Ted Carlson Papers – Scope and Content Note & Container List

OK, the next element of the Ted Carlson Papers finding aid is the Scope and Content Note and the Container List. This is a little unique, because I have been working on digital scans of the original artifacts. Note that I’ll also be working to refine the earlier elements of the finding aid, to make this as effective as possible. Watch for more info on that…

Scope & Content Note

The Ted Carlson Papers, dated 1943-1949, contains personal letters, records of Carlson’s higher education and early professional career, and official documents related to his military service. Correspondence to and from Ted Carlson comprise a majority of the material. The letters depict the life of a university student, professional and serviceman during this period. Official military records portray the experiences of a chemist and member of the Manhattan Project.

Container List

Series I: Correspondence with Family (1944-1949) – This series includes letters received from and addressed to Ted Carlson’s parents. The letters contain personal reflections, details from each of their lives, and information about Ted’s educational and professional experiences. In addition, Ted shares his experiences in the Manhattan project along with how those experiences shaped his personal and political views.

Series II:  Correspondence with Friends and Colleagues (1943-1945) – In the correspondence with friends and colleagues series are letters exchanged with Rog, Bob, Sam and Arvid. These letters details the movements of the individuals, and their daily experiences. These individuals were introduced in either educational settings or through the military service.

Series III: Education and Career (1944-1946) – This series contains correspondence with administrators at Wesleyan University and Iowa State University, regarding admission and graduation. There is a professional newsletter that includes writing about Ted Carlson’s political activity. Additionally, there is a variety of pragmatic documents, including an ID card from Iowa State University, a timecard from Iowa State University, and an employee inter-plant pass.

Series IV: Military Service (1944-1946)- This series contains a variety of official documents related to Ted Carlson’s military service. Included in this series are official orders, various service-member passes, verification of services, and correspondence requesting clarification of policies or discharge.


Ted Carlson Papers – Abstract and Description

This is the first post in a series focused on a new project! The Ted Carlson Papers are a collection of documents that I will be exploring as part of the Archives and Manuscript course!


For this first step, I was given a set of 71 PDFs, and asked to pull together an abstract and description, which will eventually be incorporated into the EAD (encoded archival description).

The trick… I was not allowed to do any outside searching. The abstract and description that are included below came only from my scouring the 71 documents! I have to admit that as I was looking through the collection, I was very curious about the whole story. I felt like I had only part of the story… and I definitely wanted to know more!


The collection is comprised primarily of personal letters to and from Eric T. Carlson (a.k.a. Ted Carlson), a chemist who worked on atomic energy during World War II. During the time covered by the collection (February, 1943 – December, 1949), Carlson was affiliated with Wesleyan University, Iowa State University, Cornell University, the Manhattan District and Monsanto Chemical Company.


In 1943, Eric T. [Ted] Carlson was planning his future. He had applied to medical school and was completing his studies in Chemistry at Wesleyan University. The Ted Carlson Papers highlight the struggle of an academic, who tried to obtain a deferment from military service. Just one month after his graduation from Wesleyan University, Ted was ordered to report for service. He successfully avoided joining the army until July, 1944 when he received an order to report for induction in Aimes, Iowa. Ted had been working as a graduate student at Iowa State University.

During Ted’s time in the Army, he continued to correspond with his parents and friends. The letters provide insights into life as a researcher in the military. Ted shares his political insights, his experiences with friends in social situations, and he talks of his stamp collection, among other topics.

Ted’s skills as a chemist were deployed in the “Manhattan District.” Readers are given a glimpse into a scientists view of the atomic bomb research. He believes the atomic research should be a deterrent for war, and hopes the bomb will cause humanity to walk away from war for good.


Archives are the Future

The appointment was officially set – I was very excited! I had been to Sherman Gardens many times, and I had even seen the library sign. I was intrigued by the library, but I never seemed to be in the neighborhood when the libraries were open. That’s a mistake I hope to mitigate in the future!

At the appointed time, I rang the doorbell at the entrance, and sneaked a peak through the open window in the top of the door. To my surprise, I could see a beautiful courtyard, surrounded by offices and what appeared to be the library stacks. When the door opened (actually, when the two doors opened), I was greeted by a welcoming woman who acknowledged my appointment and invited us in. The interior of the building is no less beautiful. My eyes were immediately drawn to the old banker-style desks, which were ironically equipped with modern computers. I spotted a set of wooden library catalogs, tables and chairs poised to accommodate readers and researchers. In the midst of this, I saw exhibit cases filled with historical artifacts that were carefully preserved and selected for display.

The library was built effectively around the courtyard. This architecture allowed natural light in (although not directly on the collections), which made the library feel very welcoming. The configuration of the building allowed for a reading room, staff offices, collections, and a conference room. The next step in the tour was an introduction to the life and legacy of Moses Hazelton Sherman (the library’s namesake, 1853 – 1932), Arnold Haskell (the library founder, 1895-1977), and the Sherman family. The amazing story spans education, banking, real estate, mining, water rights, railroads, militia, and much more. Sherman’s professional adventures took him and his family to Vermont, New York, Arizona, Nevada, California and Hawaii. The coincidences of history placed “General Sherman” in the midst of the Los Angeles Water Wars, Hollywoodland sign, LA Pacific Railroad, San Francisco earthquake, and Sherman Oaks.

The archival collections are vast. They include artifacts related to the life and work of General Shermann, Arnold Haskell, and Otto Freeman Brandt (Bernal, 2016). This is only the beginning of the archive, which covers the history of the Pacific Southwest (Sherman Library Collections and Guide). The archives are open to the public. The audience is primarily historians and individuals interested in the history of General Sherman, Arnold Haskell, Otto Freeman Brandt, or the local area. It is clear that the library provides programming for younger children as well, as witnessed by the gnome garden and children’s reading area.

The library and archives are a stand-alone organization related to the Friends of the Sherman Library and Gardens. Arnold Haskell and General Sherman’s two daughters created the foundation after General Sherman passed away. Originally called a cultural center, the Sherman Library was opened in 1966. This impressive library currently is staffed by three individuals – a director, librarian, and one additional staff member. In addition, volunteers support both the gardens and archives.

A vast majority of the collection was originally acquired through the work of Arnold Haskell. As the secretary for General Sherman, Haskell had access to all professional records and the extensive collection of print publications and artifacts. More recent acquisitions tend to be from collections of individuals who were affected by the life and work of General Sherman or Haskell. This introduces a bit of complexity in the preservation process. In some cases, the new records are exact copies. In some cases, a single transaction was recorded by an individual, and separately by an organization (i.e. for tax purposes). These records are not exact copies, but they do reflect the same information.

As the Guide to the Newport Beach Historical Collections in the Sherman Library indicates, there are a number of additional collections housed within the archive. There are historical maps, photographs, paintings, printed publications, personal papers, and a limited number of additional artifacts (i.e. clothing, silver pitchers, figurines, and more). Sherman Library staff also acquired a collection of historic photographs when the Newport Nautical Museum shuttered its doors. These photographs not only provided historical context, but they enhanced the impressive collection of art.

One of the most intriguing items I saw was a book of letters and correspondence curated by the author. To truly understand the value of this item, you must understand the process. An individual would purchase one of these books empty. They would then prepare the original document that is typed or written with water-soluble ink. When ready, they would take the empty book, moisten the back side of a page, place the document behind the moistened page, and press the book page onto the original document. An impression of the original document would then be added to the book. This becomes a mechanism for the original author to curate a collection of documents for long term archiving.

Like many archives, the Sherman Library faces resource challenges, both in terms of funding and staffing. The backlog of material that needs to be processed is significant. The unprocessed materials are carefully stored, but they must be carefully preserved and researched to ensure accurate metadata. The processing area is contained in the climate-controlled basement. As you walk down the stairs, you see beautiful pieces of framed, historic art.

The processing area is nearly full to capacity with materials that are boxed and organized into compact shelving. In addition, there are multiple map cases, stacks of rolled maps, blueprints and more. The processing space has a large table on which the staff work. They have access to a scanner, which is used to digitize materials based on archiving best practices. Perhaps the most interesting element of the processing area is a set of silver pitchers, which commemorates the significant contribution of General Sherman during the San Francisco earthquake. It is clear that there are treasures in this archive, and in the backlog of materials ready to be processed.

The Sherman Library archive is truly inspirational! Being in the physical space and exploring the collections brought an appreciation of the value of the archive, and the potential for individuals to make a difference. The Sherman Library is indeed a bridge between the storied past and the potential-rich present to build to an impressive future.


Bernal, V. (2016, May 04). Sherman Library and Gardens: Finding L.A. History in Newport Beach. Retrieved February 10, 2018, from https://www.kcet.org/shows/lost-la/sherman-library-and-gardens-finding-la-history-in-newport-beach

Guide to Newport Beach Historical Collections in Historical Collections in Sherman Library. (2016). Retrieved February 08, 2018, from http://www.slgardens.org/Finding%20Aids/Guide%20to%20Newport%20Beach%20Historical%20Collections%20-%20web.pdf

Library Archive Interview [Personal interview]. (2018, February 8).

Sherman Library Archival Collections. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2018, from http://www.slgardens.org/archival_collections_orgs

Additional Reading and Information

A Community Icon Turns 50: With a fascinating past and a revered present, Sherman Library and Gardens looks to the future

Online Archive of California (OAC): Sherman Library and Gardens

Russo, S. S. (2008). The library as place in California. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.
See Chapter 6: Sherman Library and Gardens