"Using the Weed" and Other 19th-Century Plays for ‘Female Characters Only’

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This month’s release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900, adds several plays with all-female casts. Three such works are highlighted here.


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Written by George Melville Baker and first published in 1865, “Using the ‘Weed’” takes place in a small boarding school for young ladies. There are seven characters including Miss Betty Bookworm who is the principal of the school, her assistant Mrs. Starch, three young ladies, and the twin sister aunts of student Clarissa Harlowe Smithers.

Clarissa is a playful girl who takes pleasure in rattling her spinster guardians. To the distress of her classmates, she is dedicated to her sewing machine:

Mary. I declare, Clari, you will wear yourself out at the sewing machine.

Fanny. Your devoted attachment to that useful but tiresome instrument is really surprising.

Clarissa. Law, girls, I shall never tire of it. You know it is a novelty to me.

Fanny. Novelty! Why, I imagined there was not a family in the world without one.

Mary. Mother has had one ever since I can recollect.

Fanny. The idea that a young lady, with such a romantic name as Clarissa Harlowe Smithers, should become such a devoted slave to the needle and treadle is very surprising.

"Using the Weed" and Other 19th-Century Plays for ‘Female Characters Only’

‘The Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The May release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a 1767 address against slavery by an American physician, diplomat and politician; a memoir of travels through Africa by the self-described discoverer of the source of the Blue Nile; and Civil War-era campaign literature by the author of “Negro-mania.”

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Extract From an Address, in the Virginia Gazette, of March 19, 1767 (1767)

By Arthur Lee

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Arthur Lee (1740-1792) served as an American diplomat to Britain and France during the Revolutionary War. Prior to the war he was educated in both law and medicine. He practiced the former in London and upon returning to Virginia served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In this early work, Lee speaks against slavery, arguing:

Permit me in your Paper, to address the Members of our Assembly, on two points, in which the public interest is very nearly concerned.

The abolition of slavery, and the retrieval of a specie in this colony, are the subjects, on which I would bespeak their attention.

‘The Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Apocalypse Laos: America Loses the Laotian Civil War to the Communists

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American Proxy Wars: Korea and Vietnam is designed to feature Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) coverage of those two countries, but this database can be used for much more than researching the Korean and Vietnam wars. For example, let’s take this new Twentieth-Century Global Perspectives database “off-label” and see what it can tell us about America’s proxy war in Laos.

 

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Laos itself was a creation of French colonialism in the late nineteenth century, and achieved independence in 1954 following the First Indochina War. The Pathet Lao, a communist organization, came into being in the early 1950s in opposition to French ambitions in Southeast Asia. The Pathet Lao were similar to the Viet Cong in that they had both political and military aspirations, and the two groups worked closely together. America targeted them both during the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese Army moved its supply operations into Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

 

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Apocalypse Laos: America Loses the Laotian Civil War to the Communists

“The illigant position of a man-shaver”: A Look at Three 19th-Century American Farces

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The third release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama includes plays that are self-identified as farces or comedietta, a more abstruse variation.

 


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A Little More Cider: A Farce was published in 1870 by George M. Baker. Here are the characters of this work, which is also identified as a temperance play:

Erastus Applejack, the cider-maker.

Zeb Applejack, his son.

Deacon Peachblossom.

Isaac Peachblossom, his son.

Hans Drinker.

Miss Patience Applejack.

Polly Applejack.

Hetty Mason.

Like many such productions, this one is written in a dialect. Unlike many, it is not so easy to identify it. An excerpt:

Zeb. Gosh all hemlock! Polly, what air yeou a thinkin’ on? Thinkin’ ‘bout some feller, I bet.

Polly. Wa’n’t doin’ nothin’ of the sort. I was thinkin’ ‘bout my new Sunday bunnet.

Zeb. Well, fashion or fellers, they’re all alike. When a gal gits thinkin’ ‘bout either on ‘em, she ain’t good for nothin’.

Polly. Precious little you know ‘bout either on ‘em. I heerd Sally Higgins say that your go-to-meetin’ coat looked as though it had been made in the Revolution.

“The illigant position of a man-shaver”: A Look at Three 19th-Century American Farces

Immersed in Primary Documents: A Conversation with Professor Daniel Feller [VIDEO]

This past January, history professor Daniel Feller delivered a highly praised presentation on shifting views of Andrew Jackson at the American Librarian Association midwinter meeting in Denver. Following his talk, Prof. Feller met with Readex to discuss how digitized primary sources have helped to unlock many important new discoveries about this controversial figure whose reputation has “undergone some remarkable somersaults over the years.” 

Feller began by describing the mission of “The Papers of Andrew Jackson”—the major project he directs at the University of Tennessee—to create a complete literary record of the nation’s seventh president by, among other things, tracking down every letter Andrew Jackson wrote, and every letter written to him. Digitized documents and the ability to use keyword search have proven critical to the project’s continued success.

“Digital databases, such as newspapers, now enable us to find things that we never would have been able to find before,” Feller said. He is also optimistic that Readex’s digital edition of The Territorial Papers of the United States will yield additional new findings critical to a fuller understanding of Jackson’s presidency.

Watch the interview to learn how a creative search strategy enabled his research team to find previously unknown letters, published as “curiosities” in newspapers, long after they were written and far from where they originated.

Immersed in Primary Documents: A Conversation with Professor Daniel Feller [VIDEO]

‘The Accursed Incubus’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The April release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a book about the war’s causes by “A Southerner,” a sermon on the “national troubles” by a New Englander, and the autobiography of a prisoner of war by a self-described opium addict.


Fanaticism, and Its Results: or, Facts Versus Fancies (1860)

By A Southerner

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Under the subtitle “Facts versus Fancies,” the author begins his work.

In offering to the public the few imperfect and hastily written thoughts which are herein contained, we have been influenced by no party zeal, or sectional motives. The only feelings which have influenced us, have been truth and justice. A desire to do justice to both parties—North and South.

He continues, writing in a section titled “The Demon of Abolitionism”:

We would not do injustice to any one or any party, and we trust that we will be able to show that our assertion is true, and that the only traitors in the land are those who are known as the Abolition and Republican parties.

Continuing his characterization of Republicans and abolitionists as traitors, the author proclaims his support for a unified nation before writing: 

The South has now an opportunity offered her, which, in our humble judgment, she ought not to neglect. The State of South Carolina proposes to her sister Southern States, that they shall each appoint delegates to a Convention, to be held in Atlanta, Georgia.

‘The Accursed Incubus’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Overt Operations: The North Korean Seizure of the USS Pueblo Exacerbates Flaws in U.S. Naval Intelligence

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As President Trump prepares for a landmark summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, it’s worthwhile to recall an actual landmark in that country’s capital, Pyongyang. Moored on the Potong River in the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, the USS Pueblo is still listed by the U.S. Navy as in active military service since it was seized by the North Koreans on January 23, 1968. One crew member was killed during the assault, and the 82 survivors were imprisoned and tortured by the North Koreans for nearly a year.

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, America’s suspicions of communism and deployments against the Russians remained largely unchanged. If President Trump expects dramatic shifts in North Korean or American strategic interests to result from a single summit, history has shown that deadly games of cat-and-mouse are persistent motifs of international relations despite diplomatic initiatives to the contrary.

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Overt Operations: The North Korean Seizure of the USS Pueblo Exacerbates Flaws in U.S. Naval Intelligence

‘When Indians and Americans Got Along’ – Announcing the Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

On Sunday, June 24, Readex will host a special breakfast presentation titled “When Indians and Americans Got Along: An Alternative History of the Louisiana Territory.” An open discussion will follow the talk by Stephen Aron, professor of history and Robert N. Burr Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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About the Presentation

In this enlightening talk, Prof. Aron—a leading authority on the American frontier—disputes textbook histories that treat the ejection of Indians from their lands as inevitable and relations between native peoples and American pioneers as unremittingly hostile. Aron’s spirited presentation uncovers an alternative history in which some Indian and American migrants to Spanish Louisiana, including most famously Daniel Boone, overcame their enmities and cordially cohabited.

Drawing on Spanish colonial records and the Territorial Papers of the United States, Aron explores how former enemies found common ground in the 1790s and how generally friendly interactions continued after the Louisiana Purchase transferred the territory to the United States. But in the decade after the War of 1812, he explains, amicable relations gave way to pressure from a new group of settlers and to the demands of “American democracy.” These changes challenged the authority of territorial officials like William Clark and paved the trail for Indian removals to and through the Louisiana Territory.

About the Speaker

‘When Indians and Americans Got Along’ – Announcing the Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

Sins of the Father: Syrian President Hafez Assad’s Legacy of Chemical Weapons and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

Only three weeks ago the world media was filled with horrific images of Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons and the military response of America and its allies. But we’ve been here before which raises the question: why does this keep happening?

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Readex’s Nuclear Arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Global Perspectives, 1945-1996, contains abundant references to the development of Syrian chemical weapons as a readily attainable foil to Israel’s alleged nuclear capability, and as an impediment to American hegemony in the Middle East. In that region, chemical weapons have become the less-developed country’s nuclear arms, with most of the benefits and few of the liabilities of the latter.

The late Syrian President Hafez Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad, said as much in a 1987 interview in the newspaper Al-Qabas, as broadcast on the Damascus Domestic Service, recorded and translated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), and now found in Nuclear Arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Assad spoke of a “taboo” against the use of nuclear weapons that he used to Syria’s advantage:

Sins of the Father: Syrian President Hafez Assad’s Legacy of Chemical Weapons and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

‘Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartly’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II

The April release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, includes these three rare items: a strident political broadside, a treatise on logic by a popular hymn writer, and a piece of juvenile literature describing the season of rebirth.


To the Independent Electors of York and Adams Counties (1803)

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This broadside, supporting Frederick Eichelberger’s election to the Pennsylvania Senate, begins by attacking his political opponents.

Contrived and written by Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartley, have been published for the express purpose of abusing Frederick Eichelberger, and destroying the public confidence in a man, whom they lately recommended to the Republicans, as well qualified for a Republican Legislator, and whose election they supported, as zealously as they now oppose him. They ought, at least, to inform us what he has done since they voted him into the Assembly, that makes him so unfit for a Senator; but they cannot give a reason.

The advertisement continues its scathing review:

It would become Charles Hartley, to pay more attention to the duties of his Office, and to SWIG it less, rather than to be eternally babbling about Elections.

Stewart ought to be satisfied with receiving SIX DOLLARS per day, from the Public, for his fine Speeches in Congress --- It is pitiful in an HONORABLE Member of the National Legislature, to be writing and publishing personal slander, in anonymous hands-bills.

‘Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartly’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II

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