I fear this will be the most boring post ever, but since I am interested in the everyday lives of authors, editors, and agents, I thought maybe I should talk about my own everyday life as a librarian.
My days are often like this:
At the Desk
I spent the entire day in official details;
And it almost pulled me down like the others:
I felt that tiny insane voluptuousness,
Getting this done, finally finishing that.
-- Theodor Storm. Translated from the German by Robert Bly.
This week I had a particularly insane voluptuous triumph figuring out a small mystery. A researcher called hoping to confirm that an African-American lawyer, George Gallious Ross, born 1879, had attended Colorado College, where I work. She'd contacted us because of a reference in Who's Who of the Colored Race: A General Biographical Dictionary of Men and Women of African Descent (c. 1915):
Unfortunately, CC had no yearbook in 1899 (the first yearbook was published in 1900), so this wasn't going to be easy.
I tried all the usual things I try with a question like this. I really wanted to find him, because if he'd attended CC we could brag that he was our earliest known African-American student. (We know there were African-Americans at CC as early as 1904, but 1899 would beat that.) I looked for him in early yearbooks and alumni directories. I tried searching the early CC student paper, the newly-digitized Collegian.I called the registrar's office to see if they could find him in early student records.
At this point I looked more carefully at the reference in Who's Who, and also at the education statements in other entries in the book:
And soon I cracked the code. It all comes down to punctuation. Can you figure it out?
(I'll pause while you work on it.)
Semi-colons separate high school, college, and further degrees. There's a comma, not a semi-colon, in Ross's entry between "grad. high school, Las Vegas, New Mex., 1896" and "and at Colorado Springs, Col., 1899." The "Col." in Ross's entry doesn't stand for college. It stands for Colorado. (Notice the "O." in other entries meaning Ohio.)
Ross didn't attend Colorado College. He attended high school in two places: Las Vegas and Colorado Springs. A call to the president of the alumni association of the Colorado Springs High School (now known as Palmer High) confirms that George G. Ross graduated in 1899. They have a handwritten ledger listing the earliest graduates, and he's in it! Here's a picture of the school then and now, courtesy of the Colorado Springs Gazette.