Monday, July 8, 2013

Unexpected portraits, and a free topic!


My other blog, Bookcharmer, often relates my wanderings through databases, explaining how I found information on a topic. But this recent bibliographic journey had an unexpected art history result, which is why I am posting it here. Bonus: if you read to the end, you'll get a free topic to explore!

Today's topic: I was sniffing out a possible writing opportunity for a reference source, and as wise writers know, if you have the chance to see how much is available on a topic before you volunteer to write on it, you take that chance. So I did a little leisurely datascraping on one Lindley M. Garrison, who served as the Secretary of War under Wilson during World War I. My usual place to begin, the Classic Catalog, didn't gin up a thing, either in a subject or keyword search. What next? Link+ of course, which did gin up a very interesting title:

Secretaries of war and secretaries of the army: portraits and biographical sketches / by William Gardner Bell. Washington, D.C. : Center of Military History, United States Army, 2003.

A ha! But wait, when I check the holdings to see which Link+ library has the title, SJSU shows up? Hmm, why didn't it show up in my catalog search?

If you want to puzzle it out, compare these two bibliographic records, I'll wait:

You saw it, right? The table of contents note on the Link+ record? This is that iffy space between books catalogued with that info and books catalogued without it. This is an area in which I am unschooled on so I won't speechify on it but to say that sometimes I like TOC notes, if the chapter titles are indeed specific and useful, and sometimes I do not, as when the chapter titles are vague. In this case, I like it.

So, let's go back to the classic catalog ( and do a title swearch for Secretaries of war and secretaries of the army, because I noticed in Link+ that there were several editions.

The 2010 edition is online! Here's the link:

Yes, off we go to the online version hosted by the Government Printing Office! If you want that URL it is: but the link in the catalog record will take you there as well.

Yes, it's the whole book! Take a browse...yes, did you see one yet? A nice full color image of a portrait? And below that, the artist information? At this point, I am having that "hey wait, I wasn't expecting THIS" moment that is what I love about research. As I was scrolling to find the entry on Garrison, I am distracted by noticing that one name keeps popping up: Daniel Huntington.

Interestingly, the info on Huntington isn't simply repeated, the author provided additional information about the painter to contextualize particular portraits. This is the one that caught my attention:

"Daniel Huntington (1816–1906) was a student at Hamilton College in Utica, New
York, while Lewis Cass was Secretary of War. He had advanced in his profession to
become president of the prestigious National Academy of Design by the time Cass
died in 1866 and painted the former secretary’s portrait seven years later. Huntington
produced some 1,200 works during his artistic career, about 1,000 of them portraits.
Fifteen of his portraits were of primary (nominated and confirmed) Secretaries of War."

One thousand portraits??? So where is the secondary literature on Huntington? Is this a topic ripe for art historical pursuit? Read the entry on him in Oxford Art Online, see WorldCAT to find out if there is a biography of him, and especially enjoy this digital document provided by Columbia University: A Catalog of Paintings by Daniel Huntington from an exhibit in 1849. This is a wonderful document, giving the owner of each of the paintings and often little notes about where it was painted.

I wonder, where are all those paintings now? And who is going to write a biography on Daniel Huntington, or undertake a catalogue raisonne?

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