If you ever have a few hours to kill in Ann Arbor, check out the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan. What began as a repository for the papers of the individualist anarchist Jo Labadie evolved over the century into a stunning lineup of libertarian, anarchist, and otherwise radical literature of the left and right. From 1960 to 2000, its curator was Ed Weber, who died last week at age 83; the collection grew sixfold during his tenure.
I got to know Ed fairly well when I was a student at Michigan, and I think this passage from the library newsletter's obituary does a good job of capturing his personality:
Ed's impressive memory was first noted in an article written about him in his hometown paper, the Rochester (N.Y.) Evening Journal, when he was just over two years old! There it cited his feat of knowing the titles of each of the eighty-one recordings in the family's collection without being able to read. Ed's outspoken ways were noted early on, as he was expelled from grades 1, 2, and 6 of the Catholic school to which he was sent. In an interview in 1998 he explained this by saying, "I always had more to say than the teacher."…
His gentle and mild-mannered nature belied a person who strongly and freely dispensed his beliefs, even if they flew in the face of conventional wisdom, as they often did. Ed disdained ignorance, which is shown in his many letters to editors, bank presidents, city council members, and utility company executives. Sometimes he signed his own name to these letters, but in his more prankish moods, he'd use a fictitious name, such as Professor Newton Salamander, Miss Inus Pilk, or Robin Cruiseworthy, Executive Secretary of the Washtenaw County Society for the Suppression of Vice. His distinguished position never got in the way of his subversive sense of humor.
For a 1998 interview with Weber, go here.
James J. Martin remembers the early days of the Labadie Collection here.