The John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Program 2014

14th Annual Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture

Commemorating The 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath


Born February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, John Steinbeck dropped out of Stanford University and worked as a manual laborer before achieving success as a writer. His novel The Grapes of Wrath—about the migration of a family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California—won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and, in 1962 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Steinbeck served as a war correspondent during World War II. He died in 1968.



Still Trampling Out the Vintage: The Grapes of Wrath at 75
Robert DeMott
Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor of American Literature Emeritus
Ohio University
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
4:00 p.m. - College of Arts and Sciences, CAS 162


Library Resources


Author Search:
Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968

Subject Search:
Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968 
Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968. Grapes of Wrath

Dust Bowl:
Depressions -- Great Plains -- History -- 20th century
Droughts -- Great Plains -- History -- 20th century
Dust Bowl Era, 1931-1939
Dust storms -- Great Plains-- History -- 20th century
Dust storms -- Southwestern States -- History -- 20th century
Environmental disasters -- Southwestern States
Labor camps -- United States -- History -- 20th century
Migrant agricultural laborers -- California

Contemporary California Farm Workers:
Agricultural laborers -- California
Agricultural laborers – Labor unions – California
Chavez, Cesar, 1927-1993
Migrant agricultural laborers – California
United Farm Workers


Web Resources:

Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies
The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University is the only university research archive in the world dedicated solely to John Steinbeck’s life and work.  The Center promotes Steinbeck’s goals of empathy and understanding by supporting education, inquiry and the literary arts.

John Steinbeck Collection. Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.  University of Virginia
Collection of John Steinbeck’s correspondence, photographs, artifacts and manuscripts, including the handwritten manuscript of The Grapes of Wrath.

The National Steinbeck Center
The National Steinbeck Center is located in John Steinbeck’s hometown of Salinas, California.  The Center offers three distinct visitor experiences in literature and history, agriculture and art, as well as special events and educational programs.  The mission of the Center is focused on building community and celebrating creativity as inspired by the words of John Steinbeck.

Department of Special Collections.  Green Library.  Stanford University
Significant holdings of Steinbeck materials, including manuscripts, notes, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera.

John Steinbeck Collection.  Archives and Special Collections.  Bracken Library.  Ball State University Libraries
The John Steinbeck Collection documents the literary career of John Steinbeck through manuscripts and publications by the author, and literary criticism of his work. The collection contains first editions, foreign language editions, issues and manuscripts of the Steinbeck Quarterly and the Steinbeck Monograph Series, Steinbeck Society records, literary criticism, biographies, bibliographies, galley proofs, pamphlets, periodicals, correspondence, and photographs.

The Morgan Library & Museum
Autograph journal, 1938-1941.  A diary kept while the author was writing The Grapes of Wrath.

United Farm Workers
Founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers of America is the nation's first successful and largest farm workers union currently active in 10 states. The UFW continues to organize in major agricultural industries across the nation. Recent years have witnessed dozens of key UFW union contract victories, among them the largest strawberry, rose, winery and mushroom firms in California and the nation. 75 percent of California's mushroom industry is now under union contract. In 2007, the United Farm Workers signed its first contract with Salinas, Calif.-based D'Arrigo Bros., California's third-largest vegetable company.


Library of Congress. Prints & Photographs Reading Room. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives
The photographs in the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection form an extensive pictorial record of American life between 1935 and 1944. In total, the black-and-white portion of the collection consists of about 175,000 black-and-white film negatives.

Library of Congress.  American Memory.  Voices from the Dust Bowl.  The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin MigrantWorker Collection 1940-1941
An online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting the everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. This collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera generated during two separate documentation trips supported by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center).

The Dust Bowl – A Film by Ken Burns
Chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.

Oklahoma State University:  Dust, Drought & Dreams Gone Dry:  Oklahoma Women and the Dust Bowl Oral History Project
Between 2000 and 2001 interviews were conducted with more than one hundred women individually and in groups who lived through the Dust Bowl, primarily in the seven western-most counties of Oklahoma, where the Dust Bowl hit the hardest. Principal investigators Steven Kite, Shelly Lemons, and Jennifer Paustenbaugh of the Oklahoma State University Library uncovered memories of good and hard times, of the WPA, President Roosevelt, the challenges of domestic life during the Dirty Thirties, rabbit drives, gypsies, Saturday evenings in town, and lives full of dust. Step back in time and listen to Dust, Drought and Dreams Gone Dry: Oklahoma Women and the Dust Bowl Oral History Project.

The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers' Struggle 
Using archival footage, newsreel, and present-day interviews with Ethel Kennedy, former California Governor Jerry Brown, Dolores Huerta, and Chávez' brother, sister, son and daughter, among others, the documentary traces the remarkable contributions of Chávez and others involved in this epic struggle on behalf of the California farm workers.

Rape in the Fields
Documentary film that exposes the sexual abuse, including frequent rape, of undocumented immigrant farm workers in the United States.


14th Annual Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Library Exhibition

February 1 – March 31, 2014
John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath

Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

Featuring items courtesy of:

Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies
San Jose State University
San Jose, California

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections
University of Virginia Library
Charlottesville, Virginia

Library of Congress
Washington, D.C.

Redwood Library
Newport, Rhode Island

Professor Mel Topf
Roger Williams University

Sponsored by: The Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Library Fund

Prepared by:
Professor Christine S. FaganCollection Management Librarian
with assistance from Lindsey Gumb and Liz Hanes
Roger Williams University Libraries

Featured Items:

  • Facsimilies of selections from Steinbeck's original handwritten manuscript of The Grapes of Wrath
  • First edition of The Grapes of Wrath published by The Viking Press (1939)
  • Cover art from various translations of The Grapes of Wrath set with selected quotations from Working DaysThe Journals ofThe Grapes of Wrath
  • The Grapes of Wrath original movie poster
  • Facsimilies of letters written by John Steinbeck
  • Farm Security Administration photographs of the Dust Bowl and migration to California
  • Photographs from The Migrant Project by Rick Nahmias documenting the plight of contemporary migrant farm workers in California
  • Line drawings and sculpture by Carol Steinbeck, first wife of John Steinbeck
  • Scrapbook of Carol Steinbeck with engraved wooden cover: "John Steinbeck Boy Casualty"
  • Steinbeck's Nobel Prize acceptance speech
  • John Steinbeck's obituary, The New York Times, December 21, 1968


Additional resources produced by the Library in support of this event include:
Selected titles located on the Featured Collection display case near the Bestsellers Collection