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eBook available: The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific

The Ocean Wireless Boys on the PacificOne of our recent proofreading projects has been turned into a finished eBook in record time thanks to the enthusiasm of Distributed Proofreaders volunteers.

The latest completed title is The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific, part of a series of adventures involving teenaged radio operators. This particular story, the fifth in the series, has the Ocean Wireless Boys helping their millionaire employer find his lost brother, a famous explorer who disappeared in search of a fabulous pearl. The quest leads them into exotic settings where they encounter dangerous flora and fauna, unusual people, and a few old enemies from prior stories.

Like our earlier project, The Brighton Boys in the Trenches, this book is a time capsule of attitudes from nearly a century ago, showing what publishers thought boys wanted to read at the time of the Great War. It demonstrates the increasing commercialization of fiction through some very heavy-handed attempts to sell prior volumes from within the text of the story, and it also shows the pervasive casual racism of the era even while it sometimes seems to be attempting positive portrayals of people from other cultures.

Dime novel enthusiasts might also be interested to know that this is one of the few boys’ series books to also be published in dime novel “thickbook” format, as part of the Circling the Globe Library.

The full text, along with a couple of other Ocean Wireless Boys adventures, can be found at Project Gutenberg, where it can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats.


Now in proofreading: The Liberty Girl

The Liberty GirlOur latest proofreading project is Rena Halsey’s The Liberty Girl, a sequel to the earlier Blue Robin, the Girl Pioneer. This 1919 novel deals with, among other things, the Great War, making it an interesting feminine complement to the overtly masculine Brighton Boys in the Trenches. The project also ties in to our dime novel efforts, as Rena Halsey was the daughter of Harlan P. Halsey, better known as Old Sleuth, author of (among countless other titles), The Twin Ventriloquists. Truly, everything around here is connected in one way or another!

The book is now available at the Distributed Proofreaders site. To help us create a new electronic edition, you can read more about our proofreading efforts and then visit the project page.


eBook available: How to Make Electrical Machines

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: December 19, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

How to Make Electrical MachinesThe latest of our proofreading projects to reach completion is How to Make Electrical Machines, volume 64 in Frank Tousey’s Ten Cent Hand Book series. This series claims to teach its readers about “almost every subject” in 64-page installments sold for a dime each.

As with many of its series mates, How to Make Electrical Machines seems to have been cobbled together from multiple sources, having a rather uneven tone, and it is questionable exactly how many of its youthful readers actually managed to assemble their own working dynamos or other devices using the dense instructions provided within. In spite of many shortcomings as an instructional manual, however, this is a fascinating look at the early days of electricity, when simple electrical mechanisms could be used as wondrous magic tricks, and a publisher didn’t think twice about providing children with instructions on how to shock themselves (or, for that matter, encouraging them to do so).

The entire book can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.



If you follow Villanova’s Digital Library on Twitter, you may have seen this tweet recently:

Check out our new responsive design (thanks to @crhallberg!): http://t.co/VmWL30gonx Play around & let us know what you think! #webdesign

— VillanovaDigitalLib (@VillanovaDigLib) December 5, 2013

Proud to say that the shout-out refers to me, Chris Hallberg, and I’m going into my third year of working on the front end of the Digital Library. That probably doesn’t mean much to you though, so let’s cut to the chase.


aka. what is Chris’ job?

That’s a fancy way of saying that the design of the website adapts to any size screen that it’s viewed on. This is an evolution from the design model of having two completely different websites to handle desktop users (ie. Wolfram Alpha) and mobile users (Wolfram Alpha again, mobile edition). There’s two major problems here: developers have to design, build, test, deploy, host, and update two separate sites; and some functionality is lost.

Faster browsers, faster Internet speeds, and updated web technologies allow web builders to create more powerful web pages than ever before. Web users know this, and they don’t want to settle. They demand the complicated features of the “full” website on their phones and more and more users and mobile browsers try to use their ever increasing phone sizes to look at the desktop version. If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll know a lot of full websites look terrible on phones. This is where responsive design saves the day.

The biggest problem with smaller screens causes features normally laid horizontally, like this text and the navigation on the left, to clobber each other when the real estate vanishes or to become so tiny the crushed text within looks like something out of House of Leaves. Worst, in my opinion, is the horizontal scroll bar that turns your browser into a periscope in a vast, hidden field of content.


One word per line necessary to fit in these tiny columns


Bum bum bum

Responsive design actively reorganizes the page so that this doesn’t happen.

That’s better

“Play around”?

Here’s how to properly play with this blog to enjoy responsive design.

If this window is full screen, click the resize button (next to the close button) on this window so that you can see all the edges of the window. Now, drag the right edge of the window to the left, squeeze the window if you will. Come on. It’s ok, no one’s watching. If you don’t do it, the rest of this blog won’t make any sense. Thank you.

The first thing that will happen is that the navigation buttons above (called “pills”) will jump below the search bar. Then, the menus on the very top and below the search bar will collapse into buttons.

Pause a moment. You are entering the land of the Mobily-Sized Browser Window. We designed the new library and digital library web sites to reorganize itself when you look at it on any screen the size of an iPad or smaller. In this case, the menu on the left (and up) is going to move on top of this blog post and fill the available space. We spare no expense! Just keep an eye on the search bar as you squeeze the window down as far as you’d like.

That’s responsive design at work.

What’s going on here?

In order to make websites look beautiful, developers use a language of rules called CSS, short for Cascading Style Sheets. It looks like this:

button { ← What are we applying the “rules” below to?
   background: #002663; ← Villanova blue in code
   color: white; ← Color of the text
   border: 1px solid black;
   border-radius: 4px; ← Rounded corners!
   height: 45px;
   width: 90px;
   margin: 3px ← Distance from border to the next element
   padding: 14px 4px; ← Distance from border to content
} ← That’s enough rules for our buttons

That code is more or less how we made the four pills next to the search bar look so pretty.

A year and a half ago, the powers that be added a new feature to CSS: media queries. Media queries can tell us all kinds of things about how you’re looking at our web pages. We can tell whether or not you’re running your browser on a screen, mobile device, TV, projector, screen reader, and even braille reader. It can also tell if you’re holding your phone sideways or vertically, what colors it can display, and (most importantly) what the dimensions of your screen are. By putting code like our button example inside these queries, we can apply rules, like fonts, colors, backgrounds, and borders, to elements of the page depending on the context of the browser.

@media print { ← If we’re printing something
  // Hide ads and colorful content
@media (max-width: 768px) { ← Anything thinner than a vertical iPad
  // Show a special menu for mobile users

Responsive designs are built right on top of this technology.

Browsers are really good at stacking things on top of each other. This paragraph is under the previous one. This makes sense and it’s quite easy on your eyes, and your computer. With a few CSS rules, we can tell the browser to put things next to each other. The trick is to put things next to each other, until it’s impractical to do so. Being able to tell your web site where to put things and how they look depending on how and where your user is looking at it is what responsive design is all about.

The Magician’s Secret

Before media queries were invented, developers had to write some pretty serious code. This code had to constantly watch the size of the screen and then, basically, rewrite the files where the CSS rules are kept. It was very complicated, which is why it made much more sense to create two completely different sites and route users to each depending on their “user agent,” a small snippet of information that your browser sends to a server when you open a page in your web browser. The problem is, these bits of information were made for people to read for statistical reasons, so they are complicated and change every time a browser updated to a new version. It was a digital guessing game.

Some of the people behind Twitter decided to make a framework that web developers could build on. Instead of starting from scratch, developers could start with their collection of code and CSS that pre-made a lot of common elements of web sites like tabs, accordions, and toolbars, for them. They called it Bootstrap. In 2011, they added responsive design, making it easy for developers to create a site that looked good on any device. In 2012, a graduate assistant named Chris Hallberg was charged with rebuilding the Digital Library front end. In 2013, he, along with web developers all over campus, made Villanova’s web presence responsive. Without this framework, creating a responsive site would have taken much, much longer, and possibly wouldn’t have occurred at all. Not only was it an essential tool to the process, it is a broadcasting platform for the technology. Bootstrap makes responsive design possible and popular.

A Final Word

While I did the work you see over at the Digital Library, I did not create the page you are looking at. I can only take credit for the menu on the left, which I’m clearly very fond of. David Uspal was the magician who conjured this page’s design and David Lacy is the magician behind-the-scenes, organizing and delivering the thousands of books containing the tens of thousands of images we’ve scanned. We both received invaluable input from the Falvey Web Team and even viewers like you. Your feedback helped and continues to help us fix errors and typos, and (most importantly) pick the colors for our pretty new web site.

- Chris Hallberg

PS. A fun example of the new power of the web is Google Gravity from the gallery of Chrome Experiments.
PPS. As a reward to offset the new habit you’ve developed of resizing every window you find, here’s an accordion to play.


Now in proofreading: Little Golden’s Daughter

Little Golden's DaughterContinuing our exploration of the works of Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, this week’s new proofreading project is Little Golden’s Daughter; or, The Dream of a Life Time, in an edition published as part of the American News Company’s Favorite Library. The story was first serialized in the Family Story Paper from June 5, 1882 to September 4, 1882. While many of Mrs. Miller’s works have aged surprisingly well, this story appears to suffer from some painful racial stereotyping — be warned in advance before you dive in!

Because Little Golden’s Daughter is a relatively short novel, the Favorite Library edition contains two filler stories: “A Mock Idyl” by Percy Ross and “Farewell” by W. H. Stacpoole. We are releasing both of these short works for proofreading at the same time as the main tale.

To learn more about our proofreading efforts, which turn digital images from our collection into modern e-books, read this earlier post. To get involved and help with the work, pick the project page of your choice: Little Golden’s Daughter, A Mock Idyl or Farewell.


Content Roundup – Thanksgiving week through the first week of December – 2013

  • Posted by: Michael Foight
  • Posted Date: December 6, 2013
  • Filed Under: Content Roundup

As we finish November and move into December, enjoy a host of happy treats to read, and of course don’t neglect your ears – listen to a new Bride of the Tomb chapter and some Irish melodies!


American Catholic Historical Society

Church Lithographs (Packard, Butler and Partridge Lithographs – (25 plates added)

Dime Novel and Popular Literature



The mystery of the missing eyebrows / by Stephen Rudd.

Leisure Hour Library (1 issue added)


Los dramas de la guerra (14 issues added)

Arm Chair Library (4 issues added)


Sybil Chase, or, The Valley ranche : a tale of California life / by Mrs. Ann S. Stephens

Gem Library (2 issues added)

L’aventure de Mike Murphy de Boston

Favorite Library (2 issues added)

Beadle’s dime speaker series (2 issues added)


Off to the war, or, The boys in blue mustered in : a story of the great Civil War / by Lieut. Harry Lee.


Life of Pontiac the conspirator, chief of the Ottawas : together with a full account of the celebrated siege of Detroit / by Edward S. Ellis.


Sidetracked : a collection of slow-train stories / written and compiled by Harry L. Newton


St. Nicholas : Scribner’s illustrated magazine for girls and boys (1 issue added)

New York Weekly (9 issues, which includes 2 different incomplete copies of the same issue)

Chicago Ledger (3 issues added)

International Magazine (1 issue added)

Eventide : a monthly magazine for the home (1 issue added)

Fireside Companion (2 issues added)

Spare Change Library Podcast

Chapter 21 of Bride of the Tomb

Paratextual Materials

The Saturday Blade and The Chicago Ledger agent solicitation, To: Sam Albert, July, 1911.

Philadelphia Ceili Group


Mick Moloney and Eugene O’Donnell

Irish Tradition

 Joseph McGarrity Collection

Answer of Hon. T. St. John Gaffney to charges filed by State Department which led to his resignation as American Consul General, Munich, Germany.

A descriptive and historic guide through St. Mary’s cathedral, Limerick.

A list of such of the names of the nobility, gentry and commonality of England and Ireland : who are all by an act of a pretended parliament assembled in Dublin in the kingdom of Ireland, the 7th of May, 1689, before the late King James, attainted of high treason. Together with the true and authentick copies of several of the acts of the said pretended parliament.

Germany, America and the war.

Why Britain is at war, the causes and the issues, set out, in brief form, from the diplomatic correspondences and speeches of ministers / by Sir Edward Cook.

Truth about Germany : facts about the war.

Square Jaw

The square jaw



Now in proofreading: The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: December 4, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

The Ocean Wireless Boys on the PacificIn the early days of children’s series fiction, authors tried to build characters around all sorts of contemporary activities and technologies. One lesser-known example is Capt. Wilbur Lawton’s Ocean Wireless Boys series, which deals with communications at sea. The fifth volume of this series, The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific, represents our second contribution to Project Not Quite Nancy Drew, a subset of the Distributed Proofreaders effort which focuses on preserving vintage children’s books.

If you would like to help us turn our Digital Library scans of this text into a modern e-book, please read our earlier blog post on the subject to learn how the process works and then join in at the project page.


James Elverson’s Golden Days in Old Philadelphia

  • Posted by: Michael Foight
  • Posted Date: November 22, 2013
  • Filed Under: Story Papers
Posted for Kelly Wiles, Digital Library Intern, Fall 2013:

Golden Days

The pages of “Golden Days” are filled with an array of stories, activities and lessons. The stories are, for the most part, gender specific. Titles like “Philip Berkeley; or, The Master’s Gun” appealed to the male audiences while other stories like “Grandma’s Bear Story” included the subtitle ‘For the Girls.’ Many of these stories are broken up in chapters that spanned numerous issues, which was sure to make children request the next week’s publication. These stories too were not just written by strictly amateur or unknown authors but some of the most important names in children’s literature at the time including Horatio Alger, Jr., James Otis and Frank R. Stockton. Each issue also included a section entitled “Puzzledom” with number and words games and “International Lessons,” a strictly Christian devotional with a message and Bible study.

Master's Gun

Golden Days reminds us of a time long gone when children relied on strictly stories and reading to fuel their imagination and pass the time rather than television and video games like today’s generation. Villanova is lucky to have Volume Three of Golden Days in its special collection, which includes issues from 1882 and 1883. If you want to step into the lace-up boots of a Victorian child and experience this form of popular entertainment, head over to the Villanova Digital Library and read a few issues of Golden Days for Boys and Girls.





Bringing to Life a 19th Century Ship Master’s Cargo

Posted for Susan Ottignon, Digital Library Team:

With each passing hour, as I scrutinize the scanned images found in the Barry-Hayes Papers–Series 58 Ships’ Papers, and begin to build a ‘metadata catalog’ by identifying and labeling each slip of paper, a picture emerges of early 19th merchant ship owners contracting, with a variety of merchants, to load cargo and to sail between the ports of Philadelphia and a foreign destination, in this case, Havana, Cuba. The Ship’s Papers series is a voluminous collection comprised of ‘bill of lading,’ accounts and receipts for specific schooner, sloop, ship or brig all related, in one way or another, to Patrick Hayes who was a ship owner and, on many occasions the Captain, aka ‘Master,’ of the ship. These business transactions provide us, in one sense, with a 19th century ‘paper trail’ into the rich history of commodities, either exported or imported, through the port of Philadelphia.

Receipts list of 1811 voyage

Receipts for cargo destined for Havana, Cuba, on the Brig Commodore Barry in 1811.

beaver cargo

In October of 1811, the Brig Commodore Barry, anchored in Philadelphia, and destined for Havana, Cuba, clearly illustrate the types of consigned merchandise that filled the ship’s cargo hold, and transported in all kinds of containers like kegs, barrels, jugs and boxes, all transacted over a few short days, between the 9th and 13th of the month. We can see Patrick Hayes, the assigned Master for the voyage, affixed his signature in receipt for merchandise. I successfully confirmed, on this occasion, each merchant’s name and trade by reviewing several city directories, from 1801 and 1813, like The Philadelphia Directory and Register, 1813, for Samuel Beaver whose entry read, “Beaver Samuel, cabinetmaker 155 n. Front,” and comparing the receipt, which read in part, “Ten boxes of furniture, seven and a half boxes chairs. . .” The other merchants’ items and their trade, were confirmed through review of directories from various years, like a cart, from a wheelwright merchant, Benjamin Newport, as well as a box of saddles from Matthew Lyons, Blacksmith, confirmed in The Philadelphia Directory, 1801.

This is just one instance from all the many voyages by Hayes, on the Brig Commodore Barry as well as all the other ships’ papers found in this collection. Every ‘connected dot’ I make, when confirming a person and his trade with an historical account, brings to life, once again, the steps taken by a merchant, a ship owner and its master to recreate that one voyage from the many transactions, bound to Havana, and realize it all took place over 200 years ago. The Villanova Digital Library’s many collections offer like experiences from its myriad of individuals and events that transcend the digital image to create a window to view history in a new light.


Content Roundup – Fourth Week – November 2013

  • Posted by: Michael Foight
  • Posted Date: November 22, 2013
  • Filed Under: Content Roundup


This week brings many works to light: Liberty Girl! New issues of dime novels and story papers! Yet another cemetery register for the Saint Anne Parish; over 80 Church Lithographs from the American Catholic Historical Society; ships papers from the Independence Seaport Museum’s Barry Hayes collection; issues of the 1917 Gaelic American newspaper; issue of the 1906 Ardmore Chronicle newspaper! And even a newly available set of music from 1977 in the Philadelphia Ceili Group Collection. As the holiday season nears, consider curling up and reading one of these exciting and newly available titles!


American Catholic Historical Society

St. Mary's

Church Lithographs (Packard, Butler and Partridge Lithographs: (81 items added)

Saint Anne Parish


Saint Anne Cemetery Register – “New Cemetery” – [ca. 1885-1902], Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

Dime Novel and Popular Literature



Arm Chair Library (1 issue added)

Issue 51

Los dramas de la guerra (14 issues added)

Liberty Girl

The liberty girl / by Rena I. Halsey … illustrated by Nana French Bickford


Nimble Ike, the trick ventriloquist : a rousing tale of fun and frolic / by Old Sleuth (Part of Old Sleuth’s Own series)



Chicago Ledger (1 issue added)


New York Fireside Companion (5 issues added)


New York Weekly (10 issues added)


Independence Seaport Museum

Barry-Hayes Collection


Series LVIII Ships’ Papers (43 items added)

Joseph McGarrity Collection


The Gaelic American (1917: 9 issues added)

Historical Society of Montgomery County

Life Sized Dolls

Ardmore Chronicle (1906: 6 issues added)

Philadelphia Ceili Group

1977 Concerts

John Vesey and Eddie Cahill (3 items added)

River crossing


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Last Modified: November 22, 2013