A page from this volume.
A page from this volume.

There was some celebrating back in early May, when we completed the cataloging of the 1,397 titles in the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection. Thankfully, no one got Gatorade poured on them, as had been threatened. I thought I would share in this post a little bit of the detective work that the last few titles required, and suggest questions that may be worth further research.

At first glance, a collection of poetry, stories, and art created in 1969 by students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) certainly looked as if it were a one-of-a-kind manuscript. Indeed, a note from the book dealer had called it “a unique collection.” Closer examination revealed that the text was printed (probably by silk-screening), although some of the artwork may have been done by hand before the printing. With no title page on our copy, I searched WorldCat in several different ways before I felt confident that there are at least two other copies of this work in libraries, one at the New Mexico State Library, and one at UC Davis. I suspect no copy has an actual title page, and this can lead to different libraries accidentally cataloging the same work in different ways. The copy at UC Davis was given a title based on the first poem in the book…which can be a valid choice according to cataloging rules, but sometimes is confusing for researchers.

If I were looking for a research project, I might look into the history of the IAIA. When this book was created in 1969, the school was primarily a high school, and has since become a college. Did any of the creators of this volume go on to do other things in the arts? Is there anything in the student newspaper, Drumbeats, that mentions this project? How many copies did they create? Is there some connection between the IAIA or one of the authors to the Beat Generation poet Gary Snyder, who was the former owner of the copy at UC Davis? And our copy contains the inscription “For the Indian Room from M. M. May;” who was May?

The other mystery is about the author of a small pamphlet, self-published in 1948. I can find no other library holdings for “The Hollywood story 7.” As you can see from the pictures below, the author is only identified as “J. Gordon.” Thankfully, our copy is inscribed, so I had additional name information: “Jane Z. Gordon,” who also called herself “Who-shon-no.” The Library of Congress Catalog of Copyright Entries from 1949 provided the middle name “Zane.” Some web searching led me to this short biography on the Wyandotte Nation page, which names her “Jane Zane Wallace Waters Gordon,” and provides a birth date but no death date. I am most intrigued by the statement that “Jane was a bookkeeper, weigh master, stenographer, hair dresser and play write by profession.” The biography does not list any of the plays that she wrote, mostly concentrating on her role as an activist in the 1920s. What name did she write her plays under? Were any ever published? And what’s the story behind “American Indian Unity, Inc.,” the sponsor of the publication? Are there Hollywood stories 1 through 6 out there somewhere?

This is the point where quality and quantity must be balanced. I have identified the author as “Gordon, Jane Zane, 1871-.” From my searches, I have not been able to identify her as publishing any other works under the same or a different name. Should more information come to light, I will pursue the authority work necessary to make cross references between her pseudonyms. But for now, I have far too many other things waiting in my “to do” list.

5 thoughts on “Detective Work in Cataloging

    1. Hi. I was wondering where you found the information regarding Jane Zane Gordon’s death. I am writing a term paper on her and have had a difficult time finding the information.

  1. My mother was given Aunt Jane’s ceremonial dress which was donated to the Wyandotte Nation. I know they were in weekly contact during part of the 1940’s in California. All the papers she had were also given to the Wyandottes. I had an aunt who lived in California until her death in 2004. She had volumes of paperwork, but I don’t know what happened to them. Lynn Miller

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