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While many people are enjoying latkes or sufganiyot tonight as part of their celebration of Hanukkah, here’s a short but sweet recipe for another fried treat that combines some of the best of both.

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From Cambridge Tribune, July 9, 1921, issue, available through the Cambridge Room’s Historic Cambridge Newspapers collection

While not every recipe from this issue is likely to be a hit (cheese jelly salad, anyone?), potato doughnuts have achieved a culinary rebirth in recent years and I can attest that they are scrumptious.

I love a reference challenge, but it’s also gratifying to get a question and be able to give the asker the answer almost immediately. Though when we archivists do this it may seem like magic, most of the time it’s just knowing where to look and to what resources to point people. My time in the Cambridge Room is helping me immensely when it comes to performing this parlor trick with Cambridge-related queries.

For example, do you ever walk down a street in Cambridge and wonder for what or for whom it was named? The Cambridge Historical Commission has you covered with their comprehensive list of the origins of Cambridge Street Names. If your wonderings/wanderings take you further and you want to know about a particular address, the myCambridge database about which Alyssa told you in an earlier post and the database of Cambridge Buildings and Architects maintained through Harvard are great resources for delving a bit more deeply into the history of Cambridge addresses from the comfort of your computer or mobile device. And if you’re of an analytical bent, there’s a fun set of maps over on Bostonography based on the latter that provide a visualization of the types of Cambridge street names and where they are in the city.

 streetsnearCPLStreets near the future site of the Main Library of the Cambridge Public Library, from the Atlas of the City of Cambridge, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts, by G.M. Hopkins, 1873

So you’ve found the namesake for your street – where next? If you’re really lucky, your street is named after someone well-known enough to have his or her own Wikipedia page, or has a sufficiently unusual name to be easily Google-able. Though you’ll have to vet the results for yourself, the resources you uncover are a great place to start and can lead you down many fascinating paths. You may also want to check WorldCat, to see what relevant material has been cataloged at libraries around the world, and ArchiveGrid, for material in archival repositories. If your person is a pre-20th century Cambridge celebrity, the Proceedings of the Cambridge Historical Society, which the Society has put online, can be really helpful; check the index for references in papers published between 1905 and 1979.

And if you’re stumped, how about contacting your friendly local archivist and giving her or him a shot at it? Like I said, we love a challenge.

It’s always very satisfying when people contact us to donate items that fill in gaps in our collections or enrich already rich materials. After our post about Salvatore Valente a few weeks ago, our friends at the City of Cambridge’s Veterans’ Services Department brought us two items previously in their offices that are especially appropriate for the Cambridge Room. One was a replacement Purple Heart for Salvatore Valente, which we’ve added to our small Valente collection. The other was a wooden plaque that clearly belongs with our wonderful World War I memorial plaques collection, recently digitized and available through Digital Commonwealth.

Plaque honoring William J. White, who died in 1918 during his service in World War I.
William J. White from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918.

William J. White’s plaque will join its comrades online eventually, but for now you can read more about him in this account of his memorial service from the Cambridge Tribune, June 22, 1918.

Not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Thanksgiving, but this certainly is a creative and amusing attempt to get in on the spending frenzy that often accompanies the holiday.

Advertisement for heavy underwear from the Cambridge Chronicle, 22 November 1902

From Cambridge Chronicle, November 22, 1902, issue, available through the Cambridge Room’s Historic Cambridge Newspapers collection

While some of what we have here in the Cambridge Room relates to the more distant past, we also collect contemporary archival materials to support out mission to document the many facets of the culture and history of Cambridge. I’ve been processing a number of the more recent additions to the collection, and it’s been enlightening to learn more about what was happening in Cambridge during periods that I lived through and remember well in other contexts.

One of these collections is the Sheli Wortis papers. Now retired, Wortis had a long career as an early childhood educator and educational administrator with the Cambridge Public Schools. She was particularly involved in ensuring that diverse viewpoints were incorporated into the Schools’ curricula and programs through her work with the Multicultural Coordinating Committee and Early Childhood Connections. She has also been active in many local causes and groups, and her papers are a rich source of information on some of the progressive organizations that have flourished in Cambridge from the 1970s to the present.

One of these was the Working Committee for the Cambridge Rainbow, later known as Cambridge Rainbow. It began in late 1988 as a series of informal meetings – originally just called “the Saturday group on Cambridge politics” – among friends discussing concerns they had about the political and cultural direction of the city. It soon grew into a strong progressive political action committee that was a force in Cambridge politics for a number of years. The Rainbow’s concerns included affordable housing, racial justice, and human rights and it backed a number of candidates who gained election to the Cambridge City Council or School Committee from the late 1980s through the 1990s. Several of their candidates were elected mayor of Cambridge, and one, E. Denise Simmons, is still on the City Council today. You may recognize a number of the names from the 1989 slate on this flyer advertising a benefit dance party held at the Cambridge Community Center, including former mayors Alice Wolf and Kenneth Reeves, and former mayor and current City Councilor E. Denise Simmons.

Flyer for 1989 Dance Party to benefit the Working Committee for the Cambridge Rainbow

Flyer advertising an October 1989 dance party at the Cambridge Community Center to benefit the Working Committee for the Cambridge Rainbow and its slate of City Council candidates

We have one more Cambridge veteran represented by a small collection here in the Cambridge Room to tell you about before Veterans Day. Vernon Grant was born in Cambridge on February 14, 1935. His family lived for many years at 131 Putnam Avenue in Cambridgeport. He graduated from Rindge Technical School in 1952. He studied art at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston for one year before joining the U.S. Army. He served in the Army from 1958 to 1968, including two tours in Vietnam.

Grant did a great deal of illustration work for newspapers and the military publication Stars and Stripes, in addition to self-published work. Stationed in Japan for part of his military career, it was there that he was exposed to and developed a great appreciation for Japanese comics. After he was discharged from the Army he returned to Japan and studied at Sophia University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Betsy. He and Betsy moved back to Cambridge in 1973, where he authored and illustrated a number of graphic novels, including a series that forms a small collection in the Cambridge Room. This series is titled The Love Rangers, and the Cambridge Room has copies of four of the seven issues, including “The Plowshare Conspiracy” and “Behold…A Robot!” Grant died in Cambridge in 2006.

cover of The Love Rangers, vol. 1, no. 1

In a 2013 article about an exhibit focused on Grant that took place at the Kilbourn Public Library in Wisconsin, Betsy Grant said that The Love Rangers demonstrates the extent to which Grant was influenced by Japanese art styles and themes, such as manga. While this type of influence is common in American comics and cartooning today, Grant was considerably ahead of his time when he first began working. She also asserted that the head of the Love Rangers squad, Lt. Teebee, bears a close resemblance to Vernon Grant. (Betsy Grant maintains a site devoted to her late husband’s art, if you’re interested in learning and seeing more.)

A page from The Love Rangers, vol. 1, no. 3, "Behold...A Robot!"

While this is a wonderful little collection on its own, reading through the issues one finds a surprising demonstration of the value of the services we provide here in the Cambridge Room, when in number 3, “Behold…A Robot!” one of the characters discovers the power of family history and historical records. Given a journal the titular robot created from a bonsai tree that records her family’s experiences, low-ranking team member Noriko learns for the first time about her past, after which, according to the text, “Knowledge, Revelation, Curtains of the Past Are Opened! The Mysterious Mind Blocks Are Swept Aside. Feelings and Emotions, Long Suppressed, Erupt!” She is never the same again and ready to take on a more heroic role in the narrative. While not everyone’s experience in the Cambridge Room will be this dramatic, we are happy to help people connect to their past and know that it can cast one’s present experiences in a very different light.

As Veterans Day approaches, I wanted to call attention to a particularly appropriate collection here in the Cambridge Room – a small collection of papers and personal effects related to Salvatore Valente, a Cambridge resident who served in the United States Army and died in World War II. He is also the namesake of the Valente Branch of the Cambridge Public Library.

Valente007

Photograph of Salvatore Valente in uniform

Photograph of Private Salvatore Valente in uniform and a postcard he sent to his mother in June 1944 from basic training in Fort McClellan, Alabama

Salvatore Valente was born on March 11, 1926, in Cambridge, to Alessandro and Ines Valente, who had emigrated from Italy. He had 10 brothers and sisters and his family lived at 14 Marion Street in East Cambridge. He graduated from Wellington Grammar School in 1942 and attended Rindge Technical School for his secondary education. He left Rindge Tech in 1944 to join the United States Army and was sent to Germany in early 1945. He was killed in action in Germany on March 12, 1945, less than two months before V-E Day. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

In January 1961 the City of Cambridge adopted a motion put forward by Italian-American Councillor Alfred Vellucci to name the new branch of the Cambridge Public Library at the Charles Harrington School in honor of Valente and his family’s sacrifice. Named the “Salvatore Francis Valente Memorial Library,” the Branch is located only a few blocks from Valente’s childhood home. The Valente Branch celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011.

The Cambridge Room collection on Salvatore Valente includes a small number of items related to Valente and his connection to the branch of the Cambridge Public Library named in his honor. The collection includes his birth certificate, his Wellington Grammar School diploma, a postcard he sent to his mother from basic training in Fort McClellan, Alabama, a telegram from the Army’s Adjutant General informing his mother of his death, condolence letters and memorials sent to Valente’s family from various public officials, and two photographs. Items related to the Valente Branch Library include a copy of the City Council resolution naming the public library branch for Valente, invitations to anniversary events, and two newspaper clippings.

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