History Professor Mark Summers Speaks about Gilded-Age Politics at Readex-Sponsored ALA Event [VIDEO]

With incredible energy and expertise, Mark Wahlgren Summers brought history to life with his dynamic interpretation of 19th-century political campaigns for the librarians and educators who attended a Readex-hosted breakfast during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Orlando. Summers, the Thomas D. Clark Professor of History at the University of Kentucky, where he has taught for the last 32 years, entertained the crowd with his highly animated lecture titled “Politics is just war without the bayonets”: Dirty Politics in a Genteel Age, 1868-1892.

Here, he describes stump speeches, often delivered at train stations, across the campaign trail:

 

Summers didn’t just tell the crowd about the past, he helped them experience it with his lively retelling, leading attendees to make comments like this:

 

For most historians, the Gilded Age was the Golden Age of American politics. Well before football or baseball found a vogue, it was the great participatory sport. Families turned out for parades, rallies and barbecues. Campaign clubs designed ornate uniforms and hired brass bands to precede them as they marched. Eligible voters in record numbers showed up at the polls. Watch the full presentation to understand why Summers warned that to be wistful for those days is a grave mistake.

History Professor Mark Summers Speaks about Gilded-Age Politics at Readex-Sponsored ALA Event [VIDEO]

“Glory to God! See the Vermonters go it!”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

Other CW 2 sm.jpgThe current release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an intimate recollection of the first Union general to die in the war, an account of a nostalgic return of aging veterans to the scenes of their service in the war, and a remembered account of a peculiar phenomenon experienced by Union soldiers in Louisiana.


Personal Recollections of General Nathaniel Lyon. Prepared by Companion Brigadier-General William A. Hammond, U.S.A. (1900)

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This imprint is striking, in part, because of the biographies of the author and his subject. Nathaniel Lyon was a general in the U.S. Army early in the Civil War. He had served in both the Second Seminole War and Mexican-American War. He was killed in Missouri on August 10, 1861 at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek becoming the first Union general to die in the conflict. William A. Hammond, a physician, served as the Surgeon General of the United States Army from 1862 to 1864. After the war he became the first American to dedicate his career exclusively to neurology authoring many books and articles on the subject. Late in life Hammond authored this memory of his time with Lyon in the years before the war when both men were posted at Fort Riley.

“Glory to God! See the Vermonters go it!”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

A Day at the (Space) Races: Gherman Titov and Vostok-2 Raise the Stakes of Manned Space Flight

“Socialism is the launching platform from which the Soviet Union shoots off its cosmic ships.” —Nikita S. Khrushchev

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On 6 August 1961, less than four years after Sputnik and not quite four months after Yuri Gagarin's historic orbital flight, Gherman Titov accomplished a flight of over seventeen orbits, lasting more than a day. This achievement had the desired effect of serving notice to the United States that Soviet space exploration was neither a fluke nor a stunt, but a sustained program to demonstrate the technical superiority—and by extension, the socio-political potency—of socialism over capitalism. In these documents from the current release of Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we offer direct quotations from Titov himself, scientists, a journalist, even a farmer witnessing Titov's landing.

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Preparation for Man's Flight into Cosmic Space

Vestnik Akademii Nauk, SSSR (Herald of the Academy of Sciences, USSR), No. 6, 1961. 16 p.

A Day at the (Space) Races: Gherman Titov and Vostok-2 Raise the Stakes of Manned Space Flight

“What appears to be wise and right”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

LincolnPortrait.jpgThis month’s release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes works illustrating various forms of internal strife caused by slavery and the opposition to it. Highlighted here—in George Washington's "Last Will and Testament," a book by an Irish abolitionist, and a compilation of the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln—are examples of conflicting sentiments within an individual, a movement, and a country. 


 

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The Last Will and Testament of General George Washington (1800)

By George Washington

Item. Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire that all the slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom. To emancipate them during her life, would, though earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties, on account of their intermixture by marriages with the dower negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the dower negroes are held, to manumit them.

Washington continues, describing the treatment he expects of his slaves upon their eventual emancipation:

“What appears to be wise and right”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“A Taste for Human Flesh”: The Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916

As the lifeguards drew near him the water about the man was suddenly tinged with red and he shrieked loudly. A woman on shore cried that the man in the red canoe had upset, but others realized it was blood that colored the water and the woman fainted.

(“Shark Kills Bather off Jersey Beach," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), July 7, 1916)

Sm Shk.jpgCharles Bruder, an employee of a Spring Haven, New Jersey resort, had just become the second victim in a series of shark attacks that plagued the Jersey shore in July 1916. Reflecting the widespread national coverage these local attacks received, Early American Newspapers contains rich cache of articles covering the terrible events of that summer.

The first incident took place on Saturday, July 1, in Beach Haven, N.J. By the following Monday the news had been picked up by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Charles E. Vansant, 23, son of a Philadelphia physician, was attacked by a shark or other big fish while bathing in the surf off here yesterday, according to eyewitnesses, and died before he could be rescued.

Alexander Ott, an expert swimmer, who saw the encounter, rushed to Vansant’s assistance, but he was apparently dead when Ott reached him.

There were wounds on Vansant’s legs showing he had been bitten.

In the days between the first two attacks, attempts were made to calm the public by describing the first incident as a single occurrence that would not likely be repeated. On Thursday, July 6, a writer from The Philadelphia Inquirer quipped

“A Taste for Human Flesh”: The Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916

The Worst Day for Casualties in British Military History: A Look Back at the Battle of the Somme through Early American Newspapers

July 1, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of the day the British army suffered the worst losses in its history, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. American newspapers and news services had correspondents in Britain, France and Germany, who were the main opponents on the Western Front, covering the events of the war. This was possible because the United States had not yet entered the war. Readex’s Early American Newspapers contains the accounts those correspondents filed about this battle as well as the rest of World War I.

July 1, 1916: After five days of an artillery barrage intended to destroy the barbed wire and thin out the German defenders, officers blew their whistles at 7:30 a.m. and the British troops went over the top. The plan by the commanding generals was that this attack would cut through the German lines and turn a static war back into a war of movement. Originally expected to be led by French forces, the lengthy battle of Verdun shifted the main attack to the British sector. Planned in late 1915, the attack was planned to coincide with the Brusilov Offensive on the Eastern Front in present-day western Ukraine. 

 

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The Worst Day for Casualties in British Military History: A Look Back at the Battle of the Somme through Early American Newspapers

“The Yankee proper hate all foreigners”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The current release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes several accounts of the war from the perspective of citizens and sympathizers of the Confederacy. We look at a diary of a young clergyman who served as a North Carolina company chaplain throughout the war, an account by an Englishman who enlisted in the CSA Army, and a personal account of the Union occupation of New Orleans by an outraged lady of that city.


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Experience of a Confederate Chaplain, 1861-1864. By Rev. A.D. Betts, D.D., N.C. Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church (1900)

The Reverend A.D. Betts was a member of the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He served as the chaplain for the 30th North Carolina Troops during the Civil War. He introduced his personal history of this service by noting that

The chronicles of a Confederate Chaplain’s diary will doubtless furnish the staple for weaving a most engaging story when the true historian shall find them

The perusal of these plain annals will surely revive in the memory of many a Confederate Veteran the vivid panorama of that unequalled and heroic struggle for the perpetuation of certain principles that underlie the purest and best form of government in the estimation of loyal Southrons [sic].

“The Yankee proper hate all foreigners”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The U.S. Presidential Election of 1980: International Perspectives from Open-Source Intelligence Reports

Ronald Reagan campaigning with Nancy Reagan in Columbia, South Carolina. 10/10/80.Every U.S. presidential election attracts worldwide interest, and Reports from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service—available from Readex in a unique digital edition—provide English-language analysis of them from all sides of the political and geographical world.

These open-source intelligence reports can be used to understand how different nations viewed the outcome of the 1980 contest between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Some of their conclusions are somewhat surprising, especially in light of what actually happened during the eight years Reagan was president.  


The first excerpt below was broadcast in Persian from the Tehran Domestic Service on November 6, 1980. The transcript states at the beginning that this is “Unattributed political commentary.” Its headline is “Carter, Reagan Called Identical.” Some of the language in the opening paragraphs could have seemingly come from an Eastern European or Soviet source. 

The U.S. Presidential Election of 1980: International Perspectives from Open-Source Intelligence Reports

“The Savage Mob”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The June release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of letters by an Englishman about his stay in the Antebellum United States, a compilation of poems about religion, slavery and drinking, as well as an anthology of murders and confessions. 


 

Men and Things in America: Being the Experience of a Year’s Residence in the United States, in a Series of Letters to a Friend (1838) 

By Andrew Bell 

In 1835 English historian and author Andrew Bell travelled to the United States. During his yearlong stay in America he took copious notes of his experiences and upon his return compiled them as a series of letters written under the pseudonym, A. Thomson. Bell discusses many topics including the opinions of Americans toward the Irish and that of the Irish toward Americans, the “pretended absence of poverty in America,” and the conditions of African Americans. 

After writing about both the Shakers and the Quakers, Bell describes the relationship of the latter with African Americans. 

“The Savage Mob”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“That Execrable Sum of All Villainies”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The June release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes narratives by both a British Army cavalryman and the British Army’s Commander-in-Chief. Also found in this release is an account by an Austrian explorer who was one of the first Europeans to visit Lake Turkana in the Kenyan Rift Valley.  


 

Travels in Western Africa, in 1845 & 1846 (1847) 

By John Duncan 

Scotsman John Duncan served in the British Army’s cavalry and journeyed twice to Africa. During the Niger expedition of 1841 he was struck with a poisoned arrow and suffered from fever but was undaunted. He returned to Africa in 1845 and traveled “from Whydah, through the kingdom of Dahomey, to Adofoodia, in the interior.” 

Duncan uses a regrettable tone to describe some of the peoples he encounters, declaring the Fantee “of all the Africans I have yet seen the laziest and dirtiest….They are remarkably dull of comprehension, and, unless constantly watched, will lie down and do nothing.” Nor is he impressed by their superstition-based approach to medicine. However, Duncan is most disturbed by their exuberant celebrations, writing:  

“That Execrable Sum of All Villainies”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

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