Adventures in the Archives: Stanley Slotkin Part 2


In my last post, I described how I found 11 old book pages in Trinity’s archives, all from the “antiquarian library” of Stanley Slotkin and his son, Mark. In order to keep this post short, I encourage you to read my previous post for more information about my discovery.

Stanley S. Slotkin was born in 1905 to Russian Jewish immigrants, and grew up in Kansas City. During his adolescent years, he collected and sold metal junk parts to make money. Then, at the age of 18, he noticed a family struggling to provide enough furniture for guests after a funeral. This triggered him to use up the money that he had been saving to start Abbey Rents. Slotkin’s revolutionary idea of renting furniture to people soon developed into a chain of stores located throughout the country. The business eventually began renting out medical and party supplies as well.

With the financial success of his business, Slotkin began dabbling in unusual hobbies and philanthropies. Collecting old Bibles and books was one of those hobbies, which explains why he went all the way to Iran to purchase the Quran I mentioned in my previous post. However, why did he disassemble it? Apparently, he disassembled books out of generosity, for afterwards, he could distribute each page to different libraries and museums throughout the country. Worldcat.org shows some other libraries that own Stanley Slotkin book pages: Click Here

The Smithsonian apparently has a page from the same Quran that ours is from: Click Here

Stanley Slotkin’s collecting doesn’t stop there. He also collected Charles Darwin’s papers and donated them to the University of Southern California. Additionally, when Slotkin visited Bethlehem, the mayor gave him stones from the Cave of the Nativity, which Slotkin then donated to different groups. Finally, Slotkin salvaged ancient pottery from a submerged Phoenician ship off the coast of Italy in 1955, and distributed his finds to several museums.

Slotkin also made philanthropic contributions to the medical field, such as creating the first blood bank for Israel during its 1948 War for Independence, setting up a training program for people with epilepsy, and paying for people’s plastic surgeries. His homely secretary got him started in the latter cause. A newspaper article from 1959 explains Slotkin’s somewhat questionable passion for plastic surgery in more detail: Click Here

Slotkin died in 1997 at the age of 92. Whether Trinity received its book pages directly from him, from Dr. Montgomery’s European purchases, or some other way, remains a mystery. Regardless, discovering this eccentric man has definitely been one my favorite parts about working in Trinity’s archives so far. I hope someone will make a documentary about him someday.

 


 

Bibliography

“He ‘Buys’ New Faces – 1,200 in 12 Years!” Jewish Post, 24 January 1958.

Hoosier State Chronicles: Indiana’s Digital Historic Newspaper Program. https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=JPOST19580124-01.1.13 (accessed November 16, 2017).

Oliver, Myrna. “Stanley Slotkin; Began Abbey Rents. Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1997. http://articles.latimes.com/1997/sep/30/news/mn-37823 (accessed November 16, 2017).

Stocker, Joseph. “He Gives People New Faces.” The Evening IndependentDecember 13, 1959. Google News Archive Search.” https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19591213&id=6ZQLAAAAIBAJ&sji=bVUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4146,2427726 (accessed November 16, 2017).

“Theta Sigma Phi Bills Stanley Slotkin.” Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 18, 1965. Accessed November 16, 2017. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1338&dat=19650918&id=WvgSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=oPcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7243,4649761 (accessed November 16, 2017).

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