The current release of imprints from the American Antiquarian Society’s American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes strikingly different assessments of the war’s origins as described a half century apart by two very different men. In 1862 the governor of Virginia’s Union sympathetic rump government left no doubt as to where the responsibility for the war lay. By contrast, writing 50 years later a veteran of the Union Army is not nearly so certain as the governor.
In this month’s release of JPRS Reports, 1957-1994, we’re exploring psychology—dark & light, hortative & theoretical, aspirational and actual.
Hitler’s Former Headquarters Now a Tourist Attraction in Poland
On a road in Rastenburg (now Ketrzyn), Poland, past the wild swans and the birches, the Polish Society for Tourism and Home Lore erected a sign leading travelers to the “Wolf’s Lair.” Upon arrival in 1963, for the price of ten zloty the curious visitor could tour the numbered ruins of the massive complex of reinforced concrete which served as Adolf Hitler’s headquarters from 1941-1944, where the Fuhrer narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. The presence of schoolgirls and wild strawberries are noted among the graves and mine fields in this short, poignant report.
The Lei Feng Campaign: A Pictorial Report on a Chinese Communist Hero
Lei Feng was literally the poster child for Chinese communism beginning in February 1963, although there is disagreement as to the existence of the actual person depicted. Some of the visual details were lost during the reproduction process, but there’s still a great deal to be learned through the captions and especially the numerous cartoons. If you’ve seen this Chinese Everyman once, you’ll recall having seen him a thousand times, which was the point, after all, as he was held to be the best guide and highest realization of the ideal communist citizen.
The July release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an English abolitionist’s perspective on the slave trade, a speech advocating for equal suffrage in post-Civil War America, and an incredible advertising circular for a book about Henry Morton Stanley’s adventures in Africa.
The History of Uncle Tom's Countrymen: with a Description of Their Sufferings in the Capture, the Voyage, and the Field (1853)
Although slavery had been abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833, Great Britain continued to import products produced by slave labor. Calling for an end to the importation of American cotton and the tacit support of slavery, the author writes:
The plea that we are compelled from necessity to purchase the fruits of the slave is feeble in the extreme. It is either from a willful negligence or postulated blindness on our parts, that we have so long allowed ourselves to become thus dependent, and we now wish to make a virtue of necessity; but of all evils under the sun, that of making vice commendable is the greatest. The Times of November the 25th, 1852, says—“Show me the man chiefly benefitted by this crime, and I will show you the greatest criminal.” If then the people of England reap the chief benefit, they are certainly the chief criminals.
The July release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society contains a review of the debate before the Virginia Legislature on the abolition of slavery, a defense of the Methodist Episcopal Church’s position on slavery, and an essay interpreting the liberal philosophy that inspired the U.S. Constitution through the lens of religion.
An Essay on Slavery (1849)
By Thomas Roderick Dew
Thomas Roderick Dew was an educator and writer who served as the 13th president of the College of William & Mary. In 1832, Dew published a review of the debate in the Virginia legislature on the merits and ramifications of the abolition of slavery following Nat Turner’s slave rebellion.
Dew favored the continuation of slavery, arguing that laws should not be changed in the aftermath of a crisis:
With her Civil War expertise, passion for environmental history, and quick wit, Megan Kate Nelson, author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War, offered a compelling presentation at the Readex-hosted breakfast during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in San Francisco.
The acclaimed historian shared her journey through thousands of images created during the Civil War, including sketches, photographs, newspaper illustrations, and engravings. Through these visuals, Nelson unlocked the story of war held in trees. By the end of the hour, her passion for injured landscapes had convinced the audience that trees are, in their own way, veterans of war. They played a critical role in the “destructive creation” by both Union and Confederate soldiers. By the end of the war in 1865, more than 4 million trees had been consumed.
But, the destruction of trees only tells half the story. During the Civil War, trees played a crucial role in construction, providing the necessary material to create sturdy housing structures, critical for soldiers’ survival, especially through cold winter months. These simple buildings gave soldiers a sense of place and community, a small inkling of security in unfamiliar territory hundreds of miles from home. Through her research, Nelson uncovered evidence that soldiers even gave their homes addresses.