America's Historical Imprints


Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

This year’s Black History Month marks 200 years since the birth of Frederick Douglass, one of the most influential Americans of the 19th century. While America’s Historical Newspapers includes The North Star, the forceful anti-slavery newspaper Douglass began publishing in Rochester, New York, in 1847, America’s Historical Imprints contains a wealth of primary source material recording, remembering, and celebrating his remarkable life and work.


 

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In his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, found in Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick writes of his parents.

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite dark. My mother was of a darker complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather.

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means to knowing was withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.

He continues, describing his relationship with his mother:

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

‘A covenant with death, an agreement with hell’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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This year’s first release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a work of American travel literature from the 1830s and a history of the United States containing, in part, a retrospective of that same period and of resistance to America’s peculiar institution during it. Also found in this month’s release is a collection of essays on morality that address slavery.        


Impressions of America (1836)

By Tyrone Power, esq.

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Tyrone Power (1797-1841) was born in Waterford County, Ireland. In his teens Power joined a group of travelling actors and went on to successfully earn a living acting at the leading London theatres and appearing at the Theatre Royal in Dublin. He travelled to the United States several times and recorded his Impressions during journeys made in the early 1830s.

Power offers this description of his arrival in Richmond, Virginia:

Whilst waiting at the landing-place amidst the bustle incident to shifting baggage, landing passengers, and packing carriages, I witnessed a wedding assemblage that amused me highly, and was no bad sample of slavery in the Old Dominion.

‘A covenant with death, an agreement with hell’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Lithographs, Life Studies and Pen-Pictures: Rare 19th-Century Visual Representations of the American Civil War

The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society now includes two little-known works filled with compelling pictorial representations of the war and its troops.  Also newly digitized this month is a heavily illustrated account of the March through Georgia.


Album of the Campaign of 1861 in Western Virginia (1862)

This rare volume includes 20 detailed lithographs by illustrator J. Nep Roesler who served with the 47th Ohio Volunteers. Other than a title under each print, there is no text. 

 

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Lithographs, Life Studies and Pen-Pictures: Rare 19th-Century Visual Representations of the American Civil War

‘In the wild deserts of Ohio’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

The current release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society includes several exceedingly rare imprints, including the captivity narrative and children’s poetry books highlighted below.  Each is illustrated.


The Cries of London, As They Are Daily Exhibited in the Streets. With an Epigram in Verse, Adapted To Each. Embellished with Elegant Characteristic Engravings (1805)

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Similar to other books about the street mongers of New York and Philadelphia, this imprint is beautifully illustrated by intaglio prints attributed to William Ralph. In the preface, the author admonishes the reader not to abjure the lower classes which engage in street sales who are “generally speaking, of the lowest and most illiterate order.” However, he advises respect:

…and daily experience will demonstrate, that the most amiable virtues and excellent dispositions are frequently met with in the lowest spheres of life; and therefore, although we should not act towards our inferiors with an unbecoming familiarity, we should never treat them with haughtiness, nor make them the subject of our ridicule; remembering, that while a sounding title or a weighty purse may excite the temporary admiration of an unthinking multitude, virtue, piety, and integrity, are the only things that can ensure the blessing of Heaven, and render us truly respectable.

The preface concludes with a verse about London the last few lines of which pose a question.

Chairmen, carmen, kennel-rakers,

‘In the wild deserts of Ohio’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

‘The wants and tastes of Southern boys and girls’: Three Scarce Imprints in The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

These rare works from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society include a game book for children of the Confederacy, a satirical piece devastating to the Copperhead, and a sort of almanac for and paean to Southern women in wartime.


Uncle Buddy’s Gift Book, for the Holidays (1863)

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In his preface, the anonymous author asserts that:

You are aware that the Southern Confederacy is a new Government—that it is formed by the States which separated in 1860-61 from the Northern states of the Confederacy known as the United States of North America, because of the injustice of the people of those Northern States; and that, in consequence of this separation, those people are waging a cruel and unjust war upon the people of this Confederacy. Now, in consequence of this war, our ports being blockaded, and our means of communicating with other countries cut off, we are unable to obtain a great many things to which we were once accustomed. Among these things, are juvenile books, with which our bookstores were wont to be largely supplied during the holidays, but which we cannot now obtain, and must, therefore, either do without, or procure the substitutes that we can.

He offers his book as a worthy substitute, indeed a superior one because:

‘The wants and tastes of Southern boys and girls’: Three Scarce Imprints in The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘The Privileged Order’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The December release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes three items by women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria V. Clayton and Sallie Holley. Each offers a different perspective on America’s peculiar institution.

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Address in Favor of Universal Suffrage for the Election of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention (1867)

By Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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‘The Privileged Order’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘A plodding Englishman, or a pawky Scotchman’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

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Among the extraordinarily rare works in Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society are these illustrated items: a compendium of Irish humor and songs, “a pathetic tale” for juveniles which ends happily, and a chapbook celebrating autumn in verse and prose.


The New Irish Jest and Song Book: Being a Collection of Jests, Blunders, Songs and Witty Sayings from the Latest Publications (1803)

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In his preface to this unique imprint, the author enlarges on the word “blunder.”

An Irish blunder is defined to be “a laughable confusion of ideas,” which, when delivered with all the vivacity and particular gesticulation natural to the country, and with that tone of voice, commonly called the brogue, has infinitely a more humorous effect, than the dull, vapid mistakes of a plodding Englishman, or a pawky Scotchman.

‘A plodding Englishman, or a pawky Scotchman’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

‘A White Man’s Government’: Readex Introduces “African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883”

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Curated from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s acclaimed African American history archive, African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883, is a newly released digital collection of searchable books, pamphlets, and speeches. Its coverage begins with the conclusion of the Civil War and spans eighteen of the most formative years in African American history.

Reconstruction marked an end to slavery and a beginning to the enfranchisement of African Americans. Full citizenship, voting rights, land ownership, employment opportunities, and political participation were only some of the significant gains enjoyed, in theory, by African Americans during this period. Although these rights were granted by amendments to the U.S. Constitution and federal legislation, they were not, in practice, universally protected at local levels.


Using this new collection’s “Suggested Searches” feature, students and other researchers can explore these revealing primary source materials with ease.

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‘A White Man’s Government’: Readex Introduces “African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883”

'Two such stainless captains': Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Civil War Collection

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This month’s release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes two imprints reflecting on events in Richmond, Virginia, following the war. Both publications express sympathetic views of the Confederacy. On a lighter note we focus on a colorfully illustrated picture book for children from the Civil War era.


Robert Edward Lee: An Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Monument to General Robert Edward Lee at Richmond, Virginia, May 29, 1890, by Archer Anderson (1890)

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At a time when memorials to the Confederacy and her most prominent soldiers and politicians are under attack by demands to remove them, it may be timely to consider the impetus and emotion that fueled the erection of these memorials in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The end of Reconstruction ushered in the Jim Crow era. Many of the monuments constructed toward the end of the 19th century were as much a celebration of white supremacy as a permanent memory of the war.

Contemporary Americans are not so likely as Archer Anderson, the author of this address, to assert that:

'Two such stainless captains': Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Civil War Collection

‘Pray cock your eye’: Introducing Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

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The first release of Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society to the Shaw-Shoemaker digital collection includes:

  • an admonitory story for children who are inclined to “a meddling disposition”
  • an articulate argument against introducing the British factory system in the United States
  • a heavily illustrated book of the “history of birds in the air” in rhyme.

 

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The Story of Charles Maitland; or, The Dangers of a Meddling Disposition (1806)

This rare work tells the story of Charles Maitland, a naughty boy unable to refrain from meddling in other peoples’ affairs. Through this behavior Charles “might (by his meddling disposition) have made a breach between two families who were very much united, and lived on the most friendly terms, if he had had to deal with people of less discernment and good sense.”

‘Pray cock your eye’: Introducing Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

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