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Research & Litigation

Pic of the Week: Monday is not Presidents’ Day – Or is it?

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 02/12/2016 - 9:25am

This coming Monday, February 15, we will celebrate the federal holiday, Washington’s Birthday. You may be thinking, “my calendar says Monday is ‘Presidents’ Day,’ not ‘Washington’s birthday!’” Interestingly, the federal holiday is officially called Washington’s Birthday (5 US Code 6103) and is observed on the third Monday in February as established by Public Law 90-361 (82 Stat 250).

George Washington’s birthplace sign. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Some states also observe Washington’s birthday, but may have different names for the holiday. In some quick research I found “President’s Day,” “Presidents’ Day,” “Presidents Day.” Some states don’t celebrate this day at all and other states include additional presidents in their version of the holiday. Alabama, for example, observes “George Washington / Thomas Jefferson Birthday” and for Montana it is called “Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthdays.” Another fact I learned was that not all states observe this holiday in February—Georgia observes Washington’s birthday in December.

You can search for legislation proposed to change or modify the federal holiday. Over the years various members of Congress suggested changing the name, date, or adding Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday.

Interested in what holidays your state will observe in 2016? Here is a handy list of states’ websites I compiled listing their official holidays: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

For this Friday’s “Pic of the Week” I offer a recap of several presidents’ homes from my Virginia Dynasty series. It was a pleasure to visit these historic sites and there are many more outside Virginia. The National Park Service offers a list of presidential sites. Which site is the closest presidential home that you could visit this weekend in observance of Washington’s Birthday, Presidents Day, or whichever version of the holiday your state may observe?

Ash Lawn-Highland, home of James Monroe. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Montpelier, home of James Madison. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Presidential Communications: A Beginner’s Guide

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 02/11/2016 - 8:38am

This post is coauthored by Robert Brammer and Barbara Bavis, senior legal reference specialists.

We sometimes receive questions about communications sent to Congress by the president that concern legislation. Since this post pertains to legislative history, our focus is on executive communications, presidential messages, veto messages, and signing statements. If you would like to learn more about presidential proclamations and executive orders, these are covered in another Beginner’s Guide.

Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States, Photograph by Charles Milton Bell. (1882). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

  • Executive communications are statements or petitions presented to Congress by the executive branch or other organization that may affect appropriations.
  • Presidential messages are written statements presented to Congress, which include the president’s Budget, State of the Union address, and messages regarding the need for legislation.
  • Veto messages are messages sent to Congress when the president exercises his or her veto power over legislation.
  • Signing statements express the president’s opinion on legislation and may include his or her interpretation on how the legislation may be enforced by the executive branch.


Congressional Record – The Congressional Record includes presidential messages, including veto messages. To learn more about the Congressional Record and its predecessors, check out our Beginner’s Guide on the topic.

House and Senate Journals – These journals include presidential messages.  For more information about where to find these messages, look to the entry for “President of the United States” in each Journal‘s index. – contains abstracts of executive communications, presidential messages, and petitions and memorials from the 100th Congress (1987-1988) to the present.   To access executive communications, look under the Senate heading on the homepage and click on “executive communications.” You can search for a communication by citation or keyword via the search box at the top of the screen and can narrow down your result by Congress. You can also narrow your results or browse for an executive communication using the facets on the results page, which include Congress, communication type, and Senate committee. A reference to a Congressional Record date will appear on the abstract page for presidential messages. If you would like to view the message in its entirety, you can use this date to locate it in the Congressional Record.

Further, veto messages are linked in a bill’s summary and status page for affected legislation. Simply find the entry for the veto message on the bill’s “Actions” tab, click on the linked Congressional Record citation, and it will take you to the issue that contains the veto message.

Compilation of Presidential Documents – The Compilation of Presidential Documents consists of materials released from the White House press secretary and is published by the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The Compilation is available on FDSys dating back to 1993. This compilation includes veto messages, signing statements, messages to Congress, and a list of acts approved by the president. There are finding aids available that include a list of acts approved by the president, a checklist of White House releases, a digest of other White House announcements, and nominations submitted to the Senate.

A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents – This multi-volume set contains presidential messages from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States -The Public Papers of the Presidents begins with the Hoover administration. This set includes the president’s messages to Congress, including signing statements, public speeches, news conferences, and public letters. Note that prior to 1977, this set was an edited version of the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. This set does not include the papers of Franklin Roosevelt.

American Presidency ProjectThe American Presidency Project contains a great deal of information on the executive branch, including a collection of signing statements. It also includes “The Messages and Papers of the Presidents” (1789-1913), the “Public Papers of the Presidents,” and the “Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents” (1977-2009).

United States Code Congressional and Administrative News – This legislative history compilation set has reprinted signing statements since 1986.

The U.S. Serial Set – Presidential messages to Congress concerning the need for legislation may be published as House documents. House documents are available in the U.S. Serial Set and are discussed in a previous Beginner’s Guide

The White House Briefing Room – The White House may post press releases or fact sheets that, while not as formal as messages, contain arguments in support or opposition to legislation.

If you have a question, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Meet govinfo, GPO’s Next Generation of Access to Federal Government Information

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 2:34pm

The following is a guest post by Christine McMahon and Amanda Colvin, Office of Programs, Strategy, and Technology, Government Publishing Office.  

GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks unveils the new name and logo for the next generation FDsys website at the govinfo launch event on February 3, 2016. Photo by the Government Publishing Office. 

On February 3, 2016, the Government Publishing Office launched, a beta website that will eventually replace the Federal Digital System (FDsys) public website. FDsys, and now govinfo, provide free public access to hundreds of thousands of official publications from all three branches of government. govinfo is a modern, mobile-friendly website, with a focus on soliciting feedback from users and improving overall search and access to content. Read our Q&A below to learn more.

Is everything that is available on FDsys available on govinfo?

Right now, all content available on FDsys is available on govinfo by conducting searches and clicking the format links in the search results. You can get to any PDF, XML, text or any other content file that is available on FDsys.

However, not all browse pages or detail pages have been built yet for every collection. For a list of all collections and publications and how they are currently available, refer to our list of What’s Available.

govinfo team at the GPO govinfo launch: Lisa LaPlant, Ric Davis, Suresh Raman, Ramesh Pinjala, Joann Sharp, Pradeep Jutur, Alexey Fegeding, Lotfi Mehai, GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks, Denis Dobrovolskii, Lauren Rouppas, Jon Quandt, Amanda Colvin, and Christine McMahon (not pictured: Alec Bradley, Jay Silverman, Jing Xie, and Alan Zhang). Photo by the Government Publishing Office.

The new govinfo website automatically resizes and shifts for an optimized display on a range of mobile devices. Photo by the Government Publishing Office.

What are the differences between FDsys and govinfo?

govinfo is the new front door to accessing the same official, preserved content that GPO has made available through FDsys for the last seven years. The new website has no impact on the content, metadata, preservation repository, application of digital signatures, or any other back-end processing.

govinfo offers the same features users enjoy on FDsys such as multiple ways to search and browse content and search result filters, but govinfo offers several new and improved features including:

  • Responsive design for optimized display on mobile devices;
  • Two new ways to browse – alphabetically and by category;
  • A new, open-source search engine;
  • An expandable and collapsible search widget on every page;
  • More options for sharing pages and content on social media; and
  • An innovative “Related Documents” feature (see below for details).

What is the Related Documents feature?

On select Content Details pages for a document, a “Related Documents” tab will display other documents within govinfo that have a functional relationship or reference to that particular document. The purpose of the Related Documents feature is to make it easy for users to navigate to associated content without having to conduct multiple searches or manually go into and read each document’s text. Currently, the following relationships are available:

  • Congressional Bills Details pages–Other bill versions of that legislation, Presidential Signing Statements and Remarks for the legislation from Compilation of Presidential Documents, Public Laws for the legislation, Statutes at Large document for the legislation, U.S. Code documents that reference the legislation;
  • Public and Private Laws Details pages–Bill versions of that legislation, Presidential Signing Statements and Remarks for the legislation from the Compilation of Presidential Documents, Public or Private Law for the legislation, the Statutes at Large document for the legislation, U.S. Code documents that reference the legislation Compilation of Presidential Document Details pages- Bill versions for the legislation, Public Laws for the legislation; and
  • Federal Register Details pages–Other Federal Register rulemaking documents related via the same Regulatory ID Number, CFR documents referenced by that Federal Register document.

GPO Chief Technology Officer Ric Davis remarks on the history of electronic access to Federal government information at GPO at the govinfo launch event on February 3, 2016. Photo by the Government Publishing Office.

It’s important to note that you may not see any documents under the “Related Documents” tab. This could occur for several reasons: if in fact there are no related documents in the system for that document; the related documents feature has not yet been built for that document or collection; or metadata is not available in the system to support a relationship for that document.

Where can I learn more about govinfo and provide feedback?

Visit to check out the new site, and learn more about the new features and what’s available. You can also review our Help pages for a wealth of information on searching and browsing for content. We will continue to optimize the site design and features based on your feedback; so, leave us a note by clicking “Feedback” in the top menu anywhere on the site.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Animals on Trial: Formal Legal Proceedings, Criminal Acts, and Torts of Animals

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 9:30am

Trial of a Sow and Pigs at Lavegny, from The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character, ed. Robert Chambers, 1879.

At present, one of the projects that I am working on involves the compilation of British and Early American Trials, 1500-1900 for digitization.  Initially, this may sound a bit dry or perhaps too highbrow.  It may indeed be highbrow, as it draws in a very special enclave of scholars. But the subject is certainly far from dry. Now certainly among the trials you will find tales of adultery, libel, regicide, and conspiracy–all great subjects for drama.  In fact, every one of the titles, in some way or another, is eye-catching.

None, however, was more intriguing than the case of The trial of farmer Carter’s dog, Porter, for murder…I found it odd that a dog was being subjected to a trial.  I shared this with Andrew.  He asked the question that led to this blog post:  “can a dog stand trial?”

Well, apparently the answer is a resounding yes–at least historically.  An article by Anila Srivastava titled “‘Mean, Dangerous, and Uncontrollable Beast’: Mediaeval Animal Trials” states that

While most contemporary Western legal systems treat animals as chattels to be acquired, controlled, and disposed of at their owners’ pleasure, animals have historically been treated as partial legal persons to allow the legal system to respond to the unpredictable and sometimes fatal harms they cause.


Most of the documented animal trials took place in the area of Western Europe that now encompasses France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, from the late mediaeval to early modern period.  Legal scholars, historians, and theologians have documented animal trials taking place as late as the early twentieth century and as far afield as Brazil, Russia, and Canada.  These animal trials were not simply overblown revenge rituals arising spontaneously from the collective desire for retribution and catharsis after a local tragedy.  They were formal legal proceedings in which animals, either as individuals or groups, were put on trial.

Another recent article that provides a sobering approach to the transgressions of animals and their adjudication is “The Historical and Contemporary Prosecution and Punishment of Animals” by Jen Girgen.  This article

analyzes the role of the animal ‘offender,’ by examining the animal trials and executions of years past. The writer argues that although the formal prosecution of animals as practiced centuries ago may have ended (for the most part), we continue to punish animals for their ‘crimes’ against human beings.  She suggests that we do this primarily to achieve two ends:  the restoration of order and the achievement of revenge, and concludes with a call for a renewed emphasis on ‘due process’ for animals threatened with punishment for their offenses.

As you can see from this passage, this is certainly not a subject that is taken lightly.  On the contrary, much of the scholarship and criticism that surfaced from a cursory search is quite often rooted in a serious exploration of legal historiography and is brought forth in contemporary legal analysis.

Chambers, Robert, ed. The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Inclusind Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature, and Oddities of Human Life and Character. London: W & R Chambers, 1879.






























In a book titled The Book of Days:  A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character, edited by Robert Chambers (1879) a section titled “St. Anthony and the Pigs:  Legal Prosecutions of the Lower Animals” contains some possibly comical accounts of the trials of animals and vermin and their legal proceedings.  In fact, just so you get a sense of the anthropomorphic aspects of the animals in these proceedings here’s a vignette about the sow included in the image that opens this post:

Among trials of individual animals for special acts of turpitude, one of the most amusing was that of a sow and her six young ones, at Lavegny, in 1457, on a charge of their having murdered and partly eaten a child.  Our artist has endeavoured to represent this scene:  but we fear that his sense of the ludicrous has incapacitated him for giving it with the due solemnity.  The sow was found guilty and condemned to death; but the pigs were acquitted on account of their youth, the bad example of their mother, and the absence of direct proof  as to their having been concerned in the eating of the child. (Chambers 128-9)

The most striking aspect of this excerpt is the human-like attributes prescribed to the sow and the piglets.  The solemnity of the proceeding is also the one that provides the feel of deadpan humor.  Given that some of the events resulted in tragedies, it is at the very least, if comical, humor noir.

Another fascinating incident involved a rooster which laid an egg.  Yes, you read that correctly.

At Basle [sic], 1474, a cock was tried for having laid an egg.  For the prosecution it was proved that cocks’ eggs were of inestimable value for mixing in certain magical preparations; that a sorcerer would rather possess a cock’s egg than be master of the philosopher’s stone:  and that, in pagan lands, Satan employed witches to hatch such eggs, from which proceeded animals most injurious to all of the Christian faith and race.  The advocate for the defence admitted the facts of the case, but asked what evil animus had been proved against his client, what injury to man or beast had it effected?  Besides, the laying of the egg was an involuntary act, and as such, not punishable by law.  If the crime of sorcery were imputed, the cock was innocent; for there was no instance on record of Satan ever having made a compact with one of the brute creation. (Chambers 129)

Jen Girgen, who is aforementioned addressing the historical and contemporary prosecution and punishment of animals, contends that there are in essence two types of trials: ecclesiastical and secular.  In simple terms, the church was involved when animals affected food stuffs.  The other characteristics of ecclesiastical trials of animals involved more spiritual or supernatural aspects like anathematizationmaledictions, sorcery, and even excommunication.  Secular courts were involved when the lives of people were at stake.

The subject and the books that examine it are loaded with countless tales of animals and other non-human life, their misdeeds and the remedies, supernatural and not, available to the humans. In these, I am certain that readers of all sorts will find a treasure trove of tales and conversation pieces. Should you wish to delve further into this subject for research, below is a bibliography.  Each case provides descriptive narrative and entertaining anecdotal accounts, which are more fascinating than one could imagine.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Transition from the Lunar Calendar to the Western Calendar Under Chinese Law

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 8:52am

The 1949 PRC Resolution in Zhongyang Renmin Zhengfu Faling Huibian, in the collections of the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Laney Zhang.

Today is the New Year’s Day on the Chinese lunar calendar (阴历, also known as the “rural calendar” (农历)). As explained in my previous blog post, Happy Lunar New Year!, the New Year’s Day falls on a different day each year. Starting February 8, 2016, this is the Year of the Monkey — which, of course, is not the formal name of the year on the calendar.

Year of the Monkey on the Lunar Calendar

Formally, this is the Bing-Shen Year. The lunar calendar assigns a name consisting of two components to each year. The first component of the first year is the first code of a cycle of ten “celestial stems (天干),” and the second component is the first code of twelve “terrestrial branches (地支).” The second year combines the second stem and branch, which continues, generating sixty combinations to name a circle of sixty years.

Each terrestrial branch is associated with an animal sign, the Chinese zodiac, as follows: Zi (rat); Chou (ox); Yin (tiger); Mao (rabbit); Chen (dragon); Si (snake); Wu (horse); Wei (sheep); Shen (monkey); You (rooster); Xu (dog); Hai (pig). “Shen” is associated with “monkey,” so the Bing-Shen Year is also the Year of the Monkey. It’s therefore easy to tell what animal sign you were born under if you know the name of your birth year on the lunar calendar.

The lunar calendar was popularly used in traditional Chinese society before it was replaced by the Western (Gregorian) calendar in the 20th century. Historically, the Gregorian calendar has been called the Western calendar (西曆), Common Era calendar (公曆), and solar calendar (陽曆) (as opposed to lunar calendar (陰曆)).

Calendar Used in the People’s Republic of China

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) decided to use the Gregorian calendar when the state was founded in 1949. According to the PRC Resolution on the Capital, Calendar, National Anthem and National Flag, enacted on September 27, 1949, the PRC uses Common Era (公元) as its calendar era, and therefore stated that “this year is year 1949.” The Resolution is also one of the several national laws of the PRC that apply to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macao Special Special Administrative Region.

The lunar calendar, however, is not banned in the PRC. Actually, nowadays over half of the public holidays observed by all Chinese (compared to holidays observed by only certain groups, such as Women’s Day by women, and Youth’s Day by youths) are based on the lunar calendar: the Lunar New Year (Spring Festival), Qingming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Earlier Efforts to Adopt the Western Calendar and Ban the Lunar Calendar

In fact, efforts to adopt the Gregorian calendar in China started much earlier. On January 2, 1912, the second day of the founding of the Republic of China, the provisional president Dr. Sun Yat-sen sent a telegram to the provinces, announcing the adoption of the solar calendar with that year as the first year of the new calendar.

Yuan’s 1912 circular in the Provisional Gazettes, in the collections of the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Laney Zhang.

Dr. Sun’s telegram does not appear to be included in the Provisional Government Gazette (《臨時政府公報》) of Sun’s Nanking government. However, when looking through the gazettes of the Minguo period for this post, I found a circular issued on February 18, 1912 by the “newly elected provisional president,” Yüan Shih-k’ai, in the Provisional Gazette (《臨時公報》) of Yüan’s Peking government. Dated “the New Year’s Day of the Ren-Zi Year,” the circular also announced adoption of  the solar calendar with that year (1912) as the first year of the Republic of China, and all government instruments would be dated by both the solar and lunar calendars, effective the same day.

I should note that the Provisional Gazette, which was published daily during the short period before Yüan became the “regular” president of the Republic of China, is quite rare, and we have two original copies here at the Law Library of Congress! Researchers may also find a reprint of the Provisional Gazette helpful, as it is more complete and easier to use.

The calendar of the Republic of China follows the Gregorian calendar with the first year as 1912. After the new calendar was introduced, the lunar calendar was apparently still popularly used by the people. In the late 1920s, the Nationalist Government issued a series of decrees banning the use of the lunar calendar in order to promote the Republic of China calendar. For example, on July 2, 1929, it was ordered that the practice of printing calendars with parallel lunar calendar and solar calendar would be banned, as it “hindered the promotion of the Republic of China calendar (國歷).” Effective 1930, publishers could print calendars containing solely the Republic of China calendar.

Furthermore, on October 5, 1929, the Nationalist Government ordered that all business accounts, contracts, and other civil and commercial documents must be dated with the Republic of China calendar, and must not also be dated with the lunar calendar; otherwise, the document would not be legally enforceable.

As an end note, the Lunar New Year holiday in China started yesterday, February 7, and will last seven days through February 13, as ordered by a State Council decree. Happy Year of the Monkey to all!

If you find rules relating to calendars interesting, you should also read Peter’s recent post on the Christmas and New Year holidays in Russia. Calendars are also discussed in Nathan’s posts on “keeping time in the Middle Ages” and “why the pope is never late for tea,” and are mentioned in a blog post by Nicolas on the French working week.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Not Another Baseball Post – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 3:40pm

For today’s Pic of the Week, the blog team asked me to do something in honor of the Super Bowl this Sunday (as if writing about baseball meant I’d enjoy doing a football post instead!).

So I went into our catalog and tried to find some interesting items that were not related to antitrust law.  Shying away as well from general sports law books, my options were much more limited.

Specifically related to the Super Bowl I found two Congressional hearings from 2014: one on preventing human trafficking at sporting events and another on mass gathering security (both of which can be requested in our recently renovated Reading Room)

Photo by Betty Lupinacci

[Not the lightest of subjects for a Friday post, but then I reasoned that football-related law books were never going to be akin to happy recitations of the glory days of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers.]

And if you are so inclined, here are some other hearings specifically relating to the NFL:

Finally, for the Germanophiles in the audience we have the following thesis:

Even if the game’s a dud, you can still get your football fix!

Categories: Research & Litigation

On This Day: USO Founded 75 Years Ago

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 11:38am

Today, February 4, marks the 75th anniversary of the 1941 founding of the United Service Organizations (USO).

Chicago, Illinois. The USO (United Service Organizations) lounge is on the River Drive side of the Union Station above the telegrapher’s office. Feb 1943 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

General George C. Marshall first suggested and President Franklin D. Roosevelt recommended that civilian, public service organizations form the United Service Organizations to provide recreation for on-leave members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families in 1941. The USO was composed of the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the National Catholic Community Service, and the Travelers Aid Association of America. The USO created centers to support the welfare of the troops, providing for their social, educational, entertainment, and spiritual needs through recreational clubs, live entertainment, and quiet places to talk and write letters.

[Large crowd in front of billboard showing President Roosevelt calling for contributions to the USO, at 43rd Street and Broadway, in New York City, with the Toffenetti Restaurant in the background] [between 1941 and 1945]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Formed just before the U.S. entered World War II, more than 1 million volunteers operated recreational clubs during the war. The USO was disbanded in 1947 but reorganized a few years later during the Korean War and expanded during subsequent wars. Today, the USO retains the identity that FDR recommended—a private, voluntary, civilian organization not part of the federal government but is federally chartered and incorporated.

In 2003 the USO Congressional Caucus was formed and today includes more than 200 congressional members. It is a bipartisan and bicameral caucus with members from both parties and both chambers offering support to service members and their families. Even the president of the United States plays a role in this organization, as the honorary chairman, as has every president since 1941.

The USO works in the U.S. and abroad.  The USO offers programs for service members during their time in service, when transitioning out of the armed forces, and caring for injured or fallen service members and their families.

USO (United Service Organizations) servicemen’s club. Civic Center, San Francisco, California. December 1941. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Laurel and Hardy were in the first United Service Organization (USO) “Flying Showboat” to tour Caribbean bases. April 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,













Today the USO has centers in more than 160 locations worldwide to provide a “home away from home” for service members and their families. Of course, the most visible tradition that began in 1941 is boosting morale among the military with concerts, tours, and other events. Bob Hope is well-known for his support and touring for more than fifty years. The Library of Congress has an excellent online exhibition of his life and time touring in the USO shows.

“The audience response is terrific. Entertaining troops spoils you for regular performances,” lots of United Service Organization (USO) entertainers say. April 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

In 2014, USO centers were visited more than 7 million times and aided by more than 30,000 volunteers who continue to carry on the mission started 75 years ago to keep service members connected to the people, places, and things they love.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Anna Bryan, Rare Book Cataloger

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 12:56pm

This week’s interview is with Anna Bryan, cataloger in the Rare Materials Section, U.S./Anglo Division, Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access at the Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I am one of those rare DC natives, born at George Washington University Hospital, lived on a farm in Oxon Hill, then moved to Hyattsville when I was 7. My father was a journalism professor at the University of Maryland (where he had Connie Chung as a student in Beginning Reporting) and my mother was a medical doctor (a pathologist).

Photo Credit: Donna Sokol

What is your academic/professional history?

I went to public schools in Prince George’s County, then to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for a BA in History. I have an MLS from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters in Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins.

I became interested in becoming a librarian through my first job out of college at a local county-level historical society. There I wrote, typed, and filed catalog cards, so I have experience from those days.

My first professional job was with the Washington outpost of White & Case, a New York law firm. There I was in charge of interlibrary loan—mainly between law firms; these were the early days of Lexis/Nexis—and the central files. While I was there, the decision was made to move old files to external storage, and I asked the “steno pool”—who did the word processing—to print out all the documents for the files. “Why?” they asked. “All of it’s on the floppies!” Luckily I insisted, because these were Wang 5-inch floppies, which can’t be read anymore. You can understand why I’m a fan of paper copies.

Manuscript reports of the General Court of Virginia, formerly owned by Thomas Jefferson. Photo Credit: Donna Sokol

How would you describe your job to other people?

In my experience, people don’t understand what cataloging is, so I usually simply say that I get to work with the most amazing books in the world. It is such a privilege. Over here it says “Cataloging is the process of adding an item to a catalog, a process typically including bibliographic description, subject analysis, and classification.” To that I would add that rare materials cataloging has the additional elements of identifying and authenticating those items.

Why did you want to work in the Library of Congress?

The collections here are unparalleled, and my colleagues are as serious about doing the work as I am.

 What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

I’m always amazed by the treasures we find, both in the Law Library and in non-law collections. Recently we were able to establish that a manuscript of Virginia General Court reports was Thomas Jefferson’s copy, by tracing it back to the Catalogue of the Law Department of the Library of Congress, 1839. It’s not listed in [Millicent] Sowerby’s Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, so it’s one that [Sowerby] missed too. It was a very exciting find!  (And people say cataloging is boring …) 

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

Hmmm. I have completed the England Coast-to-Coast walk, now nearly 20 years ago. It was quite an adventure!




Categories: Research & Litigation

James Joyce, Ulysses and the Meaning of Obscenity

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 9:29am

Most fans of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses celebrate the day of the novel’s action, June 16, also known as Bloomsday. I knew a Joyce specialist who used to honor the day by eating a gorgonzola sandwich on white bread with a glass of burgundy—he said he couldn’t face the grilled mutton kidneys. Fans of the work skew toward the rabid side.

Today, February 2, is the 134th anniversary of Joyce’s birth, and this day is another good opportunity for those rabid fans to commemorate all of Joyce’s works, especially Ulysses. Ulysses was published in February 1922 by Shakespeare and Company in Paris. But Ulysses, arguably Joyce’s best known work, almost didn’t get published in the United States, or any other English-speaking country. That’s where American law intersects with Joyce’s literature.

James Joyce; great authors from the Time Reading Program []

James Joyce had worked on the novel for seven years, and Ulysses was serialized in the United States in the magazine The Little Review in 1921, the year prior to the publication of the full novel. The 13th chapter, also known as the Nausicaä episode, shocked many readers with its masturbation scene. The New York-based publishers of the magazine, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, were successfully prosecuted in New York for obscenity for mailing the Nausicaä episode issue through the U.S. post. Heap and Anderson were charged with the violation of the Comstock Act of 1873, which criminalized the sending of any “obscene, lewd, or lascivious book…” in the mail. For the next twelve years, Ulysses was banned in the United States and was only available to Americans who got smuggled copies from Paris, as the book was banned in Great Britain as well.

At the time of Ulysses’ publication, the Hicklin test, from the English court case of Regina v. Hicklin 3 L.R. – Q.B 360 (1868) was used by the U.S. courts as the legal definition of obscenity. The Hicklin test was “…whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those minds who are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.” Bennet Cerf, the founder of the American publishing firm Random House, wanted to publish Ulysses in the United States. He worked with Random House legal counsel and co-founder Morris Ernst to orchestrate the seizure of one copy of Joyce’s Ulysses by U.S. customs, sent to Cerf from Paris in May 1932. Ernst believed that the only way to defend Ulysses was to “…convince the government to declare the Ulysses a modern classic” (Birmingham, p. 297); there is an exemption for classics in the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 USCA § 1305). Cerf arranged to have literary reviews pasted inside the front cover of the book that the customs officer seized.

Mayor Hague battler favors Ludlow Amendment. Washington, D.C., May 10, [19]39. New York Attorney Morris Ernst, writer and lawyer who battled Mayor Hague in civil liberty cases, appeared as witness today before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee to favor the Ludlow resolution to place the power of declaring aggressive war in the hands of voters. Ernst said that the founding fathers intended that the power be given [to] the people, but that interpretation and usage had disallowed it. (photo by Harris & Ewing) []

Cerf and Ernst both wanted federal Judge John M. Woolsey to decide the Ulysses case, as Woolsey had a reputation for being a man of letters. By a piece of luck, Woolsey was assigned the case (Birmingham, 290). Prior to hearing it, Woolsey read the entire book, from the opening “stately plump Buck Mulligan” to the last yes, paying particular attention to the sections the government marked with large black Xs as potentially obscene (Moscato and LeBlanc, 309 and 480). One of Ernst’s briefs entered in the case included the comments of librarians stating their desire to have a copy of Ulysses in their libraries, and a list of words and associated page numbers from Ulysses showing the “forbidding polysyllabic barriers” to the reader of the book (e.g., houyhnhnm, crubeen, videlicet and sinhedrim).

Woolsey’s decision in United States v. One Book Called “Ulysses,” determined that Ulysses could be admitted into the United States. In his remarks, Woolsey noted that “…in Ulysses, in spite of its unusual frankness, I do not detect anywhere the leer of the sensualist” (Moscato and LeBlanc, 310). Further, “‘[Joyce] has honestly attempted to tell fully what his characters think about’, no matter the consequences. Some of those thoughts were sexual, but, he pointed out, ‘it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season spring.’” (Birmingham, p. 309) Woolsey wrote, “In many places … it seems to me to be disgusting,” but nothing, he added, had been included in it as “dirt for dirt sake.” He noted that Joyce’s stream of consciousness literary technique required him to reflect the thoughts of his characters, even if the characters were people a reader might not want to meet. “But when a real artist in words, such as Joyce undoubtedly is, seeks to draw a true picture of the lower middle class in a European city, ought it to be impossible for the American public legally to see that picture?” (Moscato and LeBlanc, 311).

While other major works of literature also created tests to the legal application of the definition of obscenity—Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Fanny Hill, An American Tragedy—Joyce’s Ulysses and Woolsey’s decision changed the future of publishing in the United States. The decision of the American courts to allow publication of the work also set a precedent for other countries to allow Ulysses to be distributed, although that took more time—Britain did not end its ban on Ulysses until 1936; Ireland never banned it, but it never sold there until decades after its release either. Once reviled and burned in both the United States and Great Britain, Ulysses is now a universal cultural artifact. Bloomsday is celebrated all over the world, and Ulysses is, as Joyce predicted, keeping professors busy arguing over what he meant for a century and counting.

Want to read more about it? We have these related materials in the collections:

KF224.R33 U5 United States of America, libelant vs. one book called “Ulysses”, Random House, Inc., claimant / United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

KF224.R33 U53 1984 Moscato, Michael and Leslie LeBlanc. The United States of America v. one book entitled Ulysses by James Joyce : documents and commentary : a 50-year retrospective.

KD277.L39 The Law reports. Court of Queen’s Bench.

KF4772 .I53 2016 An indispensable liberty : the fight for free speech in nineteenth-century America / edited by Mary M. Cronin ; contributions by David W. Bulla, Jon Bekken, Sandra Davidson, Nancy McKenzie Dupont, Joseph Hayden, Lee Jolliffe, Paulette D. Kilmer, Erika Jean Pribanic-Smith, Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Janice R. Wood.

Microfilm 01161 The Little Review.

PR6019.O9 U4 1934 Ulysses.

PR6019.O9 U4 2015 The Little Review Ulysses.

New York Society for the Suppression of Vice records, 1871-1953

PR6019.O9 U6257 2014 Birmingham, Kevin. The Most Dangerous Book: the Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses.



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