Of Note is an occasional series in which we share items that have caught our eye. This guest post is by Manuscript Division reference librarian Loretta Deaver.
Days before Library staff would be sent home to quarantine due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus in March 2020, I received a reference question that would send me digging through the Cornelia Bryce Pinchot Papers to locate any information related to a trip she took to Iran in summer 1949. Items in the collection are minimally described and there are no specific references to Iran in the finding aid, but I searched several boxes and struck gold. In box II:47, an oversize item was tucked between drafts of entertaining accounts of Pinchot’s trip around Iran. I unfolded it and was surprised to see an enormous and colorful poster with striking images warning against an infectious disease.
With little reading knowledge of other languages, I asked for the help of a colleague in the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division, who graciously agreed to translate the Persian captions on the poster. The top four panels warn against how trachoma, a dangerous and infectious eye disease, may be spread, and the bottom four panels suggest ways the disease may be avoided, such as using bug nets and keeping the infected isolated. Hearing more about the information on the poster resonated strongly, as we were just learning about the spread of coronavirus and being reminded again and again to wash our hands.
Cornelia Bryce Pinchot (1881-1960) was an activist, politician, and conservationist who was closely involved in women’s suffrage, the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, anti-child labor efforts, and other social welfare issues. In fact, according to Pinchot’s September 10, 1960, obituary in the Evening Star, she not only visited a 1933 picket line protesting unfair wages and child labor, but joined the demonstration herself with a child on each arm. Pinchot traveled frequently and with strong interest in public health; she was likely impacted by the trachoma poster and decided to bring it home.
In addition to Pinchot’s papers, the Manuscript Division holds the records of organizations in which she was involved, such as those of the League of Women Voters and National Women’s Trade Union League, and the papers of her husband, chief and founder of the U.S. Forest Service and Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot.
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