“A Population Excitable As Ours”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

Portrait of Victor Hugo. Source: Wikipedia CommonsPortrait of Victor Hugo. Source: Wikipedia Commons Many of the works in the February 2015 release of American Pamphlets concern slavery and the American Civil War. Included are narratives about former slaves, arguments that slavery is ordained by God, arguments against slavery and for abolition, an essay on how to manage one’s slaves, and a detailed accounting of the cost of the Civil War to each town in one New England state. Among the authors of these pamphlets are two great writers, Victor Hugo and John Greenleaf Whittier.

 


Victor Hugo’s Letter on John Brown, with Ann S. Stephens’ Reply (1860)

In 1860, the great French writer Victor Hugo sent a letter to a London newspaper in defense of John Brown and his raid on Harper’s Ferry. Hugo’s letter was reprinted in many American newspapers, which was worrisome to Ann Stephens, an author and magazine editor. In reply to Hugo’s letter, Stephens wrote, “The literary reputation of Victor Hugo is calculated to give a force to the wild eloquence of his letter, which should not be allowed to make its way, unanswered, into a population excitable as ours.”

She asserts it is this passionate style that led to the events at Harper’s Ferry and “is fast destroying the holy brotherhood of which our Constitution was the bond and seal.”

“A Population Excitable As Ours”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

“Ventilated Crudities, Absurdities, and Blasphemies”: African Exploration, Abolition, Women’s Rights, and Voodoo

From an 18th-century report on an African expedition to a 19th-century compilation of American folklore, the February 2015 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, contains a wide variety of valuable documents, all from the holdings of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Additional highlights include a work by Harriet Beecher Stowe describing the foundation and inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a compilation of her articles promoting women’s rights, and an autobiography by James Still, illustrating some of the best and worst aspects of 19th-century America.

A Narrative of Four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentots, and Caffraria (1789)
By Lieut. William Paterson

William Paterson was a Scottish soldier, explorer, and botanist. Although he is more widely known for his service as Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales in 1794 and his 1804 exploration of the Tamar River in Tasmania, he also made four expeditions into the interior of Africa between May 1777 and March 1780. Patterson was financed by the wealthy and eccentric Countess of Strathmore, Mary Bowes, who shared an interest in botany and wanted Patterson to collect exotic plants for her. Many of the plants Patterson brought back, as well as the skeleton of a giraffe, were put on display in the Natural History Museum in London. Patterson was one of the first Europeans to adventure into present-day South Africa, and he offers this assurance of his work’s authenticity:

“Ventilated Crudities, Absurdities, and Blasphemies”: African Exploration, Abolition, Women’s Rights, and Voodoo

Just published—The Readex Report: February 2015 (10th Anniversary Issue)

IN OUR 1OTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE: Civil War-era writers see biblical parallels in the American profile; students use primary sources to refine their research processes; and a heated debate rages on the effects of African-inspired inoculations.

Civil War Biblicism and the Demise of the Confederacy
By Eran Shalev, Senior Lecturer, History Department, Haifa University, Israel

Just published—The Readex Report: February 2015 (10th Anniversary Issue)

Tinkering Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The February release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an array of documents relatable to wars from nearly any era: the battlefield readiness of new military technology; prisoner mistreatment and battlefield atrocities; and the deadly threat of espionage from within.

Engineer Stimer's Report of the Last Trial Trip of the "Passaic": Unparalleled Attempt to Throw Discredit upon Superiors, Language Unbecoming an Officer, His Dismissal from the Service Demanded, the Public Probably Deceived as to the "Result" of the Experiment of Firing inside the Turret (1862)
By One of the People

Alban Crocker Stimers was a U.S. Navy Chief Engineer who assisted with the design of the Navy’s latest technological marvel, the ironclads. After the launch of the U.S.S. Monitor, the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy, and drawing on lessons learned from its performance, naval engineers quickly began designing the new Passaic-class ironclad.

A controversy arose during the production of the new class of warships when the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox required the vessels be outfitted with a larger gun. This became problematic because the muzzle diameter of the new gun was too large for the turret opening and required the addition of a smoke box to capture the propellant gases released inside the turret. Unfortunately, the smoke box obstructed the view of the gunners, and they were no longer able to independently aim their weapon. However, according to Navy engineer Stimers, a supporter of firing from inside the turret, the experiment was a spectacular success. According to his report, the first shot…

Tinkering Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

Baker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Christopher Ludwick and the General Staff of Life

Christopher Ludwick's Cookie Board, 1754. Image via Museum of the American Revolution. Click to learn more.Christopher Ludwick's Cookie Board, 1754. Image via Museum of the American Revolution. Click to learn more. Before Napoleon averred that “An army marches on its stomach,” General George Washington was applying that maxim in the field against the British. And to ensure that the Continental Army was well supplied with its most basic staple, Christopher Ludwick was appointed Baker-General on May 3, 1777.

Upon receiving his commission, Ludwick was charged with “using his best endeavors to rectify the abuses in the article of bread.” But he rejected its initial terms of 100 pounds of bread from 100 pounds of flour in these words:

No, gentlemen, I will not accept of your commission upon any such terms. Christopher Ludwick does not want to get rich by the war. He has enough money. I will furnish 135 pounds of bread for every 100 pounds of flour you put into my hands.

Born in 1720 in Germany, he trained as a baker under his father. He became a soldier at 17 and served as a man-at-arms in various European armies. His work as a merchant and a common sailor brought him to Philadelphia in 1753 where he resumed the family business, specializing in gingerbread. Through his industry and integrity, by the time of the Revolution Ludwick had acquired nine houses and a sizable farm.

Baker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Christopher Ludwick and the General Staff of Life

Now Available on Video: “Learning to Look: The Interdisciplinary Value of Historical Visual Culture”

As Director of the Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society, Nan Wolverton is a master at studying images, looking beyond what is readily apparent to uncover details that give fresh insight to a point in time or an aspect of society.

Speaking at a Readex breakfast event during the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Chicago, Wolverton demonstrated her expertise, analyzing newspaper advertisements, photographs, broadsides, political cartoons, and even sheet music. She pointed out details easily overlooked—what the tablecloth in a 19th-century breakfast scene says about America’s place in the global economy, what a walking stick reveals about a former slave’s position, and why the image of a mental institution came to be stamped on dinner plates. She encouraged librarians, faculty, and students to look more deeply and use visuals to enhance their own teaching and research.

“The visual is overlooked as an important source of evidence,” Wolverton said. “An image can enhance the written record but it also can teach us something significant about which the written record can be silent or ambiguous.”

Wolverton explained how she uses images in her American Studies courses at Smith College as a way to introduce students to themes and references they may not otherwise understand, like how the “striped pig” relates to alcohol:  

Now Available on Video: “Learning to Look: The Interdisciplinary Value of Historical Visual Culture”

“It’s the Devil!”—Slavery, Civil War, and King Cotton

Among the 100+ works in last month's release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia are an antebellum account of Caribbean travel written by a New Yorker, slave narratives written before and after the American Civil War, and satirical works on U.S. history by 19th-century English humorists and cartoonists.

The Winter of 1840 in St. Croix, with an Excursion to Tortola and St. Thomas (1840)
By James Smith

As appealing as wintering in the Caribbean may sound, James Smith’s description of his voyage to the Danish colonies illustrates many of the harsh realities of the period. Sailing south of St. Bartholomew’s and Saba, Smith reports,

“It’s the Devil!”—Slavery, Civil War, and King Cotton

The Death of Winston Churchill: As Seen in One American Newspaper Archive

Click to open in PDFClick to open in PDF January 24, 2015, was the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. The soldier, politician and writer lived a long and notable life, which was extensively covered in American newspapers.

From his 1899 prison escape during the Boer War, he was in the public eye, serving in parliament from 1900 on and in government almost continuously from 1908 to 1929. He took a brief time away from government during World War I, when, following the battle of Gallipoli—which he championed, but which was a failure—he resigned as first Lord of Admiralty to serve on the front lines.

From 1929 through the 1930s, he was an early and implacable foe of Hitler and the Nazis. He decried the Munich Agreement. He argued for the rearming of Britain. He re-entered government in 1939 and became Prime Minister in 1940. He made mistakes in and out of office. He returned Britain to the gold standard as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He supported the King in the Abdication Crisis. He was against freedom for India. There was no other politician in Britain who could have rallied the people and worked with Roosevelt and, later, Stalin to win World War II.

The Death of Winston Churchill: As Seen in One American Newspaper Archive

Ukraine: Crossroads of Conquest

From the U.S. Congressional Serial SetFrom the U.S. Congressional Serial Set There is no lack of irony in Russia’s recent use of Cossack militia in the embattled Ukraine.

In the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994, within the document titled “Soviet Total War – ‘Historic Mission’ of Violence and Deceit – Volume I” [85/1 12017 H.Doc 227, p. 723], we find “Russia’s two histories” described as a tension between “Russian state imperialism” and “lawless bands of fugitive peasants” which resisted czarist control even as their conquests consolidated the territories that would become the Soviet Union.

In their latest incarnation, however, it appears that the Cossack wolves have been domesticated, culminating in their revival as the Russian state paramilitary force they are today. Clothed as much in the romance of conquest as in their distinctive uniforms, the former renegades now serve as the vanguard of Russian nationalist aspirations in the western reaches of the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine: Crossroads of Conquest

Free Webinar! American Broadsides and Ephemera: Exploring Visual Culture in 19th-Century America

Readex will offer a live webinar on Feb. 26, 2015, for librarians, faculty and students who have an interest in Visual Culture studies. This in-depth session will explore the content, features and functionality of American Broadsides and Ephemera, 1749-1900, a Readex Archive of Americana collection.

Based on the American Antiquarian Society’s landmark collection, American Broadsides and Ephemera provides nearly 30,000 fully searchable images of visual and graphical materials printed in America during the 18th and 19th centuries. These rare materials provide From American Broadsides and EphemeraFrom American Broadsides and Ephemera unique perspectives on the history, culture and daily life of earlier Americans. Among the wide-range of genres included are sailing cards, envelopes, confessions, playbills, campaign literature, menus, music programs, and many others.

Free Webinar! American Broadsides and Ephemera: Exploring Visual Culture in 19th-Century America

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