Results tagged “John Laurence Seymour Papers”

Personal Anecdote....

Funny thing happened this week. While entering the Seymour Papers' finding aid into the library's records system. I had to double checked the written directions given to me because I could not remember how to do something. While reading the directions, it stated that the selection I clicked should have auto-populated the information I needed. I had a moment of panic because nothing auto-populated!!! Surely I must be doing something wrong! I moved onto task 2 and the same thing happened! As someone who HATES doing something incorrectly I quickly shot off an email asking for help. Turns out the part of the directions that stated information would be auto-populated was outdated. When changing the directions from how to use the old system to how to use the new system, this one sentence accidentally got left behind. Luckily the instructions can now be updated so that way future fellows won't suffer momentary heart failure. 

Back from Vacation for the Presentation

After spending 2 weeks abroad, I quickly got thrown back into work when I found out my final CCEPS presentation had been scheduled for my second day back to work. So 
I spent yesterday and the better part of today preparing for, and giving, my final presentation about the John Laurence Seymour Collection. Even though my time with Seymour will be coming to an end soon, it has been wonderful to get to know him through his collection. There are still a few loose ends to tie up (such as preserving a few more oversize posters and uploading the finding aid for the collection) so I will spend the rest of the month working to ensure the collection is ready for researchers.

Off to London

Tomorrow evening this archivist takes off to explore Europe for the next 2 weeks. A few of my days will be spent in London. I thought this made an excellent opportunity to share one of the postcards John Laurence Seymour brought back from his European trip in 1922/1923. Seymour would purchase post cards as souvenirs to keep for himself, and frequently made notations on the back of them with personal descriptions and anecdotes. Below is a postcard of the Tower of London with Seymour's notations on the back included.

Secondary Sources

When processing an archival collection, generally, you are dealing strictly with primary sources. While that is a fantastic experience, sometimes some secondary sources can be incredibly helpful to help one synthesize and put into context the files upon files of documents. One of, if not the, best secondary source about John Laurence Seymour is a chapter from a book about Mormons at the Metropolitan Opera, written by Glen Nelson. The chapter "Digging Up the Pasha's Garden" looks at both Seymour and his experiences related to his opera, In the Pasha's Garden, performed at the Met in 1934/1935. I have found the chapter particularly helpful in writing the finding aid for the John Laurence Seymour Papers, and I would highly encourage others to read this chapter as well. The link is provided below:

Opera Advertisements- Part 2

Last week I promised for a solution for the over-sized posters, and luckily we worked something out. The large posters that are too big for even the map drawers will be folded either in half (or in quarters based on how giant the poster is). The goal is basically to have as few folds as possible. Then, we will make custom sleeves for each folded poster out of Mylar, in order to help prevent any further damage and to keep pieces which have ripped off together. Those sleeved posters will then go into a giant file with all of the other over-sized posters from this collection, and placed safely in the map drawers. Sadly, because these posters are so large and fragile, there is really no way to safely scan them with the resources we have here at the library.... However I was able to take a photo of one of the larger and more delicate posters with my phone, which is the photo below. The poster is from around the turn of the century and advertises an opera titled, "Adriana Lecouvreur". 

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Opera Advertisements- Part 1

Hidden away in the last few unprocessed folders of the Seymour Collection hid some of the most beautiful opera advertisements this archivist has ever seen first-hand. The full-color advertisements range in size from a small 4x12 inch flyer to an enormous 77x40 inch poster. Archiving the flyers typically follows the same process as any other paper item, so long as there is no damage to the flyer. However, the large posters prove more difficult. Paper items should always be stored as flat as possible, but an item over 6 feet in length proves trickier. Archival drawers are often the solution for large items, however even those are only so big. Honestly, I am not totally sure what we are going to do with this giant poster yet. It is seriously massive, and to complicate matters further, it is also pretty fragile.  Even an archival drawer would not provide enough space to lay the poster flat. Stay tuned next week..... hopefully we will have a solution then!

Until then though, enjoy these significantly more manageably-sized flyers for the operas: Iris, Madam Butterfly, Giovanni Gallvrese, and La Figlia Di Iorio.

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Archiving Pro Tip: Erasing

Hopefully it should be no surprise that paper is made up of pulp derived from fibers of wood (or sometimes other fibrous materials such as grasses or cotton). These fibers are layered and pressed in a way that means each fiber is positioned in its own unique direction. Keeping this in mind, there is actually a trick when erasing a mistake made with pencil. While a lot of people may move their eraser quickly side to side, or up and down, this is not the most efficient way to erase. The best way is to move your eraser in a circular motion, both clockwise and counter-clockwise. By moving the eraser around in this manner it shifts the fibers of the paper in all directions, which means all of the tiny little fibers can be fully massaged by eraser! Be sure to try this trick next time you need to make a quick correction!

Brother of the Alpha Kappa Lambda

On September 7th, 1914, John Laurence Seymour became an initiated member of the Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity. Founded as a national fraternity on April 22, 1914, Seymour became an early inductee of the organization. UC Berkley would be the Fraternity's only chapter until 1921 when their Gamma chapter was founded at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Today AKL boasts 39 chapters and colonies, 1,064 active members, and 26,187 alumni members.

Seymour frequently made contributions to the Fraternity's publication The Logos. He wrote a poem for the first issue of the The Logos, originally called the Diamond, in January of 1915. In the November 1926 edition, Seymour provided the opening article, "Opera and Life", followed by a second part titled "Opera in the United States" in the June 1927 edition. Seymour contributed again in May of 1929 with a piece titled, "Some Interesting Spots in France." Finally, Seymour's accomplishments were highlighted and applauded in the February 1926 edition by a former Senior Grand President of the Fraternity.

Below is a copy of Seymour's original initiation certificate.


For more information about Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity, be sure to visit their website:

Archiving Pro-Tip: Folder Numbering

An important part of archiving is folder numbering. Each folder is given a number based on its position within a box. So for example, the 5th folder in box 2 would be labeled, "folder 5, box 2." During the early phases of processing a collection, it can be tempting to label a folder as soon as it is full and placed in a box. However, the best time to number folders is toward the end during the process of creating a folder list. 

Frequently, when archival collections are taken in by an institution, items within that collection are not organized in any particular order. In order to make the collection as accessible as possible to researchers, some kind of order needs to be made of the collection. This means dividing the collection into a few different series that intellectually make sense. Common series groupings include biographical information, correspondence, and photographs. Each collection is unique, as is each archivist, so series titles and groupings vary from collection to collection. Series can change throughout the processing stage depending on what items the archivist discovers.

Oversized or oddly shaped items are another factor to take into consideration while folder numbering. Even though intellectually the oversized items may belong to the correspondence series, they will not fit into the same size box as the other items. These items will be pulled and placed in a separate oversize box. However they will remain in order with the rest of the series item on the actual folder list. The folder list will notate the separated location.

All of these factors affect what a folder is numbered, and that is why the numbering process should not begin until the creation of the folder list. Otherwise, you may have to renumber your folders multiple times, taking up precious archival time.  

"The West Chamber"

As highlighted in a previous blog post, John Laurence Seymour's production of A Protegee of the Mistress constituted the first production of that particular play in the United States. Nine years after that performance Seymour picked another play to perform for the first time in the United States. For the first time ever, the English-language production of The West Chamber took stage in 1938. Touted as a "Chinese Classic" in local newspapers the show included meticulous research on traditional Chinese stage-makeup, props, and staging in order to faithfully re-stage the production in the United States. However, one glaring issue with the production is that the entire cast was white. Actors donned makeup which relied on thick black eyeliner to create sharp, angled eyebrows and also to create the illusion of almond-shaped eyes. This heartily begs the question, is this considered an example of "yellowface"? A significant effort was made by Seymour to share his appreciation of Chinese culture and to teach both actors and the audience about traditional Chinese Theater (see program notes included below). Far from creating a caricature of Chinese peoples and cultures, the production seemingly constituted a faithful recreation of the play originally written in 1250AD by the Chinese playwright, Wang Shih Fu. Regardless of good intention though, it is hard to forget the fact that the Chinese Exclusion Act would not be repealed until 5 years after this production.


One year prior to this production, the Hollywood movie version of The Good Earth was released. Set in Northern China during the years leading up to WW1, the film follows a Chinese farming family and their numerous struggles. Even though Asian-American movie star, Anna May Wong had been considered for the main role, she never received an offer for the part because of the white, male lead, Paul Muni. Due to anti-miscegenation rules in Hollywood during that time, any actress playing Muni's wife also had to be white. Due to these kinds of laws and ever-present racism, it became basically impossible for Asian's and Asian-Americans living in the United States to tell their own stories in any kind of theater.

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Remembering "Grammable" Food

Unquestionably, Instagram provides a space for users to share photos of amazing memories. One particularly popular category of photos shared on the platform revolves around food. Users often seek out meals or snacks simply because they know the food will create a "grammable" photo. But how did people remember these "grammable" meals prior to the invention of Instagram? For John Laurence Seymour, it was by recording the meals in his diaries. From the years 1928-1982 Seymour wrote in his journals meticulously. In his daily entries, he nearly always recorded the weather, kept track of what operas and other theatrical shows he saw with his mother, and notated various meals and snacks he ate. Typically, his mother Rose (whom he affectionately called "Rosie") would be the chef or baker behind the corn chowders or banana cakes notated on the diary pages. Seymour would often notate picking fruit, such as oranges, nectarines, or apricots, and the next day would write about the upside down cake Rosie made out of the fresh harvest. 

Below are 3 excerpts from Seymour's 1933 diary. Each entry highlighting a Rosie specialty, such as chicken dinner, plum upside down cake, and duck served alongside Birthday Cake!

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A Rose Among Flowers

John Laurence Seymour's mother, Rose A. Seymour, loved flowers. Photographs spanning the decades of her life frequently feature her posing with flowers. Sometimes she is holding the flowers, sometimes she is standing next to them, and sometimes she is in the shrubbery with them. For Valentines Day, I thought it would be apropos to have Rose Seymour share some flowers with you.

The first photo is of Rose in either 1898 or 1899, on a porch in South Pasadena. The second photo is Rose posing at home in a large shrub of blooms in 1947. Finally, the last photo is from 1960, taken by John Seymour while the two were on vacation to the Colorado River Canyon.

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Fannie Charles Dillon

Fannie Charles Dillon served as a mentor and a teacher to John Laurence Seymour. Both Californians and musicians, the two shared a special bond. Seymour gave great credit to Dillon's composing and teaching. These accolades can be seen in a letter to the editor Seymour sent to the Pacific Coast Musician in 1947, just after Dillon's death (letter below). Seymour kept numerous mementos from Dillon, including a large collection of her sheet music, many of which she signed and inscribed with notes to Seymour and his mother Rose (autographed sheet music below). The black and white photograph below is of Seymour and Dillon, taken only a few months before her death.  In the collection is also a film negative of Dillon with Seymour's Mother, Rose.

Dillon did not just teach Seymour, she also taught at a number of institutions in Southern California, including Pomona College.  Dillon taught at Pomona College from 1910-1913, and she was also a Pomona College Graduate. Today, her personal papers are kept in the UCLA Special Collections under the title Fannie Charles Dillon music manuscripts, 1881-1961. That finding aid can be found in the Online Archive of California (OAC).

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"A Protegee of the Mistress"

From 1926-1940, John Laurence Seymour held an instructor position for the departments of both the Dramatic Arts and English at Sacramento Junior College. As part of his responsibilities for the Department of Dramatic Art, he was tasked with directing all of the school's theatrical productions. Under Seymour's careful direction, dozens of productions opened to praise from the local community. Seymour kept mementos of seemingly all of the productions he directed, meaning that the John Laurence Seymour Papers collection is full of programs and photographs from various Sacramento Junior College productions. Below are some mementos from "A Protegee of the Mistress", performed on May 3, 1929. This production was the first performance of the play in America.

The photos below are scans of hand painted scenes used for the set design. Note that in the photo with the actors, you can see how the set created for scene 3 translated to real life! 

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Transitioning from NARA to Special Collections

While being a CLIR CCEPS Fellow did not make me a government employee.... My project of scanning documents at NARA means that I too suffer the consequences of the Government Shutdown. While it has been a difficult, and boring, month off from scanning, today starts my new CCEPS Fellowship with Honnold/Mudd Special Collections. My new assignment is to complete the processing of the John Laurence Seymour Papers. My colleague working on the project before me completed processing nearly all of Dr. Seymour's correspondence, which leave me with all of his documents relating to research, family, teaching, travel, productions, music, and of course his impressive collection of meticulously kept diaries. I look forward to getting to know Dr. Seymour better over the course of the semester, as well as making the collection available to future researchers. 

My last week.

This is my last week at the CCEPS. The fellowship went so fast and it is hard to believe today is my last day. I wanted to thank you everyone for helping me on the way and making this such a great experience! I had the privilege to start processing John Seymour's papers and I cannot wait to see the final outcome of this project once it is all finished.  While I was working on Mr. Seymour's correspondence I found many of his Christmas cards and greetings. I hope your Christmas is just like on the card below - Merry, Happy, and Bright! Happy 2019! Hope to see you around next year! 

Final presentations.

This week our CCEPS team had our culminating presentations. It was really interesting to learn about what other students have been working on during this semester. Marcus Liu, talked about processing the Yao Family papers and Clark Noone, about the Irving Wallace papers, and I was sharing my experience with processing the John Laurence Seymour papers.  Thank you everyone for coming, we had a nice audience of people. Looking back on this fellowship, I am very thankful I had this opportunity to experience something new, try something I have never done before and rediscover the library and its special collection. Thank you everyone for helping me on the way and for your support. Next week will be my last as the CCEPS Fellow. It went so fast and it is hard to believe this semester is almost over.  

Presentation and processing.

As the date for our final presentation is set for Dec.12th, I have been thinking this week about what I am going to present. Actually there is quite a lot to talk about. Not only about the materials and information regarding Mr. John Seymour, but about the whole archival processing which is quite new to me. First, I learned that working with primary sources and processing the materials requires patience and a good organization plan. For the last month I have been organizing Mr. Seymour's correspondence. I have unfolded, removed from envelops, placed in a folded acid free paper, and put in appropriate folders more then 1,000 letters! I still need to create a list of all the folders. It took some time, but it feels good that one of the series is almost completed. 


Thanksgiving of 1975

The day before Thanksgiving is rather quiet at CCEPS and the Honnold Library. Most staff and students most likely travel already or prepare the food. I'm not traveling so I'm here enjoying the, as I would call, "easy finding parking day" on campus.
While looking through some stack of Mr. Seymour's letters I found this small packet diary from 1975. That year Thanksgiving came on November 27th, so five days later than this year. There is no note on that day and I do not know where or with whom Mr. Seymour spent the day, but he must be somewhere since the next day he wrote "leave for home" and than "bus to C.C." Well, safe travel everyone and have a great Thanksgiving day! 

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What can you buy for $1.00?

The value of one dollar has really changed since the 1970-s. In 1973, Mr. John Seymour spent $1.00 to pay for a year of subscription to the "FAD" magazine associated with the LDS  Church - Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). What is even more interesting is that a month later the magazine stopped circulating and the editor credited him with $0.70. This is financial particularity! Is there is anything today we could buy for 70 cents?






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