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“Intensifying the life of all”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

Posted on 03/08/2016

After a final release in February of nearly 600 additional pamphlets from the New-York Historical Society, American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, is now complete. This unique treasure trove of more than 25,000 catalogued pamphlets embraces a vast number of subjects and purposes, many of which are strikingly illustrated. Newly digitized pamphlets in this last release include a 19th-century promotion for an electric cure-all device, an illustrated account of Boston in the late 21st century, and photographs of a steamship line at the dawn of the 20th century. 

Dr. Bryan's Electro-Voltaic and Magnetic Belts and Appliances for Imbuing the Human Organism with New Life, Health, and Strength (1876)

American Pamphlets is rich in works promoting health-giving treatments, tonics, and resorts. The use of electricity to address myriad complaints was a popular remedy in the 19th century. In this illustrated pamphlet, featuring testimonials from physicians and patients alike, Dr. Bryan makes an all-out case for his patented device:  

Dr. Bryan’s Electro-Voltaic and Magnetic Belts and Appliances 

For Imbuing the Human Organism with New Life, Health, and Strength, have been perfected, after many years application to the subject.    

By incessant study, untiring application, and protracted perseverance, I have accomplished this 


I therefore introduce to the Professional man, the Business man, the Clergyman, the Literati, the Artisan—to all classes and avocations—

Bryan’s Electro-Voltaic Belts and Appliances.   

They are invaluable, and a God-like boon to the affected, for they bear Heaven-given powers.

To the languid and the weak they communicate energy and vigor, imparting fresh life and strength to the system, intensifying the life of all—increasing health—augmenting strength—vivifying the failing— restoring the ailing—giving force to the brain— aiding the hard worker, mentally and physically, and, in excesses, assisting Nature in recuperating the tried organism.

Read it for the panoply of diseases that can be cured by wearing an electrical appliance, as seen in part in these illustrations: 




A Day in the Boston of the Future (1879) 

Illustrated by the author 

The author, James S. Goodwin, envisions and whimsically illustrates Boston as he is shown it in 2078 by an emissary from Satan. The title page includes a quote from Alexander Gill:  

Is this the childe of your bedridden witt?

The Printers must be put to further toyles;

Whereas indeed…

Th’ hadst better give thy Pamphelett to the flame.

From the outset the author expresses his wit: 

If, by any elasticity of diction, a person having employment may be called a pauper, I am a pauper-employee of an opulent corporation, which, with great cheerfulness and regularity, extracts a portly semi-annual dividend from an abused and much-enduring public, for amercement and behoof of its shareholders. 

The narrator, after a supper of crackers and cheese, falls into a reverie which he considers has been caused from the cheese having “been the product of a gorged cow.” When he awakes he is late for work. He finds a note from the emissary who signs it First Imp in Waiting.

Rushing forth, he encounters a stranger who takes him in hand, and the imp shows him a future which he describes and illustrates for us. 

Baseball has changed and is now played by teams of scores of players with many additional bases. Almost all of the men in Boston were required to wear nothing but baseball uniforms.

Pneumatic tubes now transport people by the force of massive fans. All of hotels are now run by machines so that the guest is never annoyed by lazy clerks. The reader will be startled to learn how dead bodies are disposed of. The narrator has much more to tell us and draw for us. 



Eighty Photographic Views of Fall River Line. Views of Fall River, Newport, Long Island Sound, East and North Rivers (1902) 

American Pamphlets has many works that promote railroad and steamship lines of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some include significant text, while others are pictorial. Capturing a vanished time, this pamphlet is entirely photographic as the title promises.  











 For more information about American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact 

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