Presidential history at Kresge Library

Kresge Library houses a rare collection of pens used by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. There are 50 pens: one for each law, one for each year since.

Many students have heard that actor Robert Englund, the voice behind the scarred, terror-striking face of Freddy Krueger in “The Nightmare on Elm Street” series, is an OU alumnus.

Fewer students may know that OU connections don’t stop in Hollywood. In fact, they go all the way to the White House.

Housed inside our very own Kresge Library, are 50 pens that President Lyndon B. Johnson used to sign in several monumental laws in 1965, including the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting during the peak of the American Civil Rights Movement.

It is a particularly special time to talk about these pens because we are currently in the 50th anniversary year of all of the legislation that the president signed in 1965.

“It all started with a congressman, Billie Farnum,” Dominique Daniel, humanities librarian for history and modern languages said. “He was elected to Congress in 1964, and he represented this district where the university is.”

Daniel said that Farnum was friends with Woody Varner, OU’s first president.

“They had a close relationship,” she said. “Farnum was always very supportive of the university. He brought various political leaders to campus, such as Senator Kennedy. He also brought money to the university for research funding.”

Daniel was not sure how the idea came about, but knew that Farnum had wanted to collect several pens that the president had used to sign in laws during 1965 and frame them.

“We have a letter from President Varner that explains that, ‘Congressman Farnum went to great lengths to collect all of these pens in the White House and have them framed. He brought the frame to Oakland University, and now it is sitting in my dining room,'” Daniel said.

She said the president concluded the letter with, “What should I do with them?”

To Kresge they came

“They were brought to the library, and they’ve been in the library ever since – since 1967,” Daniel said.

Encased in their sturdy brown frame, with a velvet green backdrop, the pens were hanging on the wall outside of the Government Documents room until just recently. As more attention has been brought to them, they were taken down and will be placed into the archives.

An inscription across the bottom of the frame reads, “Especially made for Congressman Billie Farnum. –President Lyndon B. Johnson.”

Kresge has several special collections that students may not realize they can browse, usually by appointment with a researcher.

According to the library’s site, the collections include the Springer Civil War Collection and the Oakland County Historical Records, along with anything of value from OU’s history, including old photographs, professors’ works and every edition of the Oakland Post.

In April, the Springer Collection, which is regarded as one of the strongest Civil War collections in all of Michigan’s libraries, will be exhibited on Kresge’s first floor to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.

There is a wealth of information and historical archives available to students at the library, but there are also several events held throughout the year that Anne Switzer, social sciences and outreach librarian, hopes students know about.

“We do a stress-free finals week,” she said. “We bring puppies that are in training to be leader dogs to the library. We also bring a massage chair in, and people take turns getting a neck massage.”

Next week, on Thursday, April 2, the library is hosting its 8th annual Poetry Slam at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth floor.

This event is open to the public and OU faculty and students. Contestants need to come prepared with two poems, as there are two rounds of competition – each with a three-minute time limit.

To find out more on the competition, the rules and the prizes, go to And, as students always want to know, there will be refreshments.