Jack Willis and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement

In 1981, the Ford Foundation wrote celebrated documentarian Jack Willis with a pointed question: what had become of the film they had funded? In 1978, the Foundation awarded Willis and his team from the Center for Documentary Media a grant to produce a film on the legacy of the 1960s civil rights movement. Willis’ reply […]

Vincent Piacentini: a Life in Theatre

Vincent Piacentini Jr., a St. Louis native and graduate of Washington University, was a celebrated set designer for theatre, opera, and film productions. While he would eventually spend much of his career as design manager for the Civic Theatre in Fort  Wayne, Indiana, he had his start in set creation at Washington University. Harold Blumenfeld, […]

The radical correspondence of Walter Lowenfels

Washington University’s Department of  Special Collections holds an extensive cache of correspondence relating to Walter Lowenfels,  an anti-war activist, and one of his best known publications  “Where is Vietnam?”, an anthology of anti-war poetry assembled in the late 1960s.  The hundreds of letters Lowenfels exchanged with other prominent mid-century poets brings to light a rich […]

“Who wants $40,000 anyhow?” Armstrong the Jefferson Memorial Expansion

Harris Armstrong was a celebrated local architect whose modernist designs were popular in residential and commercial projects from the late 1940s through the 1960s. In 1948, he placed fourth in a national competition to expand the Jefferson Memorial. Although Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch took first place, Armstrong’s design was highly praised and he won accolades […]

Votes for Women: Edna Gellhorn and the Social Networks of American Suffragists

Edna Fischel Gellhorn, St. Louis native, was a tireless campaigner for women’s rights and female suffrage. The letters displayed here give a sense of the way Gellhorn became a leader in the suffragist networks which spread across the U.S. in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Gellhorn was the first vice-president of the National […]

Activist, director, visionary: the extraordinary influence of Henry Hampton

Henry Hampton, acclaimed director, civil rights activists, and founder of film company Blackside, Inc. was born and raised in Richmond Heights, MO and attended St. Louis University High School. He studied literature at Washington University and graduated in 1961. His influence was keenly felt by many, and both his artistry and his tireless civil rights […]

The (Extra)Ordinary Lives of Erma and Arthur Proetz

Arthur Proetz was born in St. Louis in 1888. Dr. Proetz resided in the city until his death in 1966, but he traveled widely in Europe, consulting and giving presentations as part of his work as Professor of Clinical Otolayrngology at the Washington University School of Medicine. WU Archives and Special Collections holds a voluminous […]

The Celebrity Correspondence of Mary Wickes

“Dear Mary Wickes: Thanks for your nice letter. I am glad we finally got around to meeting, and I’m delighted you’re in ‘White Christmas.’ With my best wishes, I am, Sincerely, Irving Berlin”   Mary Wickes, born Mary Wickenhauser, was a native St. Louisan who graduated from Washington University in 1930 with a double major […]

Einstein in the Archives

During the early years of Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi-controlled Germany, many scholars and intellectuals fled the fascist regime and settled in the United States. Of these, Einstein was among the most famous. This 1934 letter from Einstein to his friend and colleague Arthur Holly Compton was written just a year after Einstein decided […]

Election year fodder: Letters from the front lines of the St. Louis LGBTQ struggle for equal rights.

In honor of National Coming Out Day (October 11) and  LGBT History Month this post explores the the correspondence of Tom Miles, a St. Louis native and leader among allies of the LGBTQ community, provides an intimate window unto the LGBTQ rights movement of the 1990s and early 2000s. Miles, who was also a life-long […]