Bureaucracy: Remembering


It is perhaps in remembering that the love story of bureaucracy is most powerful. Whether lists of the war dead or travel guides that allow one to keep mementos of travel, bureaucratic forms stabilize the past, thus allowing it to be recalled. Forms of remembering fix information about the past on the page or in the archive, thus ensuring that the past will take material form. In this way, bureaucracy renders the past accessible and ensures the significance of individual moments and memories for the future.

Brewer Family Papers

The Brewer Family papers were collected by Melvin E. Brewer, a native of Dallas, Texas. The collection includes family journals, letters (including love letters, remembrances, and personal anecdotes), newspaper clippings, church pamphlets, a Hawaiian-themed Christmas dinner menu from 1938, poetry, addresses and birthdays of family members, files on individual family members, and family group records. The oldest document in the collection is a 1908 marriage certificate, but some of the files on individual family members cover the collection’s most recent content from 2005. Material in the collection is not limited to content related to the Brewer family, for genealogical research relevant to the Morrow and Waggoner families and their relatives is also included. Handwritten records of family members’ personal information (name, date of birth, place of birth, marriage date, and phone number) are included alongside lists of birthdates, obituaries, and newspaper clippings.

The earliest document in the collection is the 1908 certificate of matrimony for T.J. Morrow and Flossie E. Willingham. The marriage certificate is a folio that includes the details of Flossie and Willingham Brewer’s marriage on its first page and family genealogical details on the remaining three pages. The certificate records the family’s lineage – names of family members are recorded along with their date of birth, whom they married, their date of death, their cause of death, and the location of their vault, monument, or headstone. The certificate is thus a blend of personal information and administrative record-keeping; it exemplifies the ways in which people, individually and collectively, legitimize their existence and experiences by recording significant events, including births, marriages, and deaths. The marriage certificate and family history, as well as the Brewer papers more broadly, show how one family worked to situate itself in local history and how they sought to ensure that important events in family history would be remembered.

Melvin E. Brewer was born in Dallas, where he also obtained a BBA degree in Accounting from Southern Methodist University, served as a church deacon and as both a member and director of the Dallas Genealogical Society and the Denton County Genealogical Society. He was also a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the U.S. Navy Seabees, and a founder of the Christian children’s camp, Sky Ranch. Before his passing on April 6, 2014, he published three books focused on his genealogical research and civic activity (Brewer). The Brewer Family papers collection was donated to University of North Texas Special Collections by Melvin Brewer’s granddaughter, Maribeth Brewer Koch. The collection allows an investigation into forms of bureaucracy in that it blends personal elements within the context of administrative record-keeping. In this way, the collection shows how individuals and bureaucracy coexist and complement each other.

Find Brewer Family Papers in UNT Special Collections’ Finding Aids.

World War I Casualty Lists

The Casualty Lists contain the names of American soldiers killed in action, wounded, missing, imprisoned, and deceased (from disease, wounds, or accident) during World War I. They also include information about the soldier’s next of kin and emergency address. The Lists were circulated by the War Department to all U.S. newspapers through several press associations. Editors were instructed to print the lists only after the release date determined by the government and included on each casualty list. For families seeking news of their relatives, the Casualty Lists stood as the first object in which their loved ones were remembered, an object soon joined by flags, gravestones, and photographs. The Lists illustrate how the bureaucracy of the U.S. government sought to ensure that information about war casualties was circulated but also to control the timing and nature of that circulation. The War Department created a mechanism for remembering the wounded, missing, and deceased soldiers, and it used the mass media form of the newspaper to memorialize their names in print.

Find Casualty Lists in UNT Special Collections’ Finding Aids.

Negro Year Book: An Annual Encyclopedia of the Negro

The first edition of the Negro Year Book appeared in 1912. It was published by Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) and funded by Booker T. Washington, the first principal of Tuskegee. The Year Book was part of a larger project dedicated to “collecting and circulating information favorable to the Negro” (Guzman). For example, editor Monroe N. Work (1866-1945) also compiled a “Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and in America” and began to collect data about lynchings while working at Tuskegee. When it met with an initially favorable reception, the Negro Year Book, while originally intended as a one-time publication, saw numerous sequels due to “a wide and continued demand” (Guzman).

The 1919 volume not only enlarges and improves in the preceding editions but also includes important events for the years 1917 and 1918. The book can be divided into three main sections. The first 138 pages are textual accounts of important events that transpired in the year prior to the book’s publication, with related events grouped under several categories, such as “Economic,” “Racial Cooperation,” “Religious,” “Education,” “The War,” etc. (Work iv). The following fifty or so pages chronicle historical events crucial to African Americans, such as the slave trade in Africa, American slavery, slave insurrections, and the abolitionist movement in the United States. The final portion of the book, spanning more than two hundred pages, charts the achievements African Americans made in various areas from the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment from 1866 to the year of the book’s publication. Supported with statistical data, this section discusses population growth, literacy rates, household incomes, and acreages owned by African Americans. The section also lists contemporary notable African Americans who excelled in areas of politics, religion, art, and business. Overall, with regard to its comprehensive inclusion of historical facts and statistical data, the Negro Year Book can be seen as one of the earliest scholarly endeavors by and for African Americans to systematically collect, compile and distribute information.

The mastermind behind the Negro Year Book, Monroe N. Work, served as its editor until his retirement. Work was a sociologist and the founder of the Department of Records and Research at the Tuskegee Institute, and he played a decisive role in the compilation, organization and presentation of information in the Year Book. The personal ties Monroe maintained throughout his career with figures like W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Richard Wright suggest that Work can be seen as belonging to the group of intellectuals who were often identified with the so-called racial uplift ideology; the Negro Year Book can be seen as a product reflecting that same ideology. According to racial uplift, racial redemption is achieved through socio-economic upward mobility. As Kevin Gaines points out, “Racial uplift ideals were offered as a form of cultural politics, in the hope that unsympathetic whites would relent and recognize the humanity of middleclass African Americans, and their potential for the citizenship rights black men had possessed during Reconstruction” (3).

Concerned with the widespread predicament of African Americans of his time, a time generally called “the nadir of black existence in the United States” (McMurry 333), Work launched a massive endeavor to gather information pertaining to African Americans “from more than 130 newspapers and periodicals, as well as books, governmental reports, reports of special boards and commissions, questionnaires and correspondence […] classified and filed by subjects” (339). Work was convinced that only historical and statistical facts could counter the racial myths detrimental to the well being of his people. As he himself once said, “You can’t argue with the facts” (qtd. in McMurry 334). More recently, sociologists have drawn on Work’s statistics about lynching to compile a database that would contain all known information about lynchings (Cook). Thus, the facts Work compiled to ensure that African American achievements and challenges would be remembered and recognized still facilitate projects of recollection.

The Negro Year Book, with its insistence on illustrating the progress African Americans made in areas especially valued by bourgeois society (education, wealth, entrepreneurship), can be seen as an attempt to gain the white majority’s recognition that African Americans are no less than whites capable of succeeding in a white-dominated, bourgeois society. Yet because African Americans’ own gathering and organizing of data about themselves created the Year Book, the book also demonstrates a desire and capacity for self-governance. It suggests that African Americans are able and willing to compile information by and for themselves in a way that is as systematic as compilations made by the white-dominated bureaucracy. Even as it makes possible the remembering of African American achievements, the acts of compiling, organizing, and displaying data in the Negro Year Book are gestures that assume a quasi-authoritative power, but one that remains outside—and in some ways resists—the authority of the state.

Find Negro Year Book in the UNT Libraries Catalog.

A Handbook for Travellers in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden

John Murray III’s (1808–1892) A Handbook for Travellers in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is the third edition of a volume in his popular series of red travel guidebooks, which were published throughout the nineteenth century. Although Murray’s handbooks were first published in England, they quickly began to circulate beyond the British Isles and eventually sold between 500,000 and 700,000 copies per European country throughout the nineteenth century. Generally, these guidebooks were designed for a middle-class audience, who began to travel beyond the British Isles at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The books aimed to offer a thorough yet user-friendly source of information that would allow travelers to make their way independently through entire countries and continents (Damien 19).

The particular success of Murray’s handbooks represented a cultural shift in the way that travel-guides were constructed. In the early nineteenth century, travel-guides were generally much less extensive in their scope than the vast array of information Murray’s Handbook offered. Indeed, Murray aimed for an encyclopedia-like completeness and accordingly provided advice about details such as modes of travel, money, passports, whether to take a servant, and where not to take a lady, in addition to historical notes and “Skeleton Tours,” or suggested routes. By contrast, earlier travel-guides covered only the areas personally traveled by their author. Murray’s series provided a vast array of information that he revised over time by adding new information from many different sources (François 72). He collaborated with travelers to collect data about various countries, and, like many publishers of travel guides, he also appropriated information (such as maps and sites of interest) found in other lesser-known travel guides. In this way, the guidebooks made the memories of previous travelers the foundation of anticipated memories for readers. Moreover, the appropriation of information from other guidebooks ultimately served to undercut competitors. For example, Johann J. Lehnhardt successfully published a series of maps designed to accompany Murray’s guides until “Murray quickly improved the quality of the maps in his travel guides, cutting out the market for Lehnhardt’s” (François 83). These maps are folded within and attached to the handbook on display, representing each area of travel in precise detail.

The success of Murray’s handbooks is also due to the well-known status of the “Murray brand,” which was developed by his grandfather John Murray I (1745–1793) and father, John Murray II (1778 – 27 June 1843), who published books by Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and Washington Irving. John Murray III’s position in the publishing industry allowed him to promote his handbooks and to readily recognize successful trends in publishing. For example, the red cover of the handbook on display (now partially faded) was a consistent feature among all of Murray’s various handbooks, making them a “uniform series” (François 83). This practice made Murray’s handbooks instantly recognizable, thereby aiding in the series’ popularity. The constant references to Murray’s travel-guide as “the red handbook” demonstrates the importance of this uniformity (Damien 24). Murray also recognized that many other travel-guides were critiqued for the partiality of their descriptions of cultural practices and art forms. In response, Murray attempted to appeal to a larger reading base by neutralizing the tone of his work and by an “abundant use of quotations” so that the editor seemed to remain “above all parties” (22). Despite these attempts, John Ruskin (one of Murray’s primary competitors) claimed that Murray’s handbooks were written through the “interpretive framework” of “modern English eyes” (24). Another important publishing tactic lies in the extensive and systematic nature of Murray’s tables of contents. These tables mapped out a vast array of information so that readers could plan their travels according to their own time-frames, budgets, and interests, whereas other earlier handbooks focused solely on the more narrow interests of the writer (François 77). In this way, Murray’s books offered a “complete system of guidance” for the traveler (Damien 19).

Despite the enormous success of Murray’s handbooks, many readers criticized the touristic practices they seemed to inspire. Critics claimed that the handbooks placed the tourist in a mediated position that created distance between the tourist and the region of travel. Charles Dickens, for example, often expressed this belief in his own travel handbooks, which showed that he was “more irritated than ever by the stipulated standards of taste, often almost institutionalized by the guidebook tradition” (McNees 220). This complaint, commonly aimed toward Murray’s handbooks, contributed to the Victorian tourist/traveler dichotomy. A tourist was commonly thought of as someone who only followed routes predetermined or elucidated in detail by a handbook, whereas the traveler purposely avoided the beaten track for a less mediated experience (McNees 211).

Readers of the Handbook personalized their texts, marking them with the memories of specific trips, as shown in various marginalia and writing found in this edition of the Handbook. For instance, a red line traces a path on the map of Central Norway, presumably tracking a reader’s own travels throughout the country. In addition, the owner collected and pressed plants in the book’s pages, as shown by the outlines of those plants on many pages. Although the nineteenth-century ownership of the text is unknown, the plants may have served as material objects representing the tourist’s experience of different countries and regions. Thus, the Handbook served not only as a guide for travel but also as an interactive text, a repository for objects collected on those travels, and thus as an object of remembering. The book’s content offered advice for how to make memories, while its material properties—its hundreds of pages and strong binding—offered a method with which to preserve those memories, in the form of materials collected on those travels.

Find A Handbook for Travellers in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in the UNT Libraries Catalog.

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