October 17, 2014

The Holy Qurʼan

This distinctive Qurʼan comprises the first six surahs (chapters) of the Muslim Holy Book, starting with al-Fātiḥah (The opening) and ending with al-Anʻām (The cattle). The two beginning pages containing al-Fātiḥah are elaborately decorated, as is usually the case with this surah, first with an outermost frame of numerous, small, olive-green niches, but also with a series of other linear frames in red, white, black, green, and gold. Motifs include twisted metal bars and vines with top and bottom transom-like cartouches, suggesting a door shape, and possibly alluding to the fact that al-Fātiḥah is the opener or entrance to the entire Qurʼan. The text is in bold black ink with frequent rubrication, and the script does not follow any of the known styles, although it still reflects elements of the thuluth and the naskh. Each chapter begins with a heading, giving not only the number of verses but also the number of words and letters in that chapter—all of which are elements used in the tazīb (division) of the Qurʼan into sections and subsections, as well as in the esoteric ʻilm al-urūf (discipline of the letters). Diagonal rectangles and triangles branch out on the margins, providing pronunciation keys and additional guidance on the other possible riwāyāt (readings) of the holy text. The verse markers are indicated with red or gold triangular inverted commas, while the markers of the sections and subsections take different red and gold shapes. Throughout the text, the beginning phrases of all the sections and subsections are rubricated, together with ism al-jalālah (God’s name) and the inner bend of the letter kāf (k), a possible inference of kāf al-mashī ʼah, or the “be-and-it-is” will of God. Two colophon notes appear, distinct and independent, attributing the copying to two different scribes: Sayf ibn Muhammad ibn Salim al-Tawqi at the beginning, and ʿAbdulkarīm ibn ʿUmar ibn Mūsā al-Nawfalī at the end. The manuscript was produced in 1365 AH (1945).

Milestones of the Divine Revelation

Al-Ḥusayn ibn Masʻūd al-Baghawī (circa 1044−circa 1117), nicknamed muḥyī al-sunnah (Reviver of the Prophet’s traditions), was a Shāfiʻi scholar and Qurʼan exegete. He was born, and possibly died, in Bagh or Baghshor, an old town that was located in Khorasan between the ancient cities of Herat (in present-day Afghanistan) and Merv (near present-day Mary, Turkmenistan). Preserved in this manuscript copy is the second and last part of al-Baghawī’s maʻālim al-tanzīl (Milestones of the divine revelation), an exegesis of the Holy Qurʼan. The manuscript starts with al-kahf (The cave), the 18th surah (chapter), and goes on to include the remainder of the Muslim Holy Book, with its 114 chapters. The main text is inscribed in frames of gold, green, and red lines. All the verses are written and voweled in red ink, in the same lines with the exegesis, which follows in black. There is minimal text on the margins, with the exception of catchwords and rubricated text indicating the beginnings of the sections. The manuscript, copied by [illegible] Ibn ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿil in 1110 AH (1699), was owned by a Muḥammad ibn Sālim ibn 'Āmir al-Ṭawqī as recently as 1946.

Bouncing Baby

The film Bouncing Baby, featured here, is a prime example of the works produced by the Vim Comedy Company in Jacksonville, Florida, during the early years of silent films. Favorable weather, political support, and cheap real estate and labor helped to make Jacksonville a major center for motion picture production in this period. The mayor of Jacksonville in 1915−17, J.E.T. Bowden, set out to restore business confidence in northeastern Florida after a recessionary slump and extended an open invitation “to the moving picture fraternity of this country” to relocate to his city. Film companies at first thrived in Jacksonville's hospitable climate, but citizens and government officials grew tired of the studios, whose stunts—such as unannounced car chases, or falsely reporting fires in order to film the response—threatened public safety. In 1917, John W. Martin was elected mayor on a platform to curtail the film industry. By this time, Hollywood, California, offered a more viable location and much of the American film industry moved west. The Vim Comedy Company, founded in late 1915 by Louis Burstein and Mark Dintenfass, typified the short-lived studios of the movie boom in Florida. Vim employed many intriguing personalities and made 156 one-reel films in 1916 alone. In the same year, Vim also created a series of 35 slapstick comedies starring Oliver “Babe” Hardy and Billy Ruge entitled “Plump and Runt,” which occasionally included cameos by Ethel Burton. Other regulars with the company were Harry Meyers, Rosemary Thebe, Kate Price, and Billy Bletcher and his wife Arline Roberts. Including casts, directors, camera crew (known at the time as “knights of the crank”), and administrative personnel, the Vim Southern Studio in Jacksonville employed nearly 50 people in 1916, with a regular weekly payroll of approximately $3,800. Production at Vim studios came to a halt in 1917 after Oliver Hardy discovered that Burstein and Dintenfass both were stealing from the payroll.

Interposition Resolution by the Florida Legislature in Response to Brown v. Board of Education, 1957, with Handwritten Note by Florida Governor LeRoy Collins

In 1957, the Florida State Legislature passed a resolution in opposition to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, the Topeka, Kansas, case that ended legal segregation in public education. Racial segregation was originally found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. The decision laid the foundation for what became known as Jim Crow laws by declaring segregation legal if the facilities were “separate but equal.” The Brown decision removed that foundation, and many segregationists saw the case as an opening wedge to end all segregation. The Florida Legislature argued that the decision usurped the state’s constitutional power and passed a resolution to declare the court's 1954 decision null and void. The "interposition" resolution was intended to interpose itself between the citizens of Florida and the United States government in response to what the legislature contended was an illegal intrusion by the federal government on the rights of the state. Although he initially condemned the Brown decision, as did the majority of Southern elected officials, Governor LeRoy Collins sought to prevent the legislature from passing the resolution. He utilized a little-known provision of the state constitution to unilaterally adjourn the legislature to prevent passage. After the legislature returned and passed the resolution, he had no power to veto it because it was not a law, but only a resolution expressing the opinion of the legislature on the matter of racial integration. However, as it passed through his office, Collins hand-wrote the following note at the bottom of the resolution: "This concurrent resolution of 'Interposition' crosses the Governor's desk as a matter of routine. I have no authority to veto it. I take this means however to advise the student of government, who may examine this document in the archives of the state in the years to come that the Governor of Florida expressed open and vigorous opposition thereto. I feel that the U.S. Supreme Court has improperly usurped powers reserved to the states under the constitution. I have joined in protesting such and in seeking legal means of avoidance. But if this resolution declaring the decisions of the court to be 'null and void' is to be taken seriously, it is anarchy and rebellion against the nation which must remain 'indivisible under God' if it is to survive. Not only will I not condone 'interposition' as so many have sought me to do, I decry it as an evil thing, whipped up by the demagogues and carried on the hot and erratic winds of passion, prejudice, and hysteria. If history judges me right this day, I want it known that I did my best to avert this blot. If I am judged wrong, then here in my own handwriting and over my signature is the proof of guilt to support my conviction. LeRoy Collins, Governor. May 2, 1957." Presented here is the complete text of the resolution, with Collins’s handwritten note at the bottom of page nine.

A Grant of Indian Territory from the Upper Creek Indians as also the Lower Creeks and Seminoles to Colonel Thomas Brown Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern District of North America

This document is an enclosure originally submitted by Henry Lee IV to Florida territorial judge Augustus Brevoort Woodward in September 1824. Lee sought Woodward’s assistance in securing claim to property purchased by his father, General Henry Lee, from Thomas Brown in 1817. On March 1, 1783, several “Kings and Warriors” representing Upper Creek, Lower Creek, and Seminole towns affixed their names and family marks to a document granting Thomas Brown, a British superintendent of Indian affairs, substantial territory west of Saint Augustine in what was then British East Florida. Brown had come to North America from England in 1774 to establish a plantation in the Georgia backcountry. He remained loyal to the British government during the Revolutionary War and led a mounted patrol, known as the King’s Rangers, in raids against the Americans along the southern frontier. Brown gained the support and assistance of several Creek and Seminole Indian leaders, who provided warriors to fight their mutual enemy, the Americans. In return, Brown kept their towns well-armed and provisioned. As the war neared its end in 1783, Brown and his men retreated to Florida. Sometime prior to March 1, a delegation representing Creek and Seminole towns visited Saint Augustine and met with Brown and other British officials. The land grant included here resulted from this meeting. The Indian delegation honored their “father and friend” for leading them into battle against the Americans, with a grant of land extending from the Amajura River, now known as the Withlacoochee, to the Saint Johns River. This document is a copy of the original, made on June 20, 1820, while Brown was living on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. This document contains rare illustrations of southeastern Indian clan symbols. Many southeastern Native Americans practiced a form of social organization based on matrilineal clans, wherein they traced their lineages through their mothers’ families and were born into the same clan as their mothers. The symbols in this document represent several different clans. Some can be identified from their resemblance to known animals—such as alligator and bird—while others cannot. Clan names referred to mythical ancestors and often took the form of animals, plants, or forces of nature. Dozens of clans existed among the Creeks and Seminoles at the time this document was created. Also included on the document are titles belonging to leading men from Creek and Seminole towns. High-ranking men carried a war or diplomatic title and identified themselves with a town. For example Tallassee Mico was a Mico, or leading man, from the town of Tallassee.

Florida's Canal Main Street

Interest in constructing a water route across the Florida peninsula goes back to the colonial rule of the Spanish and the British and continued when Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821. The earliest American surveys for a possible canal in Florida were undertaken in the wake of excitement surrounding the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the first significant work on a cross-Florida canal as part of New Deal public works programs in Florida. After much debate, construction on route 13-B, of 28 suggested routes, began in 1935. Canal supporters welcomed the jobs and the commercial prospects associated with the canal, but opponents feared that the project would cost too much, damage the underground aquifer, and have a detrimental effect on agriculture in central and southern Florida. Because of widespread opposition, progress on the canal came to a halt in June 1936. In 1962, the U.S. Congress reauthorized construction. The Army Corps of Engineers planned what was called the Cross Florida Barge Canal. It was to be 12 feet (3.66 meters) deep and wide enough for two vessels to pass along the route begun in the 1930s. The planned course entered the Saint Johns River near Jacksonville, crossed into the Ocklawaha south of Palatka, traversed the Central Florida ridge between Silver Springs and Dunnellon, and then merged with the Withlacoochee River before reaching the Gulf of Mexico near Yankeetown. President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony and, at the conclusion of his remarks, set off the project’s first dynamite charges. By 1968, significant progress was evident in the eastern portion of the canal. The film presented here offers a positive portrayal of the canal in the early stages of construction. Governor Haydon Burns introduces the film by describing the reasons for building, the location, and other details of the canal. Also shown are illustrations of the proposed design, testimony by a geologist, sequences of Florida industry, footage of flooding in March 1960, an enemy submarine threat sequence, and President Johnson setting off the charges that marked the start of the work. Fierce opposition to the canal soon arose, however, primarily on environmental grounds, and construction was halted in 1971.