grown in the area is still the same today!
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NARA Series: All-American Canal Project Histories, 1948-1954. Record Group 48: Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, 1826-2009. National Archives Identifier: 2292770

Voting and power

This week I spent time reading letters and documents between various stockholders of the San Antonio Water Company. Many of the letters addressed to the company appointed L. S. Dyan to vote in their place. I was surprised that these individuals trusted someone else to vote in their place. The San Antonio Water Company met annually with its stockholders to vote; the stocks corresponded to the number of votes that person had. L. S. Dyan therefore gained significant voting power because of the number of stocks he had been entrusted to represent. Although the democracy in the United States of America does not function like a stockholder vote, the two elections-- the one I read about in 1886 with the stockholders of the San Antonio Water Company and the other in an increasingly polarized society in 2018-- highlight the correlation between voting and power. It is easy to think that one vote does not matter in the grand scheme of things, but the sense of collective power that has been conjured on this election day calls many to vote, in some cases for the first time in a midterm election. I am writing this post fairly early in the day, but am feeling hopeful that the opinions of my generation will be heard loudly and clearly, as we have inherited this world wrought with many problems and have already been creative in solving some of those problems. We need to take advantage of the collective platform given to us by voting, to enact change.

The Man

Just in time for election season, I've begun processing materials related to Irving Wallace's book The Man (1964), which tells the story of America's first African American president. Wallace's protagonist, Douglass Dilman, ascends to the Presidency by accident, as a result of the deaths of the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House (he is next in the line of succession). Dilman's presidency is besieged by white supremacists, black political activists, and an attempted assassination. With its controversial premise and page-turning plot,The Man was a major success for Wallace, spending some 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. 

As I take my preliminary pass through newspaper reviews of the book, it's hard not to wince at some of the headlines (see below). To be sure, The Man was something of a cultural moment, and the book's coverage by the mainstream press poses many questions for students of race and American politics in the Civil Rights era. How, we might ask, was Wallace's book received by the mainstream press? Was the book's premise seen as sensational or realistic? And what drove Wallace to write about the first black president?

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