“I am on Tenterhooks!”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

In the first release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia we find a description of a clever lion hunting method utilized in southern Africa, a desperate plea for assistance by a British army officer in northern Africa, and an ethnographic examination of the Twi people of western Africa.

The Lion and the Elephant (1873)
By Charles John Andersson

Born in Sweden, Charles John Andersson is most famous for the books he published about his explorations of Africa. In 1850, Andersson arrived at the Cape of Good Hope and travelled into the interior, intending to reach Lake Ngami in modern-day Namibia. Andersson recorded his travels in Lake Ngami in 1855 and The Okavango River in 1859. In this 1873 volume, The Lion and the Elephant, Andersson describes one method of hunting lion in southern Africa “as ingenious as daring:”

One hunter, “carrying a large shield of a concave form, made of thick buffalo hide, approaches the animal boldly, and hurls at him an assegai, or javelin. The lion bounds on the aggressor, but the man in the meanwhile has thrown himself at full length on the ground, covered by his buckler. Whilst the beast is trying the effect of his claws and teeth on the concave side of the shield, where they make no impression, he loses a favourable opportunity. He redoubles his efforts. And in the meantime the armed men surround him, and pierce his body with numerous assagais, all of which he fancies he receives from the individual lying beneath the shield.

 “I am on Tenterhooks!”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Gateway to Black Print Culture: New Video about Afro-Americana Collection at Library Company of Philadelphia

Readex has partnered with the Library Company of Philadelphia to create Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, an online version of one of the world’s preeminent collections for African American studies. While in Philadelphia, members of the Readex team had the opportunity to visit the Library Company for a firsthand look at original documents found in this newly digitized collection. For a quick overview of Afro-Americana Imprints, see the video below:

Krystal Appiah, the Library Company’s Curator of African American History, was one of our hosts during this vKrystal Appiah, Curator of African American History, Library Company of Philadelphiaisit. As part of her daily work, she helps a diverse group of researchers find relevant materials in African American history, literature and related fields. With her deep understanding of the Afro-Americana Collection—an accumulation that began with Benjamin Franklin and steadily increased throughout the Library Company’s history—Appiah expertly navigates the stacks to locate just the right item.

Gateway to Black Print Culture: New Video about Afro-Americana Collection at Library Company of Philadelphia

What Not to Wear?: “China’s General Chiang Issues Ten Style Commandments for Women”

Chiang Kai-shek. Source: National Archive Press. via Wikimedia CommonsIn the mid-1930s, when he presented these fashion rules, Chiang Kai-shek was political leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, head of the country's army, and nominally China’s leader. China, however, was divided into competing factions: besides Chiang's forces, the Communists controlled the province of Jiangxi, and the Japanese were encroaching into the northeast region. At the end of 1934, when the article below was published in the Seattle Times, Chiang's armies were making their fifth attempt to encircle the Communists in Jiangxi, a successful effort that led to the famous Long March. The Long March, the Communist armies' meandering retreat under pressure to Shaanxi, lead to Mao Zedong becoming political leader of the Communists, with Zhou Enlai’s support, and Zhu De becoming military leader. They would remain in these roles for the rest of the Chinese Civil War.

Seattle Times, Dec. 9, 1934
In December 1934, Chiang had a busy life. He probably shouldn't have tried to prescribe a wardrobe makeover for his country’s women. As the article puts it:

What Not to Wear?: “China’s General Chiang Issues Ten Style Commandments for Women”

Society of Early Americanists Announces 2014-2015 Essay Competition

The Society of Early Americanists is pleased to announce our Seventeenth Annual Essay Competition.  Details are below and online here.

If you have or will have presented a paper on an Americanist topic, broadly conceived, during the academic year 2014-2015 at the Society of Early Americanists Ninth Biennial Conference, Chicago, June 18-21, 2015; or at an American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference 2014-2015, or that of any of its affiliates, including the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Los Angeles, March 19-22, 2015, we invite you to enter.

By “Americanist topic, broadly conceived” we mean that the competition is open to papers that address America in terms of both the long and the wide (i.e., circumatlantic) eighteenth century. Our panel of judges will see each entry through a simple system of blind reviewing; your name goes only on a separate cover sheet, and we recommend that you rework any self-citation, either in the body or in notes, to the third person. Note that we accept revised papers and that the maximum length for an entry is 6,000 words.

HOW TO ENTER:

Society of Early Americanists Announces 2014-2015 Essay Competition

“The Market Value of an Eye”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints

the first slave narrative published in Great Britain, and The March release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a late 17th-century report on Morocco by the French ambassador, an Englishman’s assessment of the Royal African Company, the first slave narrative by a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom, and a journalist’s widely translated perspective on the 1857 Pierce Butler slave sale.


The Present State of the Empire of Morocco (1695)
By Monsieur de St. Olon

In 1690, Francois Pidou de Saint Olon served as ambassador of Louis XIV to Morocco. His mission was twofold: he was charged with making a prisoner exchange with Morocco’s Sultan Moulay Ismael and affecting a peace treaty between the two countries. The Ambassador failed in both efforts and was even briefly imprisoned by the Sultan. Monsieur de St. Olon’s description of the manners, religion and government of the people of Morocco is thorough, colorful, and not above condescension:

“The Market Value of an Eye”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints

Houdini’s Amazing Life – and Mysterious Death

Photo: the escapologist Harry Houdini in chains, c. 1899. Source: McManus-Young Collection; Library of Congress.

Harry Houdini is internationally famous as the world’s foremost magician and escapologist. For 35 years, from 1891 until his sudden death on October 31, 1926, at the age of 52, Houdini amazed audiences with seemingly impossible escapes that became increasingly dangerous.

More mysterious than any of his escapes, however, was the circumstance of his final act: his death. Houdini did not perish before an audience performing one of his stunts; rather, his death seems to have resulted from pride and stubbornness.

Houdini’s escapes made great copy, and newspapers closely followed his exploits throughout his long career—up to and including his puzzling death. Reading these contemporary accounts provides fresh perspective on the man and his times.

Houdini was born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. His family immigrated to the U.S. and lived in Wisconsin and then New York City where, at the age of 9, Erik began his performing career as a trapeze artist called “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air.”

In 1891, at the age of 17, he began his career as a magician, first performing card tricks billed as the “King of Cards.” His fame grew when he moved on to escaping from handcuffs, eventually becoming widely known as “The Handcuff King.”

Houdini’s Amazing Life – and Mysterious Death

“Loathing and Contempt” on the Abolitionist Campaign Trail: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1860-1922

The March release of The American Slavery Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes the American Anti-Slavery Society’s compilation of early American documents supporting slavery. Also included are two speeches by the abolitionist senator from Ohio, Benjamin Franklin Wade.


The Constitution. A Pro-Slavery Compact: Selections from the Madison Papers, &c. (1844)

In 1844, the American Anti-Slavery Society published a critique of the United States Constitution in which they drew on extracts from James Madison’s reports on the Constitutional Convention, state conventions, and debates of the first Federal Congress to illuminate the inherent contradictions within the Constitution; namely that of codifying the institution of slavery while purporting to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

These extracts develop most clearly all the details of that “compromise,” which was made between freedom and slavery, in 1787; granting to the slaveholder distinct privileges and protection for his slave property, in return for certain commercial concessions on his part toward the North. They prove also that the Nation at large were fully aware of this bargain at the time, and entered into it willingly and with open eyes. 

The society also included extracts from Article 1, Sections 8 and 9, and Article 4, Sections 2 and 4, of the Constitution of the United States:

“Loathing and Contempt” on the Abolitionist Campaign Trail: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1860-1922

Going Green: The Essence of Porter, and Other Examples of the Brewing Industry’s Murky Past

This is the time of year many St. Patrick’s Day celebrants literally go green, whether by donning green apparel, quaffing green beer, or just watching the flow of a local river temporarily dyed green. In 21st-century America, most people are reasonably sure the added color is harmless; however, in the 18th and 19th centuries beer drinkers had good reason for concern. While today’s large breweries assure customers their beer is made from only the finest ingredients, including water of unmatched purity, the use of pure or even clean water was not always the case. And in 1840 a New Yorker was sued for $300,000 for saying just that.

From American Broadsides and Ephemera

Edward Cornelius Delavan was a successful New York real estate speculator and wholesale wine merchant.  After retiring from selling wine, he became—ironically—a temperance advocate and harsh critic of commercial brewers and malters. In 1835, in an article published in the Albany Evening Journal, Delavan claimed eight of Albany’s malters were using water drawn from a pond in which a slaughterhouse and glue factory were dumping carcasses.

Going Green: The Essence of Porter, and Other Examples of the Brewing Industry’s Murky Past

“Why favor the traitor…?”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The March release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes wartime discussions of paradoxical legal and constitutional situations prompted by the conflict.

Also found here is an early 20th-century military history by James Madison Drake, a Civil War veteran and 1873 recipient of the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism on 6 May, 1864."


Prerogative Rights and Public Law (1863)
By Charles Frederick Blake

Charles Frederick Blake wrote this work, Prerogative Rights and Public Law, in response to William Whiting’s The War Powers of the President and the Legislative Powers of Congress in Relation to Rebellion, Treason, and Slavery.  Whiting had postulated the U.S. government had full belligerent rights against the inhabitants of seceded states, and without going beyond the Constitution could confiscate their property, emancipate their slaves, and treat them as public enemies. Before countering Whiting’s specific arguments, Blake begins his reply by noting the paradoxes in which both armed rebels fighting for secession and civilians living under secessionist governments found themselves:

“Why favor the traitor…?”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

“An Engine of the Most Diabolical Oppression”: Highlights from the American Slavery Collection

Many works in the February release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society illustrate the backlash against the abolitionist movement in early 19th-century America. Not only were attempts made to silence abolitionists at religious conferences but also their petitions were refused to be heard in the United States House of Representatives.   


Debate on "Modern Abolitionism," in the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held in Cincinnati, May, 1836 (1836)

In response to “the unjustifiable conduct of two members of the General Conference,” anti-abolitionist delegates of the 1836 meeting of the Methodist Episcopal Church supported two resolutions. In the first, they disapproved “in the most unqualified sense” of “the conduct of the two members…who are reported to have lectured…upon, and in favor of, modern abolitionism.” With the second resolution, they “decidedly” opposed “modern abolitionism, and wholly disclaim[ed] any right, wish or intention, to interfere in the civil and political relation between master and slave, as it exists in the slaveholding states of this Union.”

Delegate Paine, of Alabama, spoke of the overall population’s opposition to abolition, even in the free state of Ohio, asking:

“An Engine of the Most Diabolical Oppression”: Highlights from the American Slavery Collection

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