My brush with Mary Pickford at Winthrop University

Here is a little post in honor Mary Pickford’s 120th birthday on Sunday, April 8, and the tearing down of historic Pickford Studios earlier this week.

Mary Pickford was Hollywood’s first American sweetheart.  Usually playing little girl roles with long curls and big eyes, though she was in her 20s or 30s. For example, when Pickford played an orphan in “Rebecca of Sunnybrooke Farms” (1917) she was 25.

Silent star sweetheart, Mary Pickford

Pickford was Hollywood royalty, marrying top silent star, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and then married star of “Wings” Charles Buddy Rogers.

All of this build up of an important star leads to how she fits into my college career. During my senior year of college I took a media ethics class and I wrote a paper on white actors who played ethnic roles in classic film.

I sniffed around Winthrop University’s library and picked up a few autobiographies and biographies. I picked up Mary Pickford’s 1954 autobiography “Sunshine and Shadow” about her film career, thinking of her role as a Mexican-Indian in “Ramona” (1910).

I opened the book and found this:

Mary Pickford's autograph inside a library book at Winthrop University.

Winthrop University’s copy of “Sunshine and Shadows” is AUTOGRAPHED…and it’s down in the basement with other old books that are rarely checked out.

When I found that I ran out screaming to my roommates-though none of them knew who Mary Pickford was-and called my mom. I doubled checked it with other autographs online and it seems to match.

I plotted on how to get the book out of the library, even thought about claiming it was a lost book, which would be a $100 fine. I figured for that price, I could find it on Ebay.  I even asked if I could buy it from the library, but they said no. I don’t know if they realize they have an autographed book from one of Hollywood’s top silent stars.

Happy birthday Mary Pickford! I enjoyed my brush with you at my alma mater.

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6 thoughts on “My brush with Mary Pickford at Winthrop University

  1. What a great encounter! This reminds me of the time I found an autographed copy of Lauren Bacall’s “Now.” I was a lowly high school co-op student at the library and the CEO wouldn’t let me take it! She claimed she was going to sell it…but then she suddenly quit and nobody ever saw the book again. 😦


  2. That’s so neat! Maybe you could tell some sort of historical society and they could do the work of badgering the library into giving it up…


  3. What an interesting experience. This reminds me of what happened at my own graduate school library. They have an original set of Encyclopédie (the 18th century French one with entries from Diderot, Breton, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, etc.) and they were allowing just anyone to touch it in the general stacks. The horror! Those books are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are now kept in the vaulted archives where you must wear gloves and be under surveillance. I suspect the Pickford book isn’t worth as much, but your encounter reminded me of my own experience.


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