War Dances part 2

I wanted to take on the challenge of writing this blog post not about something that is a family heirloom, but rather something that I only recently acquired and is manufactured by the thousands. What I know about the history of this book before it ends up in my hands is that it was owned by Inquiring Minds. Since there is a penciled-in price on the inside, I also know that it is a used book. So it belonged to someone else before it ended up at Inquiring Minds. But when I bought it, it was almost in perfect condition. I thought it might be new until I saw the reduced price. It obviously came from a family—or single person—who knows how to keep their books in order. Either that, or it was never read. It might have been a gift, received by someone who had no desire to read Alexie’s work (which is a real shame, considering I devoured it in less than a day). Perhaps it was a textbook that someone read once for class and then sold back for whatever money they could get back. Before it came to the person who sold it to Inquiring Minds, in all likelihood it probably came from Amazon. It seems like most people buy their books from Amazon now because Amazon offers price cuts on almost every single product in order to boost sales. So, let’s say this was purchased on Amazon; War Dances probably endured a rough ride through the postal service from Amazon to the purchaser’s doorstep. Amazon offers two-day shipping, but I have learned not to trust Amazon’s shipping. I once had to purchase a novel for my German class and, while it was in German, it was coming from Book Depository in the US. Yet it took almost a month for it to arrive. I didn’t order with two-day shipping, but it still shouldn’t have taken an entire month to arrive. I would hazard a guess that War Dances also endured a long ride to its owner’s doorstep. Maybe it sat out in the cold on their doorstep before they brought it in. Before the ride through the postal service, it most certainly sat in a Amazon warehouse.

Even though War Dances is a book and its purpose is to be read, I want to offer an interpretation that is based off slight guesswork, and I want to say that the purpose actually has changed throughout its lifetime. Because of it’s perfect condition, it probably was only read once by its previous owner. Maybe they didn’t like it. Inquiring Minds usually sells a lot of textbooks and previously textbooks. But for me, who devoured the book within one day, this book will stand on my favorites shelf for a long time. I will probably re-read it soon, and the second time, I won’t mind cracking the spine at all. I am very particular with my books. I like to buy books that are in decent shape, but I like to rough them up myself throughout my time with them. I like seeing all the pages dogeared from where I forced myself to stop reading. I like cracking the spine so I can fold the cover back and read with one hand. I know that’s almost blasphemy to say as an English major, but I imagine that War Dances will probably gather a lot of wear during its time with me. It has changed it’s utility from a common book with someone else to a special one with me.

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

When first purchased, the book was uniform. It was a solid 5 x 8 x 0.5 inches around and weighed 7.2 ounces. The book is 209 pages long. Inside the front cover, on the right side at the top right of the page is written $6.50 in pencil. Relativity light for a book, the bright robin’s-eye blue of the cover is enough to catch anyone’s eye from a distance. The cover depicts a pair of what looks like red and white Puma sneakers on right side of the cover, in the bottom half. White outlines of footprints extend behind the shoes. At the top of the book, Sherman Alexie’s name is written in big, white letters. The name of the novel, War Dances, is written on the bottom. Both lines are in all-caps. Inside the front cover, Alexie’s name and the name of the novel are indented from where they were pressed in on the front. Across from the red shoes, on the left side of the cover, bottom half, is a golden circle, indicating that the book wonder a literary prize. Under Sherman Alexie’s name is a centered yellow text with a quote from The Seattle Times that says “Alexie mixes up comedy and tragedy, shoots it through with tenderness, then delivers with a provocateur’s don’t-give-a-damn flourish.” Because the book has been read, the bottom right corner of the book, including most of its pages, is turned upward. At the back of the book, the back cover actually turns outward. Unread, it would have been a perfect rectangular prism. The book would be a uniform width, but it widens further away from the spine because of its being read. Inside the book, some of pages fall open quicker than others, where I spent more time on them. The corners of the book are white where the top layer of the cover wore away from its paper backing.  The spine, from top to bottom, says Alexie’s name, the image of the shoes, then War Dances, then a yellow Grove Press logo. The back of the book says “National Bestseller” at the top in black all-caps. The words are centered. Underneath, in the same yellow that matches the Seattle Times quote on the front, it says: “From one of the most original and celebrated writers working in America today, War Dances is a highly charged collection of stories and poems that deftly captures the myriad aspects of modern relationships.” Underneath that are quotes from PEN/Faulkner judge Al Young, The Miami Herald, and O, the Oprah Magazine. The quotes are in black lettering, but the names of the sources are in yellow. Underneath that, on the left is Sherman Alexie’s picture. Next to the picture is a biography of the author in yellow words. The barcode is on the bottom right. Next to the barcode, the following information is written in small, white font: “Cover design by Charles Rue Woods. Author photograph by Cahse Jarvis. GROVE PRESS / an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Distributed by Publishers Group West. http://www.groveatlantic.com Printed in the U.S.A. 0810.”



This last object I have chosen to focus on in this post seems, at least to me, like a funny choice. It’s not an heirloom, nor is it a piece of jewelry or some other object like that. In fact, it’s a very commercial item—one that was meant to be used and then thrown away, but which I’ve decided to keep and repurpose. I have a good enough sense of this object’s chain of ownership, though it’s been a bit tricky difficult to find evidence explaining exactly why it was designed as it was and where it was made. I assume a little when I encounter these unanswerable questions, but I think that my understanding of the object is good enough that my assumptions are quite reasonable. Overall, the story behind the object makes it quite appropriate, I think, for this post.

So, here’s this it I keep referring to, a now empty Chinese tin for mint-flavored Fisherman’s Friend lozenges:IMG_4036.JPG

I warned you it might seem silly, but trust me, there’s more than meets the eye. A friend of mine traveled to China last summer, bought the tin, and gave it to me as a little gag gift (I’m more prone to colds and allergies than most people). I had the lozenges, and I decided to keep the tin as a place to keep loose change. I never thought about the tin’s life before my friend purchased it, however. I didn’t realize that even before my friend gave it to me, it had, in fact, traveled more than I ever have! I didn’t even realize that the brand wasn’t Chinese. After doing some digging, here’s what I pieced together about this deceivingly unassuming lozenge tin.

The Fisherman’s Friend brand is headquartered in the port town of Fleetwood in Lancashire, England and manufactures all of its lozenges there. These lozenges are typically packaged in a paper bag, and in fact, prior to receiving this tin as a gift, I’d always assumed that that’s just how they were packaged. Upon receiving the tin, I of course noticed the difference, but I didn’t think too much of it. Research told me, however, that in recent years, the brand has gained a sizable international following, and that it is currently trying to enter the Chinese market, which I am guessing is the cause for the change in packaging. It seems likely to me that the brand had reason to believe that this choice of packaging, admittedly nicer than the standard bags we know in the US, would be more appealing for potential new customers in China. The tin itself was probably manufactured in China, as nearly all objects like it are these days, but all Fisherman’s Friend-brand lozenges are still made in Fleetwood, which means that the tin probably moved about the globe like this: first, it was created in China on October 22, 2014 (a stamp on the tin says so), then it was shipped off to be filled with lozenges in the factory in Fleetwood, and finally, it travelled all the way back to be placed on a store shelf in Hangzhou, where it was eventually purchased by my friend. Already by this point, the tin had traveled thousands of miles and changed hands—I would assume—several times, but it hadn’t reached the end of its voyage. Once in my friend’s possession, it traveled around China for a bit, and then continued its journey eastward to its final destination, New Paltz, NY, where I would receive it as a gift and would enjoy its contents, completely ignorant of the amazing journey it had to make for me to one day open it up and take out a lozenge to soothe my throat.

1894: It was a very good year for topical outlines

For this post I am going to discuss an odd little book that I own—an 1894 US History and Constitution topical outline written by J.K. Harley. I say that it is odd because, well, it isn’t really a book, even though it is technically a book, as it has a cover, back cover, and pages in between: but it is not a book insofar as a book presents information about the aspects of some subject or range of subjects; this one, rather, presents the aspects themselves. The book contains everything that there is to know about the history of the United States and its constitution, but tells the reader nothing about any of these things; and, in my opinion, it is this characteristic which makes the book so interesting. Never before have I encountered a book that is so immensely lacking in immediate discussion, but is, at the same time, so incredibly useful.

Imagine yourself as a poor young adult in America in the year 1900. You intend to become a teacher someday, and thus wish to undertake a full study of US history, but you cannot afford university. You go to the city library, and, after some searching, come face to face with a shelf about eight feet high and fifteen feet wide, filled completely with books about the history of the United States, hundreds and hundreds of them; and behind this shelf are ten more just like it. Where do you start? Intimidated, you pick one off of the shelf, open it, start reading, and the author is rambling about some random subject that literally couldn’t confuse you any more than it does. You have no internet to turn to for guidance, and the librarian may not have the slightest knowledge about US history; perhaps you could find a professor or scholar at a nearby university to point you in the right direction, but this is still an arduous route to take. Enter this topical outline, published in 1894, inside of which is delineated every single relevant term, historical event, important person, etc., that you could possibly need to know about in studying the history of the country and its constitution. This little book, not even 50 pages long, and not containing a single sentence of elaboration or detail, will now become the centerpiece of your study. It tells you exactly which random historical happening you need to look for on that packed shelf, and places it in the context of other events and pieces of information in a highly structured fashion.img_4395

img_4394img_4396img_4397On to the history of this book. I purchased it for a dollar at a massive book sale at our campus library last semester; before it was there, it had been in the possession of the Gardiner Library, as far as I am aware. I am pretty sure that Gardiner may have collected books from various local libraries for this sale. Before Gardiner had it, however, I have no idea, so we will need to jump back in time to find more information. It is likely that this book was owned by a single student (the handwriting is consistent throughout, which leads me to believe it was not owned by any other students). As can be seen in the above pictures, the book is littered with scribblings and notes and dates and such. However, at the beginning of the book, on the first page, is the name of a person, written in ornate script; what looks like the name of a place, perhaps a school; and a date below it—April 3rd, 1907. These names and the date are written differently and in much larger print than any other handwriting in the book, and their position at the front and the style in which they were written leads me to believe that this is the name of the owner, the place or school s/he lived or attended, and a date that, for some reason, was noteworthy to the owner; I will assume that this is correct, otherwise I won’t be able to proceed. So, 1907. A hundred and ten years ago. The owner of this book was to the Civil War as we are to Vietnam. The name is oddly written and a little hard to read, but I think it says “Otta S. Robley:”probably a female name. The place/school seems to read “Mapleton Depot,” but it is hard to make out. However, if my reading is correct, then it is possible that this Otta girl lived in Mapleton, PA, about five hours away.

Anyway, so Otta seems to have owned this book for a while, and given serious attention to it, as her writing is scattered all throughout the book (except, I may add, in the section dealing with the constitution; I guess she wasn’t interested). Now, having established the probable original owner of the book, and knowing the last few stops that it has made on its long journey, I think the most likely scenario is that, after Otta stopped using it, she kept it somewhere in her house – attic or basement along with other old school stuff, maybe – and, eventually, she either decided to clean house and donated the book to the local Mapleton Library, or she might never have done so, dying with the book still tucked away somewhere. Maybe her children or spouse or some other relative donated it after she died when they went through her stuff. As I said, this seems to me the most likely story of this book, but my speculation is by no means whatsoever authoritative. If I am right, however, then it is potentially possible that Mapleton was one of the libraries that contributed to the book sale on campus. I will talk to some of the library faculty and see if I can find out any more information.

The Dutch Gel Pen

(I don’t know why all my blog posts end up being about pens.)

For the longest time, my favorite pen has been the Pilot G2 pen series. And I’m not saying that suddenly its position has been challenged, but there is another pen that’s come startling close. It’s a ridiculously cheap-in-price pen from the Dutch stationary company, HEMA. Unfortunately, on further investigation, it is impossible to get products from this company in the US because they don’t ship here. I received mine in a Christmas present from my friend who lives in the Netherlands, along with a few notebooks and some sticky notes. For the type of person I am, it was the best gift.

I have been using this pen steadily for about two weeks and the logo is almost completely worn from the surface. There are only a few black specks left that hint at there being something there. I can trace the life and homes of this pen very simply and easily. Moving back from my house, the pen then inhabited hers, and further back from there, it resided in a physical shop at _____, picked up in its package and touched by who knows how many people who decided not to buy it. Or perhaps it lay in the back, stored in boxes until it was needed to fill an order. Before it came to the store, it was probably packaged and shipped from the one distribution warehouse I could find online, in Utrecht, Netherlands.

My friend either picked the pen up at a store, or ordered it online. It is interesting to think about this online shopping space as something that isn’t physical but isn’t quite not-physical either. We talked in one class about “the cloud” and the physical storage farms that exist somewhere we can’t see them, and that these farms give us the illusion that the information we store online is intangible, invisible until we call it up. But there is something physical about the spaces we inhabit online. Online shopping is particular is a liminal space like this. Shopping is such a physical sport, except when one is able to do it all online. So maybe my friend bought these online and then had them shipped to her. Maybe she touched them, transferred her fingerprints onto the surfaces, and then packaged them up for me.

Many people touched the pens on their way to my hands. I have been using the black one almost exclusively since I got it and the ink has almost run out. To me, the pen has been a faithful companion while drafting  my Honors thesis, while outlining the many research projects that I have to do for classes, while comparing graduate programs and mapping out my future. To me, the pen has been much more to me than it was to anyone to had touched it before. It was handled by people who wanted to sell it, touched and packaged by my friend to make me feel good, and then it ended up in my hands, helping me craft ideas and plan out my future.

Silver Earrings: Pt. 3

Having bought these earrings first-hand, the lineage of this item is undeniably direct. I bought them from the man who sold them to me, and the man himself was the silversmith who created them. But this story of lineage does not have to be so simple, and I wish that there were ways that I could investigate further into the background of the man who had sold them to me. How long has he (and presumably his family) been working in Taxco, and by extension, is silversmithing a familial trade? This could say a lot about heritage and work in Mexico, for in my experience it is not uncommon for children to follow in the career paths of their parents, especially when it has to do with a craft. My uncle owns a small taqueria in the town where he has lived his entire life, and although my uncle was an entrepreneur and started the restaurant himself, there is no doubt that one of his two sons will eventually take it over when he retires. Therefore, the earrings themselves may not have a lineage to them, but the craft of silver working is most likely one that has been passed down for at least a few generations in the family of the man I bought them from. There could perhaps be a certain way of making these earrings (and the design within them) that is specific to the way this family works with silver. But, unfortunately, I do not know  for sure. All I can say is that the family trade does not go back further than the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution, because silver in Taxco was not so heavily commercialized (and used as a tourist attraction) before then.

Wooden Bolivian Woman

This week I decided to write about something I have always seen in my house but knew little about: my mother’s Bolivian wooden sculpture. The only way to explain this object and its chain of ownership is through telling a brief part of my family history.

Both of my mother’s parents were teachers. After getting their degrees in education at SUNY New Paltz in the mid-1950s, they took on the real world and joined the workforce. My grandfather, William Gumm, eventually wanted to move up in the ranks and become a principal. However, in the 1960s, one could not become a principal without experience, but one also couldn’t get experience without the job. To get out of this catch-22 situation, he applied to work as a principal for schools affiliated with American companies in developing nations. Gulf Oil Company had offices in Bolivia and their own school for the American children of Gulf Oil’s employees: the Santa Cruz Cooperative School. It was this school in Bolivia that my grandfather became a principal of, and my grandmother taught there as well. Their three kids – my mom, my aunt and my uncle – naturally went with them.  They lived there comfortably for three years before heading back to the States, and my grandfather achieved his dream of becoming a principal.

The small wooden statue in the photos above was made especially for my grandfather. On the bottom of the statue, the carving reads, “To Mr. and Mrs. W. Gum, with all our heart Juan S[illegible] and family, SC 24-V-69.” I presume that “SC” stands for Santa Cruz, the city they lived in, and that the date means May 24, 1969. On the bottom left of the base of the statue, there are the initials “WBC,” of which I don’t know the meaning. I truly wish I could discern what Juan’s last name is, but it’s hard to read. Regardless, it was clearly a personal gift. When I asked my grandmother if she remembers who Juan was or how they got this statue, she said she thinks he might have been a gardener (not sure if he was the family gardener for the house or a gardener in the community). She told me that many of the locals there were extremely talented and great craftsmen, which would explain why we have so many wooden statues within the family.

This statue currently sits on our wall unit next to two Bolivian wooden heads (another set of wooden statues my mom inherited). Although these have not yet been passed down to me, they still sit in my house and I consider them half-mine. The Gumm family’s move to Bolivia was significant for so many reasons. It taught the family Spanish, which would be especially important in my mom’s and my uncle’s lives (my mom studied Spanish Literature in college and my uncle married into a Cuban family). Their experience with Bolivia, its culture and the Spanish language also led me to learn Spanish throughout my entire life, and while I am in no way fluent I do consider it my second language.  The experience created this story, connecting a relatively average, middle-class American family to a South American culture. It affected the entire family’s future up until the present. The carvings on the bottom of the statue by the person who made this wooden Bolivian woman shows how much the Santa Cruz community knew and loved my grandparents.

I think this story really relates to Edmund de Waal’s connection with the netsuke. Although he is certainly not Japanese, the netsuke are a huge piece of his family history and had a significant impact on the family’s future. Stories and history are totally related to objects. If my mom never went to Bolivia she may not have learned Spanish and therefore neither would I, and a huge piece of my life history would be missing. My family history is intertwined with this object. Its passage down from my grandparents to my mom to me demonstrate how history can also be passed down the same way. While I’m no descendant of the elite Ephrussi, I’m proud to be connected to the Gumms.


Slightly awkward family photo, 1970s

A Dollar Coin



This is a dollar coin my brother got me a couple years ago. It wasn’t given to me for any particular reason other than that my brother thought I’d like it. He has a tendency to do things like that; give odd but thoughtful gifts at random times.

The coin is round, heavy and made of silver. The front has a engraving of Lady Liberty and around the circle says “E. PLURIBUS. UNUM”, which is latin for out of many, one. This is a motto commonly used by the United States to represent the unity of the states and the federal government.  In between the phrase and the date on the bottom (1894) are thirteen stars to represent the thirteen original colonies. On the back of the coin is an engraved picture of the eagle standing on arrows and an olive branch (America’s “great seal”). Around the circle it says The United States of America, on the top “In God We Trust”, and on the bottom “One Dollar”.

I’m assuming the coin was made at The United States Mint, where coin currency is usually made. I don’t know much about coins or how currently is made in general and in this moment I’m wishing I remembered my 5th grade US History facts.I decided to then Google this specific coinage and year. Supposedly the year 1894 is relatively rare for this particular series of dollar coins, which are referred to as “The Morgan Silver Dollar Series”. Some coins this date are worth up to a couple thousand dollars, depending on where they were made. I was doubtful mine would be one of those since my brother, although a coin collector, does not have that kind of money. As I was reading on, the page discussed the different makes of this year and how to figure out what kind your coin was. On the back, there is a “mint mark” which tells you where the coin was made. In this series no mark represents Philadelphia (The most rare and expensive), “S” for San Francisco, and “O” for New Orleans. Mine contained the mark “O”, which meant this coin was worth about $40. The coin could actually be worth nothing for all I know cause there is a hole punched through it, which is why I use it as a keychain.

Besides the hole and some scratches on the side, the coin is in very good condition; there is practically no worn to the engraving.  It makes me wonder, like I do with most kinds of currency, who has used the coin? What did they buy with it? How many years after its making did it remain in circulation? Can I go out right now and even use this? There is a whole history to this coin that I want to, but never will know. Now, with modern day currency there are stamps and other unique things that are put onto money to allow you to track their whereabouts, but this is still limited to paper money. The only thing I know about it’s connection to people, is my brother. After it’s creation 123 years ago, it somehow landed in a shop and then my brothers hand. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of funny the differences in it’s exchange. Once being tossed away to buy other things and now it’s the thing being bought. Money for money, what a strange concept.

The Next Keeper of the Belt


The last two objects I wrote about were pieces of jewelry that did not have much of a life to track. They both went from the factory, to the store, and then into my hand. This is why I decided to return to one of my original objects—my grandfather’s belt. I brought this belt with me on the first day of class because I have held onto it, and even brought it with me on campus, without being fully aware of the role it played in my life. I hold a strong connection to this belt because it reminds me of my mother and her side of the family, yet I didn’t think the belt had much meaning other than that. When I was younger, my gave me the belt. She told me in Russian that it belonged to her father and not to give it away. So I didn’t, and that was all it really meant to me.

This belt seems to be made out of material that feels plastic. It could be a form of rubber, but I am not so sure. It has a woven design, where different colored strands of brown and beige are braided into each other, resembling the stitch of a basket. It is a rather small belt.

All I know about this belt is that it supposedly belonged to my grandfather. I never met him because he died when my mother was very young. From its length I can assume that he either had a very small waist, or that it was his as a child’s.

My grandfather was born in Odessa, Ukraine (It’s funny to think that De Waal’s netsuke are connected to this location and so is my object.). II tried searching the history of belt production in the Ukraine on Google, but I couldn’t find much of anything. There were a lot of websites selling belts from the Ukraine presently, but this wasn’t what I was looking for. It was time to call in a family member for help.

I called my grandmother, and she remembered the belt almost immediately after I described it. She said that my grandfather already owned the belt when she met him. They way she spoke about it, it seemed like the belt was one of his favorites, or at least something he often wore. She told me it was hand-made, and that he most likely bought it at a flea market. This explained why I couldn’t find anything like it produced from a factory when I looked online. When I asked her about the size, she said my grandfather was very in shape and had a very small stomach, which explains the short length of the belt.

My grandparents settled in Kiev, and after my grandfather died the belt remained in their home. When my grandmother immigrated to America with her mother, my mother, and my aunt, she found the belt as they were settling in. She unpacked it, gave it to my mother, and in Russian, told her that it belonged to her father and not to give it away. Nothing else was spoken in relation to the belt after that, and my grandmother never saw it again. She had nearly forgotten about until I called her, asking about the belt’s history.

In summation, this belt most likely was made in Odessa, traveled to Kiev where my grandparents began their family, sailed to New York City upon my family’s immigration, and then found its way to the suburbs of Atlantic Beach, Long Island, where my mother moved with my father to start their family Now, the belt is sitting in my drawer in a SUNY New Paltz dorm room. I expect it to travel with me whereever else I go, until I pass it down one day to my children. I had no clue my mom told me the very same words my grandmother told her. I feel a deep sense of obligation to keep this chain going. Writing this post and uncovering the secrets woven into the belt has increased its meaning and value to me tenfold.I had no clue it was going to be such an important item in my family—nor did I know how important it already was.

Atrocious Album of Antiquity.

As a closing from Part III of The Hare with the Amber Eyes I would like to introduce another book I own. Its importance lies in the controversy of its existence, as well as my ownership of it. I do not cherish such an item, but I allow it to have a place in the world, as reminder of how mere words, and well-advertised ideation can influence an entire planet. I myself am conflicted with it, which is the very reason this uncomplicated chain of ownership exists. It is very arduous to view it objectively.


As one might set eyes on this object, it is clearly a book. It measures 10-3/8” by 12-3/8”. The cover is a red leather-like material, punched into the material is a swastika surrounded by large leaves and acorns (which is barely visible to the naked eye and very difficult to photograph), a profile of a soldier’s bust embossed with a gold leaf, and lettering in a darker red, which reads, “Deütschland erwacht,” including two stalks of grain. This translates to “Germany Awakened,” the contents are the rise and accomplishments of the NSDAP party, from beginning to the year of publication, which conveys that they are Awake at this time. The binding is a woven beige cloth material showcasing the title in the same dark red lettering as the front cover along with the number eight, or an infinity symbol in a circle of red. There is no indication of the meaning of the “8”. The binding is falling apart, the glue is losing its hold on the pages. There has been no care in preserving this particular book. I have looked through it few times, and it loses a section from the glue on each occasion. The binding has broken in several places and comes apart easily. Despite its regal outer cover, it has fallen apart in several semantic ways. The pages have yellowed and there are quite a few pages in which it looks like there are cigarette burns.

I have looked it up online to find that a well-maintained copy shockingly sells for $174.99, used, on Amazon, as well as collector’s aging websites. Through my research, this piece of putrid propaganda was published in 1933, and this unscrupulous copy is a first edition. The only first edition I do not proudly display, rather, it stays in a musty plastic bag of unknown origin, in a container full of family documents and death certificates, under several other containers, in the back of a walk-in closet. I prefer it to live there, as I do not have a deeper hiding place. It was published by Cigaretten Bilderdienst Altona Bahrenfeld, Berlin. This book is a cooperative distribution by the Altona Cigarette Company and Hitler’s private photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann. The book originally came with just text, completely and elegantly printed in the German language using the font Deutsche Schrift, a favorite of the NSDAP. Initially it had placeholders for the owner to insert photos. As an exchange, one would cut out the proof of purchase from the Altona cigarette packages or cartons and mail them, the photos would have been delivered from the cigarette company by mail, on what I recognize as cheap, thin, easily torn glossy card-stock paper (printed at a high quality, but not actual photos). This allows the owner to create his own personal coffee table book, inserting memories (photos) of the “Werden, Kampf und Sieg der NSDAP,” as the interior subtitling states: The Struggle and Victory of the Nazi party. There were roughly two million printed in the entire run.

In 1958, a young infantryman who specialized in mechanics visited Germany during his tour of duty. This man’s name is Donald, and as the story was told to me, he stole this book from a home, presumably of someone in support (past/present) of the Nazi regime, considering this copy is complete with all photos collected and intact. He smuggled it into his rucksack, and on November 8th, 1958, he mailed it to my great grandmother from Luxemburg. On August 21st, 1959, he died in a motorcycle crash while home on leave, and Eleanor became the owner of a book that would not see the light of day again until her death on August 1st, 1995. It is at that point my grandmother, Cheryl, took possession of all of her mother’s belongings, as well as the lingering effects of her brother Donald. It is at this time, she combs through the book her brother was scolded for mailing when she was a girl of 15. It was viewed in her recollection, twice in its existence (other than to move and place items on top of it). In coming to terms with her fate, she instructed me to consider it her only real possession of her brother’s that had any connection to his year in Germany, and that is why we own it, and to that right, why I will now own it. She understands my mother’s aversion to collecting dusty items she has no connection with and entrusts me with this horrifying printing stating that I am, “never to show or allow anyone to see it.”


Top: Sympathetic Hitler stands concerned at the bedside of a man in a hospital; and bottom: to thank a wounded German veteran for his services. The portrayal of his hard leadership, and soft candor is the story all of the pictures tell, as if to say, “He is just a man.”

I am breaking this oath to provide a grim picture of how our things and the display of them define us. Although it paints a picture of an advantageous young man (my great uncle) with a possible inheritance of kleptomaniacal tendencies, it also speaks to who I am as an owner. My last name is unquestionably German, and with little research I have come to find that my family has been brewing beer in the same building in Bavaria since 1679. I am ashamed in certain ways about this, although one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. I resemble the Gypsy Polacks (who surprisingly found a home in America in the year of this book’s publication), and Presidential Irish of my mother’s heritage (née Filmore), the branch of my family that gave this book a home in New York. If I displayed this in my home like I do my other first editions, one may think differently of me. My former Jamaican spouse would have been in the same conflicting relationship with me, as I am in with this book. Although it reserves my views as a stark contrast, it preserves the power of influence, and what generations of my family have hidden. That we are human, and this fallacious material is a necessity to culture, as it is a history most people would like to avoid repeating.


I chose to include this picture, because of Miller’s homes, and because the creator of this book felt it necessary the average man have a private view of Hitler’s home, allowing the reader to equate his humble daily life to theirs.