Heritage Unit News: Objects

From the Special Collections & Institutional Archives: 

IMG_0666Although Reese Library’s Special Collections & Institutional Archives doesn’t collect many objects, one of my favorites is Stephen Vincent Benet’s typewriter. Stephen Vincent Benet (1898-1943) was a poet, novelist, and Pulitzer Prize winner. He was the son of Colonel James Walker Benet, who was the Commander of the Augusta Arsenal from 1911-1919. During that period, Stephen used the typewriter to write some of his early poetry.  

In 1919, Stephen’s father gave the typewriter to Charles A. McCrary, since Stephen was a student at Yale by this time, and James didn’t feel like moving the typewriter when the family left the Arsenal. McCrary would go on to marry Arsenal historian Ruby Mabry McCrary Pfadenhauer, who continued to use the typewriter while her husband was away during WWII.  

Ruby kept a record of the history of this typewriter, which accompanied her donation of the object to Reese Library in the 1970s. This account of how the typewriter changed hands over time, is called “custodial history” in the archival field, and it provides us with context about the items in our collections. Without this custodial history, we might only know the typewriter was an “Underwood Standard Typewriter No. 5,” and might never have known that it once belonged to a Pulitzer Prize winner with ties to the Augusta Arsenal! 

-Kara Flynn, Special Collections Librarian 


From Historical Collections and Archives (HCA): 

The Pharmacy Collection (RG20.02) is an artificial collection in that it’s comprised of pharmaceutical artifacts given to the Historical Collections and Archives over the course of many years. The exact provenance is not known for many of the items. Within this collection is the Eliza Phinizy McGran medicine chest.  

 Home medicine chests were valued necessities in past centuries. The lady of the home administered common health care to the family and physicians were seen when illnesses were extreme. Pharmacists supplied the medicines, some by prescription, there were kept in the home medicine chests.  

 Elizabeth “Eliza” Phinizy McGran was one of five children born to Ferdinand and Margaret Phinizy. Her father immigrated to America from Italy and eventually settled in Georgia and became a prosperous merchant. Eliza first married Thomas Bones in 1818 and had one daughter by him until his death in 1822. She married Thomas McGran in 1824. At some point the McGrans moved to Mobile, Alabama and had two daughters. Thomas died in 1858. According to the 1860 US Census, Eliza and her daughters were back living in Augusta with her brother and his family. Eliza died in 1884 and is buried in the Magnolia Cemetery. 

 Eliza’s mahogany medicine chest has fitted partitions for glass bottles and pull-out drawer at the bottom for pills and powders. The lid has a brass plate engraved “McGran 1845”. The chest contains bottles with labels from Augusta and Mobile druggists. The bottles and pill containers contained common remedies: sugar lead poison, blister plaster, powdered liquorice, sulphate zinc, tartar acid, quinine, syrup of squill, and much more.  

 The McGran chest and the rest of the Pharmacy Collection is on display in the Historical Collections and Archives room. For more information about the collection, please see the finding aid 

- Renée A. Sharrock, Curator  

About the Heritage Unit: The University Libraries has a department devoted to the   preservation and archival keeping of the campus’ unique histories. The Historical   Collections & Archives (HCA) is located on the 2nd floor of the Greenblatt Library on the   Health Sciences campus. Special Collections & Institutional Archives  is located on the 3rd floor of the Reese Library on the Summerville campus.