An Artist in the Last Frontier: Dorathy Bruce Farr’s Missing Months in Alaska

Maggie Nevala ’26

Damage to Anchorage’s downtown after the 1964 earthquake

     Alaska is a state that is constantly on the brink. Earthquakes are a daily occurrence, barely warranting rousing awake, the 7.1 quake of 2018 only closing school for a week before students returned to classrooms with cracks in the walls. But in 1964, the 9.2 Great Alaskan earthquake thoroughly upended the growing city of Anchorage. The homes and infrastructure that were largely unequipped for such a disaster were destroyed, the death toll rising as the state experienced the aftershocks and effects that would continue for years to come. When Dorathy Bruce Farr arrived in Anchorage in 1965, the city was still rebuilding—and so was she.
     Almost the entirety of the information that remains about Dorathy Bruce Farr can fit in one box, the papers enclosed largely consisting of the countless letters she sent to peers and the copious notes of the reporter who worked to find Dorathy after her location became unknown to her friends in the 1980s.

One of the few available photos of Dorathy Bruce Farr, taken after she was found in a care center in 1985

These pen markings and scribblings make up all that is known about Dorathy’s life, certain buzzwords sticking out among them all and illustrating her origins. She was born in Portland in 1904, married her first husband at 18 and had a son, and then married fellow artist Fred Farr in the 1930s. She and Fred moved to New York together, where they hobnobbed with other artists, he was commissioned to make murals, and she studied her craft and made a name for herself as a batik painter. It is after this period that the details get murky. There is nothing said about what happened to Dorathy’s relationship with Fred, but she returned to Portland alone, continuing to exhibit her work there but making a meager living from it. The ‘60s were a blur of art, parties, and internal struggles that ended in her last show in 1970.
     Dorathy Bruce Farr is a woman of many mysteries, from her gradual mental decline due to what was most likely Alzheimer’s, the ambiguous death of her son, and the severance of any communication with her friends from 1980 to 1985, when she was found in a care center.

The front and back of one of the envelopes used to enclose the letters Dorathy Bruce Farr wrote to Rex Amos from Anchorage (Box: 1, Folder 3)

In all the many accounts of Dorathy’s adventures—or the attempts to piece them together—there is one that appears as a lone sentence, as an afterthought of an addition to a list of details about her: “Alaska ‘65 = work fish cannery” (Box: 1, Folder: 19) , or “She worked half a year in an Alaska salmon cannery” (Box: 1, Folder: 22). These are small descriptors used for a larger-than-life place, a place that should not slip through the cracks so easily. Even knowing her financial motivations for the trip—Dorathy was hoping to kick start her career by earning enough money to go back to New York—the lack of further details begs for there to be more to discover about Dorathy’s short and mysterious time spent in the Last Frontier, and a mere four letters written by her bear the burden of telling us the tale.
     Each of the four letters—written to fellow artist Rex Amos in July and August 1965—provide a unique insight into Dorathy’s observations and thoughts about the state. In the first of the letters, she expounds on the imagery of the city with the appraising eye only a seasoned painter could have. She creates a contrast between the beautiful nature surrounding her—“the mountains are purple, black, and sapphire and the sun is shining down the valleys” (Box: 1, Folder: 1)—with what she sees as the disruptive expansion of the cityscape. Her poetic musings are interrupted by the telltale sounds of suburbia: lawn mowers, station wagons, taverns, Tastee Freezes. Dorathy shuns these modes of innovation, referring to Anchorage in one of her first letters as a “dull, ugly, grimy, hideous stereotype of a city.” (Box: 1, Folder: 1). 

An early, 1950s Tastee Freez in Anchorage, like the one Dorathy describes in her letters as a sign of suburbia

Harsh words aside, here in 1965, she pinpoints the dichotomy lived by many Alaskans today, how the gray urban world encroaches on the natural one, how mountains loom over the skyline of a downtown that is not much of an expansive downtown at all. But for many of the current generation living there, it is the only city they have ever known, and that is what Dorathy was unequipped to realize during her brief excursion—that a place that appears contradictory to her, where history and wilderness and urbanization live side by side, was and is a home to many. But in her last letter, where she celebrates her upcoming return to the Lower 48, she encapsulates Anchorage best in one phrase: “The Greatest Little Big Town in Alaska.” (Box: 1, Folder: 4). Residents of the largest state by area in the U.S. are well-aware that often running into someone you know is as easy as turning the corner.
     While Dorathy never directly references the earthquake that happened in Alaska the year prior, her observations about the city’s urban developments reflect the recovery efforts that were still ongoing. And there are many other instances in the letters where she places her time there in a historical context. To make money to fund future travels, Dorathy works in a salmon cannery, presumably in the coastal fishing town of Ketchikan that is mentioned in passing in the letters.

A salmon cannery in Ketchikan, Alaska similar to one Dorathy Bruce Farr would have worked at

This endeavor was common for 20th century Alaskan teenagers looking to make some extra cash—a traditional practice that has evolved into families who commercial fish every summer. Additionally, Dorathy’s second letter to Rex Amos consists almost entirely of newspaper clippings that provide an inside look into this world, the articles excerpted referencing Alaska’s significance in the Vietnam War, a still prominent banking chain, and a senator whose name is now emblazoned on one of Anchorage’s ten middle schools.

Newspaper clippings included in one of Dorathy Bruce Farr’s letters from Anchorage (Box: 1, Folder: 2)

With these clippings and notes, Dorathy immersed herself in the culture of a city that would continue to be relevant beyond the time of her stay, possibly without even realizing she did so.
     Dorathy Bruce Farr’s letters from Anchorage can only provide so much information about her months there, but by considering the historical scene at the time and taking in the picture she paints of the landscape, we can place ourselves in her shoes and into the image of an Anchorage both past and present. In 1965, Dorathy was entering the last phase of her career as an artist, and all this happened against the backdrop of a state only six years old, when the land was shiny and fresh and was a place where one could pursue adventure, set down roots, and start anew.



Correspondence, 1965 July 2, Series I, Box: 1, Folder: 1. The Dorathy Bruce Farr
       papers, WUA027. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Correspondence, 1965 July, Series I, Box: 1, Folder: 2. The Dorathy Bruce Farr
       papers, WUA027. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Correspondence, 1965 August 2, Series I, Box: 1, Folder: 3. The Dorathy Bruce
       Farr papers, WUA027. Willamette University Archives and Special

Correspondence, 1965 August 9, Series I, Box: 1, Folder: 4. The Dorathy Bruce
       Farr papers, WUA027. Willamette University Archives and Special

Various reviews of art shows, 1965-1970, Series II, Box: 1, Folder: 19. The
       Dorathy Bruce Farr papers, WUA027. Willamette University Archives and
       Special Collections.

Photographs, notes, draft of article and copy of Northwest Magazine with the
       article, 1985 June 23, Series II, Box: 1, Folder: 22. The Dorathy Bruce Farr
       papers, WUA027. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Charles Heaney & the WPA: A Memory of Mountains

by Jess Kimmel ’25

          One of the many programs created by Franklin D. Roosevelt as a part of the New Deal was the Works Progress Administration, or the WPA. First launched in 1935, the WPA was instrumental in providing jobs for the millions of Americans who were left unemployed as a result of the Great Depression. Like other New Deal initiatives, this program largely revolved around the creation and renovation of roads, public buildings, and other infrastructure. According to sociologist Robert D. Leighninger, these programs “had an enormous and largely unrecognized role in defining the public space we now use.”
          While thinking about the WPA often evokes images of manual labor, many of its projects also provided opportunities for actors, musicians, writers, and artists. From the sculptures and murals commissioned to publicize and promote the collectivist values of the Roosevelt administration, to the ethnomusicology research conducted by the Federal Music Project, creatives in the New Deal era found themselves valued and sought out to a level that had seldom been reached before in American history. One such creative was Portland painter Charles Heaney, a man known for defying and redefining artistic tradition.
          Born to a working-class family in Oconto Falls, Wisconsin in 1897, Charles Heaney went through nearly sixteen years of life without seeing a mountain. Not unusual, perhaps, for a Midwesterner, though certainly notable in hindsight for an artist whose greatest works would include no small number of paintings depicting Northwestern mountain peaks. While traveling by train with his mother and sisters to their new home in Portland, Heaney would get his first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains, even the foothills of which overwhelmed him with their majestic beauty. He didn’t yet consider himself an artist, but that memory of mountains would serve as a font of inspiration for him years later.
          As a young man in Portland, Charles Heaney worked briefly as a laborer, before soon realizing that such a career would be unsustainable for him. He found his first artistic calling as an engraver in 1916,

Undated self-portrait of Charles Heaney, oil on canvas.

before going on to study painting and printmaking at the Portland Museum Art School. His art career reached its heights in the 1930s, which saw his work evolve from simple pastoral prints to more emotionally complex paintings during his partnership with expressionist painter C.S. Price. The New Deal was in full swing at that time; while the heart of the Depression initially found him digging sewers for the Civil Works Administration, Heaney was able to find federal employment as an artist in 1934 with the Public Works of Art program, and later with the WPA in 1937.
         Charles Heaney was commissioned by the WPA to create prints and paintings to furnish the program’s many public buildings. This provided him with full-time work as well as an opportunity to further gain renown as an artist. Somewhat ironically, Heaney described the Depression as a Renaissance of American art due to the unprecedented level of government interest and support, and there were few projects that more clearly demonstrate this demand for art than Timberline Lodge.
Built right on the slope of Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge is a historic inn and ski resort that is easily one of the crowning achievements of the Works Progress Administration. It is in fact “the only twentieth century building of its size constructed and furnished entirely by hand with original craft work,” writes Rachael Griffin,

Timberline Lodge, as stylized on the cover of The Builders of Timberline Lodge, an informational booklet published by the WPA in 1937.

longtime curator of the Portland Art Museum and founding member of the Friends of Timberline, in a 1979 guide to the lodge. Construction on Timberline began in the summer of 1936 and was completed in just over a year, a timeframe that would still be considered impressive today. Yet, what makes Timberline so significant to American art is the careful and intentional way that it was furnished with original art: sculptures, carvings, mosaics, textiles, and paintings.
          It is here, in the lodge’s mezzanine gallery, that one of Charles Heaney’s most powerful works, The Mountain, hangs, in the company of other great Cascadian artists. An oil painting on canvas, it is barely able to contain the imposing figure of Mt. Hood itself. This painting was completed in September of 1937, just in time for Timberline’s dedication. It would not be Heaney’s last work depicting mountains, which became an emergent theme throughout much of his later work. As a Regionalist and Romantic artist, they were something of a stylistic cliche for him. But beyond that, it stands to reason that the draw he felt towards the peaks of Oregon was steeped in the memory of mountains that had long ago welcomed him to the West.

The Mountain, oil on canvas, 1937.

           Traces of the WPA and its sister programs remain scattered throughout Oregon, serving as a stalwart reminder of the things that a people united can accomplish. In addition to Timberline Lodge, other scenic landmarks such as the McLoughlin Promenade, Silver Falls State Park, and Salem’s own Waterfront park owe their existence to the New Deal public works programs.



Memory, Imagination, and Place, Roger Hull’s
monograph on Charles Heaney, 2005.

More information about Charles Heaney and his association with the WPA can be found in Willamette University’s Pacific Northwest Artists Archive, maintained by the joint collaboration of the university Archives and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Much of the material on Heaney is located in the archived research files of Roger Hull, Professor Emeritus of Art History, who wrote monographs and organized retrospective exhibitions on the subject of Heaney and other Northwest artists.



Charles Heaney, 1902-2006, bulk: 1916-2004, Series III. Roger Hull Research Files on Pacific Northwest Artists, WUA065. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

            Biographical Statements, Resumes, & Chronologies, Box: 3, Folder: 39

Completed Monograph, 2005, Box: 3, Folder: 20

Timberline Lodge, 1937-2004, Box: 4, Folder: 17

Hale, Jamie. “10 Oregon landmarks built by workers during the Great Depression.” The Oregonian,

Leighninger, Robert D. (May 1996). “Cultural Infrastructure: The Legacy of New Deal Public Space”. Journal of Architectural Education. 49 (4): 226–236

CARL HALL: Painting the Northwest

by Jess Kimmel

“Works of art are doorways to some unentered room. The artist is constantly knocking, demanding entry.”
~Carl Hall

            Where does an artist’s story begin? Is it when, at the age of seven, they win $5 in their first newspaper art contest? Is it when they get caught sneaking into school after hours to make use of the art classroom? Perhaps when they send home pencil drawings from war, drawings of medical tents and dead soldiers? Any of these could be the defining moment of the first chapter in the life of Carl Hall, one of the most expressive and influential painters of the Pacific Northwest. 
            Yet buried deep in the research files of Roger Hull, who so diligently constructed a catalog of Hall’s life, lie a few unassuming photocopies of letters and statements bound together with a rusty paper clip. Dating from the 1940s, they detail the creation of Hall’s first painting of any note: Interlochen, Michigan. Having been assigned to process the Carl Hall series, these papers were a source of mild dismay to me. I only noticed them towards the end of the arrangement process, and they didn’t seem to fit neatly into the new categories that I had constructed. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to them, and why they are as good a place as any to begin the story of Hall’s career as an artist, which spanned over five decades.
            Though he would eventually call the Willamette Valley his home, Carl Hall was born in 1921 in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Detroit. At sixteen, he received a scholarship to the Meinzinger Art School, where he studied under Carlos Lopez, a Cuban-American painting known for his New Deal murals.

Interlochen, Michigan, as shown in a magazine clipping found in the Carl Hall papers (Box 4, Folder 19)

Interlochen, Michigan was created by an eighteen year-old Hall in the summer of 1940, when he attended the National Music Camp in the painting’s namesake town. As the artist tells it, he was fishing in a stream one day when a log happened to float past him, teeming with a “small world of plant life.” It occurred to him that such a thing would make an interesting subject for a painting. While Interlochen’s Midwestern locale might seem a far cry from the Oregon landscapes that would later take front and center on Hall’s canvas, it bore many of the stylistic hallmarks that would remain with him: vivid dark colors, a visible interplay of wind and weather, and just enough pattern distortion to create an eerily romantic display of magic realism. Interlochen, Michigan, was first consigned to the Detroit Artists’ Market before being sold to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1941.
         In 1942, Hall underwent his military training at Camp Adair near Corvallis where he both met his wife Phyllis and fell in love with Oregon’s natural beauty. He described the state as “Eden Again,” and swore that he would settle there permanently if he survived World War II. He spent eighteen months on active duty in the Philippines and Japan before returning. Only a few months later, Carl and Phyllis Hall moved to Salem, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Not long after, Hall accepted a position as a professor of art at Willamette University. John Olbrantz, the first director of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, later said that the history of Willamette’s art department would forever be tied to Hall, who taught here for thirty-eight years and made an impact on the lives of generations of artists.
          Hall garnered national renown over his long career for his haunting and beautifully detailed panoramic views of Oregon’s countryside. Views that Roger Hull describes as “quilts of greens and yellows” and “mist, floating as ribbons in the branches of trees.” Despite this, Hall later began to shift his stylistic focus from realistic to abstract. Like other such abstractionists, he believed that art came closer to capturing the true essence of its subject with simplicity.

Last Shadow (1971), an example of Hall’s abstract work. Photo from the Carl Hall papers (Box 4, Folder 39)

Over time, clearly outlined features would become fleeting forms and patterns that revealed their inner nature, in an almost spiritual progression of imagery. Referring to Hall, gallery director Julie Larson wrote that “one of the hallmarks of a great artist is that their work evolves over time.” Carl Hall is nothing if not evolutionary.
        In the years leading up to and following Hall’s death in 1996, his colleague and longtime friend Roger Hull began conducting research for a monograph and retrospective exhibition on his life, titled Eden Again after Carl’s words for the muse that he found in Oregon. Eden Again was completed in 2001, a fitting tribute to the life of one of the Pacific Northwest’s most important creative figures, whose story began, in some part, with a log floating down a stream in Interlochen, Michigan.



Eden Again: The Art of Carl Hall by Roger Hull. Photo from the Roger Hull research files (Box 2, Folder 32)

Roger Hull’s research files on Carl Hall and other Pacific Northwest artists can now be found in the Willamette University Archives, where they were compiled in 2014. Hall’s series includes biographical information, research notes, reproductions of both his written and painted works, and many other items related to Hall’s life and family dating from 1941-2008. Nearly forty years of correspondence between the Hulls and the Halls is recorded, from the Christmas cards that Carl Hall sent to Roger and Bonnie Hull in the 1970s to letters detailing Willamette University’s continued acquisition of the artist’s inventoried works sold and donated by Phyllis Hall well into the 2000s. 




Carl Hall, 1941-2008, Series II. Roger Hull Research Files on Pacific Northwest Artists, WUA065. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.
        Biographies and Resumes, Box: 2, Folder: 1. 

        Completed Monograph, 2000, Box: 2, Folder: 32.

        General Correspondence, 1941-2007, Box: 2, Folder: 5.

Carl Hall papers, WUA124. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

         “Interlochen”, 1940-1980, Subseries C, Box: 4, Folder: 19. 

         “Last Shadow”, 1971, Subseries C, Box: 4, Folder: 39. 

Ruth Dennis Grover: Encaustic Paintings

By Jess Kimmel ’25

Ruth Dennis Grover on a beach in Road’s End, Oregon, from Notable Women of
Portland, by Tracy Prince and Zadie Schaffer. Photographer unknown.

In the 1st Century BCE, Julius Caesar purchased a pair of encaustic paintings from a Greek artist for the extraordinary sum of 80 talents apiece (over $4 million in today’s money!)1. These early paintings, originating in Egypt prior to the 5th Century BCE, were highly valued in Greek and Roman civilization, and are believed to be one of the earliest painting techniques in recorded history. Due to the extreme difficulty of producing encaustics, the form had fallen out of style by the Renaissance with the advent of oil painting, and only a select few artists continued to work with it. Many centuries later, an Oregonian painter named Ruth Dennis Grover would be influential in introducing the encaustic style to the Pacific Northwest.

Ruth Dennis Grover was born in Portland in 1912 and raised in Detroit. After graduating with honors from the University of Michigan, she returned to Oregon, where she spent the rest of her life living in what is now Lincoln City. She had a lifelong interest in rocks and minerals, particularly agates, and was a self-proclaimed “rockhound” (rock collector). In 1952, she founded Cascade Artists, a small society of Oregon watercolor artists that held many exhibitions throughout the state. Grover herself was also a part of the Oregon Society of Artists. Though initially known for her work with watercolor, she discovered encaustics in 1956 and began to research and experiment with the technique. According to Grover, encaustics became a “consuming interest”, as well as a “technical [and] artistic challenge”.

The Fayyum mummy portraits, some of the earliest and most well-known examples of encaustics. Photos taken by Ruth Maude at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art in New York.

As for the form itself, encaustic paintings are made by combining paint pigment with refined beeswax and resin, and using heat (at highly precise temperatures) to seal the paint in layers, resulting in “exceptional luminosity” and a permanency unmatched by any other style of painting. “It is impervious to the chemical changes that cause other media to yellow, crack, or fade with time,” Grover writes in an introductory paper on encaustics. Even sunlight does not have the same fading effect on encaustics that it does with many other mediums. The Fayyum portraits, which are among the most famous surviving examples of the encaustic medium, were painted around two thousand years, yet their colors are still just as vibrant now as at the time of their creation. The name is derived from the Greek word “enkaustos”, which means “burnt in”. Modern technology makes this form much more accessible and feasible to create, though it is still dangerous and requires painstaking precision.

The cover of the Joseph Torch pamphlet, found in Box 3, Folder 7, of the Ruth Dennis Grover papers in the Willamette University Archives.

According to a pamphlet published by Joseph Torch, an art materials store in New York, encaustic painting was nearly unheard of in the Americas before the 1950s, and it was only at the urging of a European painter that Joseph Torch began to do research into the medium and stock materials for encaustics. It was here that Ruth Dennis Grover first purchased the materials for her early encaustic paintings.

Grover’s work is described as “semi-abstract”, with a focus on naturally occurring patterns and the exploration of “spatial, textural, and color relationships”. Much of her inspiration was drawn from the Oregon Coast, and a significant amount of her work consists of seascapes, lighthouses, and shipwrecks. Grover believed that encaustics were well-suited for marine paintings, due to their flexibility and diverse expressibility. “Natural forces,” she notes, “express their existence not in themselves, but in the things they move and shape.

“The Second Sea”, one of Grover’s encaustic marine paintings, held in the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Dated 1967.

“Tooth of Time and Razure of Oblivion”, another encaustic painting by Grover, depicting a piece of a shipwreck. Held in the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Dated 1968.












Though Ruth Dennis Grover passed away in 2003, her legacy lives on in the communities of PNW artists that she had a hand in creating, as well as the paintings she forged with fire; paintings that will never fade, forever serving as a memory of the artist, and the ancient medium that she mastered. Many of her works are held by the Oregon Historical Society, the Coos Art Museum, and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Furthermore, the Willamette University Archives contain a vast collection of records from her life and work, including photographs, correspondence, exhibitions, and artistic journals, as a part of the Pacific Northwest Artist’s Archive.


1. Adjusted for inflation: Grover’s notes from the 1950s mention a figure of $350,000


Interviews, notes, 1931-1966, Series II, Box: 3, Folder: 2. Ruth Dennis Grover papers,
WUA052. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Paint supplies, ordering notes and receipts, 1958-1996, Series II, Box: 3, Folder: 7. Ruth
Dennis Grover papers, WUA052. Willamette University Archives and Special

Maude, Ruth. “The History of Encaustic Painting from Fayum Funeral Portraits to
Today.” All Things Encaustic,
Accessed 24 Oct. 2022.

Online Collections | Hallie Ford Museum of Art – Willamette University. Accessed 24 Oct. 2022.

Vitae Statements, Introductions, undated, Series II, Box: 3, Folder: 3. Ruth Dennis
Grover papers, WUA052. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Myra Albert Wiggins: A Life in Studios

By Lilly Thies ’26

          When you think of the modern artist’s studio, an image may come to mind. Walls filled with art, probably a few different seating options– some chairs, some poufs, maybe even a swing. A drawing desk. Maybe some tools for mixed-media or textile art. Instruments. Paint splatters. As it turns out, the artists’ studio in the Progressive era wasn’t too different– a personalized treasure trove filled with items that inspire creativity. And, same as now, artists back in the day would carve out their own little corners where they could be creative, no matter how inconvenient the physical space. The desire for a personal space to create art was very much alive, and especially for female artists– bringing to mind Virginia Woolf’s idea of a “room of her own”.

          Myra Albert Wiggins (1869-1956) was an artist who spent her life between the Pacific Northwest, where she was born and where she raised her family, and New York City, where she went to school at the Art Students League of New York. Her parents encouraged her artistic capabilities both because they recognized her natural talent and because a cultural prowess in the arts was expected of upper-class progressive women at the time. Many of her personal belongings and art are stored in the Pacific Northwest Artists’ Archive in the Willamette University Archives. Although she is mostly known for her oil paintings, which won her a series of awards, her photographs display the quieter, more intimate moments of her life and offer a glimpse into the studio of a Progressive-era artist.

Wiggins’ Salem Studio. Pictured are the piano, center, and spinning wheel, to the left. (Box 9, Folder 4)

Some of Wiggins’ earliest photographs stored in the Archives show her studio in Salem, which she used from the 1890s through the 1920s. The studio was said to be a barn on the backside of the Wiggins family property on Winter street, near where Salem Hospital is now. The barn looks a bit ramshackle from the outside, but the inside is truly remarkable. The space is light and airy, with sun-faded rugs on the floor that brighten up the space. There is an incredible amount of art everywhere– recreations of Greek nude statues, ceramic pots tucked in among the rafters, paintings and photographs and spindly wooden furniture. One gets the sense just looking at the photographs that this place was used constantly and was well-loved by Wiggins, a safe place for her to separate her life as a mother and homemaker from her life as an artist. Not only does she have an impressive collection of visual art, but one corner of the studio features a piano and a spinning wheel. Though Wiggins was primarily a painter and a photographer, perhaps inspiration would have sometimes come to her in the form of a short melody or a textured fabric. Or perhaps these items were heirlooms, furniture meant to inspire creativity in the same way as the paintings and artifacts that covered the walls. Either way, it is clear that Wiggins decorated her space with her art in mind. She had sources of inspiration everywhere she looked, and she gave herself freedom to experiment with whatever medium her creativity demanded.

Wiggins’ improvised studio in Toppenish. Her daughter Mildred is pictured, left. (Box 9, Folder 5)

          The next studio Wiggins inhabited was behind her second family home in Toppenish, Washington, where she moved with her family after her husband Frederick began a new business venture. The photograph is entitled “My Improvised Photo Studio in our Alley, Toppenish, 1929”. Improvised is a good word for it; the structure is nearly falling apart, open to the elements, naught but a few pieces of fabric draped across a few pieces of wood. But Wiggins clearly was determined to have her creative space– her “room of her own”– and we can see in the photograph a stool that was present in pictures of her Salem studio, as well as a copper pitcher and a striped rug. Her daughter Mildred appears in the picture, wearing a Dutch headscarf, which Wiggins asserts to be a family heirloom. Even though this photo may just have been intended to document the changes in her life, Wiggins’ creative eye seems to be omnipresent. Her studio space was a crucial part of her process, and even the most run-down structures could harbor her creativity and give her the space she needed to thrive.

The exterior of Wiggins’ Seattle studio space at Lovelace. (Box 9, Folder 6)

The final glimpse into Myra’s studio space in her later life is a photo taken in Seattle, Washington, where she and her husband moved in 1932 and lived out the rest of their lives. The image shows the Lovelace studio building in downtown Seattle. It is, by far, the most lavish studio space we have seen in Wiggins’ photographs so far, with well-maintained topiary and even a fountain. The image also features Wiggins standing in front of the building, looking very pleased. At this point in her life, she had received a good amount of notoriety for her paintings and photographs, and must have been very proud that she could afford a studio of such high quality without the help of her family or husband. There are no photographs in the collection of the interior Wiggins’ studio space, but past evidence of her decoration indicates that there would have likely been the same bohemian inspirations and heirloom furniture as there had been in the past.

          Throughout Wiggins’ photographs, we can see somewhat of an evolution as she faces both life and career changes. From a barn behind her house in Salem, to a shack in Toppenish, to a lavish private studio space in Seattle, Wiggins maintained her creative spirit and sources of inspiration, allowing the art of others and different mediums to help her create her own art. Although she may have not always had the ideal studio environment, she was able to create a space in which she could surround herself with art and nurture her creativity. 100 years ago seems like forever, but the lives of artists back then were more similar to our modern reality than some would think, where creating art was a priority which overcame all the transition periods of life, and where, for women like Myra Wiggins, the studio could be a space that was really, truly theirs.

The Myra Albert Wiggins Papers collection is housed within the Willamette University Archives & Special Collections, providing an invaluable research resource. A portion of this collection has been digitized, offering convenient online access to diaries and notes related to Wiggins’ Color Talks. For more information, please contact the Archives at

Coronation Feasts in the Archives

St. Edward’s Crown Worn
by James II & Elizabeth II

By Susan Irwin
University Archivist,

Doreen Simonsen
Humanities & Fine Arts Librarian,

Kings and Queens of England have celebrated their coronations with grand feasts, some only for the nobility and some held for the public at large.  In the Archives, we have evidence of two such feasts, separated by 268 years.  The oldest is from the coronation of King James II in 1685 and our most recent is from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. 

James II was the younger brother of King Charles II, the Merry Monarch, famous for restoring the theatre and other pleasures of life after many years of Puritan rule by Oliver Cromwell; Cromwell was the man who lead the movement to behead King Charles I, the father of Charles II and James II.  When Charles II died without a legitimate child to inherit the crown, his brother James II became his heir.

Following the coronation of King James II and his second wife, Queen Mary of Modena, in Westminster Abbey on Thursday, April 23, 1685 there was a glorious Royal Feast in the adjacent Westminster Hall.   The King and Queen sat at the south table facing the long hall, lined with six long tables.  At the western tables sat Peers and Peeresses, namely seven Dukes, seven Duchesses, one Marchioness, forty-three Earls, twenty-nine Countesses, five Viscounts, three Viscountesses, thirty-eight Barons, and twenty-two Baronesses.  At the eastern tables sat Archbishops, Bishops, Judges, etc.  

Click on this link to see the full page chart of seating and of the positions of these dishes on the different tables.

These tables groaned with a total of 1,455 dishes, served both hot and cold, including:  pistachio cream, anchovies, stags tongues, partridges, marinated sole, puddings, and much, much more.

Here is a link to the first of several pages that list all of the dishes served at their Majesties and the other tables.

You can see images and read about this feast in our copy of The History of the Coronation of the Most High Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch James IIby Francis Sandford and Gregory King, printed in 1687, which is part of our Special Collections.  In this book, you will find large, beautiful lithographic images of the coronation ceremony, feast, and fireworks.

There is a wonderful high resolution image of this feast where you can see this entire feast in progress. (Click on the + sign to see all of the details)

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth took place on June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey. Food and recipes played a part beyond the coronation feast.  The oil used to anoint the new monarchs contains oils of roses, cinnamon, orange, musk and ambergris (produced by sperm whales). Queen Elizabeth II revealed in a documentary interview that some crafty guests hid “strong drink and sandwiches” in their coronets to sustain them through the three-hour long ceremony.  New recipes were created as in the case of Coronation Chicken.  Created by Constance Spry, the recipe of cold chicken in a curry cream sauce with dressed salad of rice, green peas and mixed herbs was one of the dishes served to foreign guests after the coronation.

Following the coronation ceremony, the Queen and Prince Philip traveled a 7.2 kilometer route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.  Designed so that the procession could be seen by as many of the people lining the streets as possible, the procession took two hours to complete.

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was the first to be televised, with an estimated twenty-seven million people in the U.K. turning in to watch.  That did not stop thousands from lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the new Queen, some camping out the night before.  Correspondence in the Stella Douglas archival collection (part of Willamette’s Archives) contains information on the availability of packed lunches, not for guests, but for people seated in the stands along the procession route. 

Stella, a Salem born artist, lived in London at the time of the coronation and was one of the lucky few to receive a seat voucher from The British Travel and Holidays Association.  The letter from the association explained how to exchange the voucher for a “seat ticket,” and included a brochure and order form for packed lunches.  Due to the length of the ceremony and procession, refreshments were an important consideration as “…it will be necessary for you to be in your seat by 6.0 a.m. on Coronation Day, and it is unlikely that you be able to leave the special area until around 4.0 p.m.” 

Buszards’ Limited supplied the packed lunches, offering three options.

It is not clear if Stella exchanged her voucher for a seat ticket, but she noted the historic event in a letter to her family, “And how the new Queen is loved! Her people love her and have faith in her– How young she is to inherit an empire- my age- and so untroubled by the world, yet so mature in character and devotion to her country.” 

On May 6, 2023, King Charles III of England will have his coronation ceremony.  On the following day, he and Queen Consort Camilla, have invited their subjects throughout the Commonwealth to celebrate by joining in the Coronation Big Lunch, which “aims to brings neighbours and communities together to celebrate the Coronation and share friendship, food and fun.”  The King and Queen have shared a recipe that everyone can make to share at their own Coronation Lunch, namely The Coronation Quiche

Bon Appetit!


50 Facts About The Queen’s Coronation, Accessed 3 May 2023.

Coke, Hope. Peers told they are allowed to wear crimson robes and coronets for King Charles’ Coronation. Tatler. Accessed 3 May 2023.

“Francis Sandford (1630-94) – The History of the Coronation of the Most High, Most Mighty, and Most Excellent Monarch, James II … and of His Royal Consort Queen Mary, Solemnized in the Collegiate Church of St Peter … on 23rd April, … 1685 / By…” Accessed May 3, 2023.

Sandford Francis and Gregory King. The History of the Coronation of the Most High Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch James II : By the Grace of God King of England Scotland France and Ireland Defender of the Faith &c. and of His Royal Consort Queen Mary : Solemnized in the Collegiate Church of St. Peter in the City of Westminster on Thursday the 23 of April Being the Festival of St. George in the Year of Our Lord 1685 : With an Exact Account of the Several Preparations in Order Thereunto Their Majesties Most Splendid Processions and Their Royal and Magnificent Feast in Westminster-Hall : The Whole Work Illustrated with Sculptures : By His Majesties Especial Command. Printed by T. Newcomb 1687.

Stella Douglas papers, WUA111, Archives and Special Collections, Mark O. Hatfield Library, Willamette University.

“The Coronation Quiche.” Accessed 3 May 2023.

 Wight, Colin. “Renaissance Festival Books: View 274 Historical Renaissance Books Online.” Text. The British Library. Accessed May 3, 2023.

Unacknowledged Legislation: Mark O. Hatfield’s Favorite Poem

by Mike Chasar, Professor of English

Mark Hatfield and Antoinette Marie Kuzmanich Hatfield

Judging from the contents of his personal library, former Oregon Governor and U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield (1922-2011) doesn’t appear to have had much time for poetry. Now displayed in sixteen locked cases in the “Hatfield Room” of the university library named in his honor, his personal library contains only fifteen or so books of poetry—not even a quarter of a shelf’s worth—most of which bear no evidence of having been read. They are no well-thumbed, well-worn volumes. Their spines are uncracked. Their margins are bare. They almost sigh with relief when you open them.

When Hatfield’s Senatorial papers were opened to the public on July 12, 2022, there was no reason to expect anything different. Correspondence and speeches? For sure. Floor statements, bill drafts, press clippings, and newspapers from his time on the Hill? Absolutely. Scrapbooks, sound recordings, and memorabilia? You betcha. When archivists discovered the poem “A Treasure” in and among these items, therefore, it came as something of a surprise. More surprising, though, was that archivists didn’t discover just one copy of “A Treasure” but a ream of three or four hundred copies of the poem reproduced on cardstock deliberately yellowed to look like an old document or perhaps a piece of parchment. It may not turn out to be the only poem in Hatfield’s papers—the process of cataloging them all is still ongoing—but it’s quite possibly the most important poem in his life.

“A Treasure” was written by Hatfield’s spouse Antoinette Marie Kuzmanich (her initials “AMK” follow the text in the manner of a byline), and a short preface ostensibly by Hatfield and set off from the poem by a common font that contrasts with the calligraphic font of the poem’s text explains, “Some years ago Antoinette shared this message with me and now I would like to share it with you” (figure 1 below). Here is the poem in full:

Friendships, like a chain of gold,

     have many links

Each dependant on the other

Each necessary to the whole man

Some links are weak

     Yet none the less desirable

Some links are small

     They must not be overlooked

Those that are broken

     May need repair

Thank God for those strong links,

     Though not perfect, endure,

Because they are pure

     And weather acid tests

These must be cherished

Their value is not determined

     By size, or shape, or state

They are priceless when they are old.

(Figure 1)

For the typical English professor (me, for example), this does not look like a very good poem—or, at very least, it’s a confusing poem. The possible spelling error in the third line (“dependant” is the British not American way of spelling “dependent”) and … er … let’s call them the “inconsistencies” in the text’s punctuation are just the start of it. More confusingly, the poem frequently signals in one direction but goes in another. For example, the indented lines indicate that this will be a type of conventionally formatted ballad with a consistent meter and rhyme, but the poem doesn’t follow through with those promises: the indentations come in irregular intervals, the meter (if there was an attempt at meter) is irregular at best, and there are some instances of rhymes but no discernable rhyme scheme. Led by words like “gold” and “friendship,” as well as the overarching metaphor that compares friends to links in a gold chain, the poem situates itself in the language of well-meant sentimentality and cliché common to Hallmark greeting cards (listen to how “pure,” “perfect,” and “priceless” alliterate with each other and reinforce the verse’s greeting-card orientation). In contrast, the phrase “acid test” feels remarkably jarring and out of context, both conceptually and acoustically. From the perspective of the creative writing classroom, the resulting mix feels like something of a hot mess and not at all something one would advise reproducing by the ream to share with hundreds of people as the preface and copies suggest was the case.

I want to argue with that English professor, however. What if all of the text’s potentially objectionable features are in fact part of the poem’s point? If the poem’s metaphor focuses on the weak links, broken links, and imperfect links in friendship, then don’t the poem’s various imperfections back that up or put that message on display at the level of the text? In fact, if the “value” of a friendship, as the poem explains, “is not determined by size, or shape, or state” but by age, then perhaps the poem’s value shouldn’t be assessed in terms of size, shape, or state, either—including the inconsistencies, errors, and imperfections to which I’ve called attention. Indeed, if we approach “A Treasure” from this point of view, then its imperfections and weak links represent and express the imperfections of human friendship in a way that brings the poem’s “form” and “content” closer into alignment than a more “perfect” poem could do. Moreover, the document’s physical emphasis on age—the look of distressed paper, the font that looks a little like yesteryear’s handwriting, and the very fact that Antoinette gave Hatfield the poem “some years ago” and yet it finds itself in Hatfield’s hands again and again—feeds right into the value system that the poem does promote: poems, like friendships, “are priceless when they are old” no matter their imperfections.

That Hatfield would latch onto a poem for its ability to create social connections—here it not only “links” Mark to Antoinette, but promises that every reader who receives it might also be linked to that “chain of gold”—makes total sense when we look at the poetry in his personal library, where a fair number of Hatfield’s poetry books have been autographed or inscribed in ways that make the book’s exchange an act of social rather than literary relations. Ronald H. Bayes inscribes Dust and Desire to the Hatfields as a couple, “with best regards from an old friend.” (I, for one, can’t help hearing in “old friend” the “old” at the end of Antoinette’s poem.) This Precious Earth comes “compliments of Mrs. F.J. Landers,” and Aleutian Interval gets delivered “with the best wishes of his friend Harry J. Larsen” (again, back to the subject of friendship). When Maine’s Senator William S. Cohen sent along a copy Of Sons and Seasons, he did so for “an outstanding leader and legislator whose only standard has been the pursuit of excellence.” Even Hatfield’s tiny, 1920s-era, 3×4-inch copy of Walt Whitman’s Memories of President Lincoln, published by the Little Leather Library Corporation, ends with this spirt of connection:

Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Doesn’t “Song of the Open Road” (first published in 1856) sound like Whitman is extending his hand of friendship across time to become one more link in the gold chain of “A Treasure” that is measured by age (“as long as we live”) and made increasingly valuable by virtue of its aging (“more precious than money”)? Improbably, perhaps, even the slight imperfection of the uncapitalized letter “w” at the beginning of the second question (“will you come travel?”) is part of how Whitman’s friendship “links” to Antoinette, which is part of how she links to Mark, which is how Mark links to every reader who takes the poem when extended.

There’s something charming about this act of giving out imperfect poems and using them to broker friendships, isn’t there? When I imagine how people communicate in Washington D.C., it’s certainly not via poetry. By legal brief, yes. Expert testimony, too. Maybe even dead drops in a public park or clandestine meetings at night in a parking garage. For that reason and more, the very idea of Hatfield going around pressing copies of “A Treasure” into the hands of senators, congressmen, lobbyists, aides, and perhaps even presidents is all the more appealing. In 1821, British poet Percy Shelley famously called poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Hatfield—and Antoinette—could have told us a thing or two about it.

Mike Chasar is on the English faculty at WU and is the author of Poetry Unbound: Poems and New Media from the Magic Lantern to Instagram (2020) and Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America (2012), both from Columbia University Press.

Jane Austen, Royalty, and Works by Women Authors in our Vault

By Doreen Simonsen
Humanities & Fine Arts Librarian,

Thanks to Shonda Rhimes’ hit Netflix series, Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), wife of King Georges III of England (1738 – 1820), and her court have been given new life in the public imagination.  In the library’s vault, we have three works by women authors who served in and wrote about this world, and inspired other authors and composers.

Fanny Burney (1784)
by Edward Francis Burney

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) was born in Steventon, England in 1775 during the reign of King George III and his wife, Queen Charlotte.  It was in the court of Queen Charlotte that one of Jane’s favorite authors, Fanny Burney (1752 – 1840), served from 1786 to 1790 as “Keeper of the Robes” for the queen.  After leaving Queen Charlotte’s court, Burney decided to publish her third novel, Camilla, by subscription in 1796, and it is in this book that Jane Austen’s name appears in print for the first time.  In our library’s copy of Camilla you can see “Miss J. Austen, Steventon” in the list of subscribers.  Austen also mentions Camilla as one of the romantic novels, which the heroine of Austen’s first novel, Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland, reads for thrills and escapism.

Subscriber List in Hatfield Library’s copy of Fanny Burney’s Camilla (1796)
First ever appearance of Jane Austin’s name in print.
Sophie Cottin, Lithograph
by Pierre Langlumé

Fanny Burney’s stepsister, Elizabeth Meeke, (1761 – 1826), was also an author, — and a translator. (MacDonald. Mandel.)  One of her translations that is in our collection is Elizabeth; or, the Exiles of Siberia, by the French author, Sophie Cottin. (1770 – 1807) Cottin’s family were supporters of the French monarchy, which forced them to flee to England during the French Revolution.  Sophie returned to Paris in 1798, published six novels, of which Elizabeth (1806) was her last before she died of cancer in 1807.  Elizabeth; or, the Exiles of Siberia was widely translated and published throughout the 19th century. (Cutt)  Our copy was published in New York in 1812.  This book was so popular that Gaetano Donizetti based an opera in three acts upon it in 1820 and titled it Otto mesi in due ore ossia Gli esiliati in Siberia (Eight Months in Two Hours or the Exiles in Siberia).

Image from the New York Public Library
Prince Regent George, son of
King George III, & future King George IV

Both Camilla and Elizabeth: or, the Exiles of Siberia were published during the reign of King George III, who suffered increasingly from mental illness.  Eventually his reprobate son, Prince George, took on the role of Regent, which gave rise to the Regency Era that lasted from 1811 until the death of his father in 1820, when he became King George IV.  Jane Austen was no fan of George IV, but he was a great fan of her novels.  Recently a bill of sale from 1811 was found in the Royal Archives, which was “from a London bookseller, charging the Prince Regent 15 shillings for a copy of Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s first novel.” (Schuessler) To understand Austen’s distaste for the Prince Regent, one should look at a third book in our collection.

Lady Ann Hamilton, (1815)
by James Lonsdale

The Secret History of the Court of England from the Accession of George the Third until the Death of George the Fourth (1832), was allegedly written by Lady Anne Hamilton (1766 – 1846), who was a loyal Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Caroline of Brunswick, the unhappy wife of George IV. According to the Dictionary of National Biography: “A person who had gained the confidence of Lady Anne and obtained from her a variety of private information, published, without her knowledge and much to her regret and indignation, a volume purporting to be written by her, entitled Secret History of the Court of England from the Accession of George III to the Death of George IV.”  The book created such a scandal that the publisher was forced to flee England. 

In a letter from 1813, Jane Austen wrote of Queen Caroline: “Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband.” (Robins, p. 42).  Two years later, Austen was invited to the Prince Regent’s library, where his “librarian, James Stanier Clarke, conveyed that the Prince Regent (who was not present) would not object if she dedicated her next book to him.” (Schuessler).  Austen worked with the publisher to create this tepid dedication in her novel Emma: “To his Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, this work is, by His Royal Highness’s Permission, most Respectfully Dedicated by his Royal Highness’s Dutiful and Obedient Humble Servant, the Author.”

Just as the world is currently reading Spare, the memoir by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, to discover the secrets of the most recent royal family, disclosing royal secrets is nothing new. Having worked for the Royal families, both Fanny Burney and Lady Ann Hamilton, could have shared similar tales of scandal. Similarly Fanny Burney and Sophie Cottin created tales depicting the emotional ups and downs of Romanticism, that were wildly popular in the 19th century, but did not reflect life in the royal courts. You can read these books online by following the links in this article, but you are welcome to come see our copies of all of these works in the Hatfield Library. If you would like to look at them in person, please contact Doreen Simonsen, to make an appointment.


Austen, Jane, 1775-1817. Emma: A Novel : In Three Volumes. London: Printed for John Murray, 1816.

Burney, Fanny, and Thomas Payne. Camilla, or, A Picture of Youth. [First edition]. London: Printed for T. Payne, at the Mews Gate, and T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies successors to Mr. Cadell in the Strand, 1796.

Cottin, (Sophie), Evert Duyckinck, and James Oram. Elizabeth, or, The Exiles of Siberia. A Tale, Founded Upon Facts. New-York: Published by Evert Duyckinck, 1812.

Cutt, M Nancy.  “Who Remembers ‘Elizabeth’?”  Signal: Approaches to Children’s Books Vol. 39,  (Sep 1, 1982): 153-162.

Hamilton, Anne. Secret History of the Court of England  from the Accession of George the Third to the Death of George the Fourth. London: Reynold’s Newspaper Office, 1832.

“Hamilton, Lady Ann.” The Dictionary of National Biography : from the Earliest Times to 1900. London: Oxford University Press, 1921.  Vol. 8, p. 1019.

Harry. Spare. First US edition., Random House, 2023.

MacDonald, Simon. “Identifying Mrs Meeke: Another Burney Family Novelist.” The Review of English Studies (2013): 367-385.

Mandal, Anthony. “Mrs. Meeke and Minerva: The Mystery of the Marketplace.” Eighteenth-Century Life 42.2 (2018): 131-151.

Robins, Jane. Rebel Queen: How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of Revolution. London: Pocket, 2007.

Schuessler, Jennifer. “Jane Austen Detested Her First Buyer, the Prince: [the Arts/Cultural Desk].” New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) ed., Jul 25 2018, ProQuest. Web. 15 Dec. 2022.

By the Numbers: Limited Edition Fine Press Gems in the Vault

Limited Edition books are a melding of fine literature and the art of fine printing.  Four books in our vault are lovely examples of an author’s and a publisher’s joint enthusiasm for a unique presentation of a text.

“A limited edition book is one where the number of copies in the print run has been strictly defined prior to its issue, and that number is substantially less than a standard print run, and then no further print runs are issued after the first printing has sold out… [These] books may also contain additional features such as better quality paper, extra illustrations, author signatures, different cover art, etc.” (“Limited Edition Books”).

“Gwilan’s Harp” is a story by Ursula Le Guin that was published by the Lord John Press in Northridge, California in 1981.  In the back of this book, you will find a page with a limitation statement, which in this case states that this book is number 298 of 300 copies printed.

Details about the paper used for printing this book, what type font was used, who designed the book, who printed the book, and who published the book may be listed.  In addition, the author’s autograph may be found on this page, too.
Herb Jellen of Boston, an avid collector of autographs and first editions, started the Lord John Press, which published Le Guin’s story.  From 1976-2006 Jellen published limited editions in printing runs of 150 or 300 copies, that were signed by the authors.  The name “Lord John Press” came from Jellen’s “love of [the] authors: John Barth, John Cheever, John Fowles, John Gardner, John Hawkes and John Updike. “Lord” is said to have come from his desire “to marry” Great Britain and America.”

Sometimes these texts travel widely before being published as a limited edition book, such as Place in Fiction, an essay by Eudora Welty.  Originally, it was a lecture she presented at Cambridge University in 1954, and was then published in The Archive (Duke University) in April 1955, the South Atlantic Quarterly in January 1956, and elsewhere.

Mrs. Marguerite Cohn heard Miss Welty read the essay on the Poetry Series of the Young Man’s Hebrew Association in New York and asked the author for permission to publish her essay as a limited edition book by her company, the House of Books, in 1957.  This is the edition that we have in our collection, which is number 63 of 300 copies printed.

In Dallas, Texas, Hank Coleman founded Pressworks, a small literary fine press publishing company. When Anne Dickson purchased Pressworks in 1981, she inherited short works and poetry by such famous authors as Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, and Donald Barthelme.

We own a copy of Barthelme’s work, Presents, (1980).  Its text consists of numerous brief sketches, most of which involve two naked women, and has four plates of collages done by the author. Our copy is number 150 out of 350 copies printed for sale.

Finally, we have a book of poetry by Oregon’s former Poet Laureate, William Stafford.  His book, You and Some Other Characters (1989) was illustrated by his daughter Barbara Stafford and published by Donnell Hunter of the Honeybrook Press.  Hunter was a prolific and significant Mormon poet, who ran the Honeybrook Press in Rexburg, Idaho.  Our copy of Stafford’s You and Some Other Characters, is one of 328 copies, but it is not numbered nor autographed by the author.  What makes this book special is that it was “designed & printed letterpress on Lana Laid paper by Donnell Hunter with hand-set Deepdene type & hand-sewn in Fabriano covers.” 
The loving workmanship of hand-set type on fine paper makes Hunter’s physical copy of Stafford’s poetry a tactile pleasure that complements Stafford’s words.

Limited Edition fine press books are works of art created jointly by the author and the publisher / printer.  Although these four books are recent publications, their scarcity and / or artistic nature classifies them as rare books, worthy of being shelved next to Shakespeare’s Second Folio, Medieval Books of Hours, and other treasures in the vault at the Mark O. Hatfield Library.  If you would like to see them for yourself, please contact Doreen Simonsen,




Barthelme, Donald. Presents. Pressworks, 1980.

Berryhill, Michael. “Booking Dallas.” D Magazine, January 1, 1982,

Book of the Week — Turkeys and Trees | J. Willard Marriott Library Blog. 19 Nov. 2018,

Davis, Mary Margaret. “Ex-El Pasoan Binds ‘Fine’ Books.” El Paso Times, 29 Aug. 1982, p. 71.

Dickson, Anne. “Letters.” D Magazine, March 1, 1982,

Donnell Hunter | Mormon Literature & Creative Arts Database | HBLL.

It Came from Beyond Pulp. Ursula K. Le Guin Reads “Gwilan’s Harp.” 2021. YouTube,

Le Guin, Ursula K. Gwilan’s Harp. Lord John Press, 1981.

“Limited Edition Books.” AbeBooks, 3 June 2021,

“Lord John Press.” Worlds Without End, .

Newman, Lisa. “Collector Established Lord John Press.” The Clarion-Ledger, 20 Jun. 2015.

Polk, Noel. “A Eudora Welty Checklist.” The Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 4, 1973, pp. 663–93.

Stafford, William. You and Some Other Characters: Poems. Honeybrook Press, 1987.

“The House-of-Books Edition of ‘Place in Fiction.’” Eudora Welty Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 1, 1977, pp. 5–5.

Welty, Eudora. Place in Fiction. House of Books, 1957.

The Brain Behind Japanese Mail Art

Ryosuke Cohen and his involvement in the global mail art movement

By Emily Zuber ‘23

Sometimes when conducting research, it is unknown what will be found or which items will pique interest the most. As I dug through the Claudia Cave papers within the Mark O. Hatfield Library Archives learning about the wide world of mail art, I found a variety of artists’ pieces; specifically, a collage of colorful stamps from a Japanese mail artist. After reading the papers about him, I wondered: who is Ryosuke Cohen, and how did he become one of the leading figures in the history of the mail art movement in Japan? How did Claudia Cave, an artist from the Pacific Northwest, obtain his art? What is this artist up to now, and how has other mail art influenced his current work? In further research, I discovered some answers to these questions along with a better understanding of how mail art is adapting within the age of the Internet.

Ryosuke Cohen was born in 1948 and became an art teacher in Osaka, Japan. His early work consisted of traditional Japanese imagery mixed with contemporary styles until he was introduced to Western mail art in 1980 by his friend Byron Black. This art intrigued Cohen, because, according to him at that time, “Japan is known only for the classics, like Kabuki, Noh plays, bonsai plants, Zen…People misunderstand that the exhibitions in the authorized gallery are the best works.” The mail art movement consists of materials like stamps, collages, paintings, postcards, intricately decorated envelopes, newspapers, etc. that can be sent to a plethora of other artists who may choose to keep it, send it to another, or add onto the piece and return it. In the archives, I found that Claudia Cave even had multiple eggs with a stamp on it, so it is assumed that this ‘art’ can be interpreted freely by all; this freedom is what enticed Cohen to create and continue creating a variety of mail artwork. 

To participate in international mail art, Cohen began Brain Cell in 1985, which he continues with today. He explains that the reason why he titled this project Brain Cell is because “the structure of a brain seen through the microscope, with thousands of neurons grouped together and stratified, really resembles a diagram of the mail art network.” Using Gocco, a unique printing process for Japanese greeting cards, he creates a collage of logos, stamps, stickers, drawings, etc. on A3 paper. Then, he mails the result along with a list of addresses and a typed article to around 60 artists and keeps additional copies that are put into books. Cohen is said to have made 3 issues every month, now totaling over 1,000 Brain Cell papers. Unique materials are sent to him to be used for each issue so no two pieces are alike; all are different and made due to the wide array of images provided by other artists. This is perhaps how Cave was able to have 2 of the Brain Cell collages in her international mail collection. The cells I located inside the archives contain a wide array of images, including an insect, ocean landscape, bigfoot, ocean sunfish, Big Ben, the statue of liberty, random Hirigana letters and so on. The multiple ‘C’s found on some cells are Cohen’s signature stamp. These Brain Cell mail art papers are a unique assortment of art created by many artists from around the world and it is amazing just how many pieces Cohen has been able to create with his community.

Ryosuke Cohen had found widespread success in gaining participation from international artists, but it seems that the wonders of mail art in Japan had yet to be widely recognized. There had been a few Japanese postal artists who published works in Gutai magazine, though the publication died out in 1972. Ryosuke Cohen joined the Artists’ Union or Artists Unidentified (AU) in the ‘80s. This organization had a couple of Japanese postal artists at the time, like On Kawara, who is known for his postcard and contemporary art. Eventually, Cohen was able to collect work for exhibits at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum, the Osaka Contemporary Art Center and the Kyoto City Museum. Though, it seems it would not be until later that he himself would travel outside of Japan.

Ryosuke Cohen ArtIn 2001, Cohen began his next art collection, The Fractal Portrait Project. With these works, he would travel to meet those who contributed to Brain Cell, including artists in the U.S., Italy, Korea, Holland, Belgium, England, and more. He would meet his correspondents and have them lay down on the Brain Cell papers where he would trace their silhouette in ink. Afterward, he draws a side-view portrait of their faces on smaller Brain Cell paper. Once finished, both pieces would be given to the artist. Cohen had to pause in 2010 due to cancer, but he continued the project until 2019. I found that since the pandemic began, he has been sending Brain Cell mail art. The latest piece is shown on his Facebook page as people tag him in posts thanking him for sending it to them. Unfortunately, he is unable to send any art to Ukraine at this time in 2022 due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.

It astonished me to learn about the vast amount of art Ryosuke Cohen has produced within the last 40 years in collaboration with tons of artists all over the world. From fellow artists in Osaka to Claudia Cave, these collages of art in Brain Cell and The Fractal Portrait Project continue to be created and seen by many. Even today, the Japanese mail artist states on his website that “Mail Art is far from finishing,” and that the multiple methods of correspondence in the digital age gives way to a diversity of participation within the mail art movement. This is especially true in a world currently facing a global pandemic where people seek connections with loved ones online. I am intrigued to see what Cohen & fellow mail artists will be creating in the future. It seems that we will see a larger increase in younger postal artists via the era of the Internet where reaching out to numerous contributors is extremely easy and I look forward to how it will evolve further.


Baroni, Vittore. The Neural Collages of Ryosuke Cohen. Artpool,

Cohen, Ryosuke. Mail Art – Brain Cell – fractal (1997). Artpool,

Cohen, Ryosuke. Mail Art – Brain Cell – fractal (1999). Artpool,

Cohen, Ryosuke. Ryosuke Cohen Official Site.

Held, John, Jr. Interview with Ryosuke Cohen from the National Art Center In Tokyo, Japan. SFAQ / NYAQ / LXAQ. 19 October 2012.

Held, John, Jr. Japanese Mail Art, 1956-2014. SFAQ / NYAQ / LXAQ. 8 September 2014.,Association%2C%20continued%20with%20participation%20in.

International mail art, 1983-2016, Subseries A, Box: 3, Folder: 1. Claudia Cave papers, WUA118. Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.