Seamus Dunphy


About Author: 

Seamus is an Editor who joined NewsBank in 2006 and continues to be an integral member of the Readex Digital Collections team. He currently leads a team indexing the Territorial Papers, curates derivative products, and writes blogs and training material. He received his B.A. from Marlboro College and remains a student of political science and economics. His hobbies include writing, gardening, and traveling.

Posts by this Author

The Savage Struggle for Life Aboard the RMS Atlantic: Tracking a Pre-Titanic Maritime Disaster through America’s Historical Newspapers

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“Terrible Ocean Calamity: A White Star Line Steamer Lost,” read the Boston Evening Journal’s headline. The article went on to report:

It is our painful duty this morning to record the most terrible marine disaster that has ever occurred on our coast—the loss of a great ocean steamship with about 750 lives.

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Readers would be excused to think RMS Titanic at this point. However, the RMS Atlantic disaster preceded the loss of the Titanic by 39 years. On June 2, 1873, 145 years ago, the Jackson Daily Citizen ran a front-page article beneath the headline, “A Watery Grave,” stating:

The White Star steamer Atlantic…while coming into this port [Halifax] for coal, struck on Meagher’s Rock, near Cape Prospect, 22 miles west of Halifax, and became a total wreck. Of about 1,000 souls on board upwards of 700 were drowned. The third officer, Brady, arrived in this city this evening. He says that the Atlantic left Liverpool on the 20th of March with upward of 900 steerage passengers and about 50 cabin passengers. The steamer experienced boisterous weather during the passage, but all went well till noon, Monday, the 31st, when the supply of coal became nearly exhausted and the captain determined to put into Halifax.

The Savage Struggle for Life Aboard the RMS Atlantic: Tracking a Pre-Titanic Maritime Disaster through America’s Historical Newspapers

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

This year’s Black History Month marks 200 years since the birth of Frederick Douglass, one of the most influential Americans of the 19th century. While America’s Historical Newspapers includes The North Star, the forceful anti-slavery newspaper Douglass began publishing in Rochester, New York, in 1847, America’s Historical Imprints contains a wealth of primary source material recording, remembering, and celebrating his remarkable life and work.


 

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In his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, found in Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick writes of his parents.

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite dark. My mother was of a darker complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather.

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means to knowing was withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.

He continues, describing his relationship with his mother:

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

‘A covenant with death, an agreement with hell’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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This year’s first release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a work of American travel literature from the 1830s and a history of the United States containing, in part, a retrospective of that same period and of resistance to America’s peculiar institution during it. Also found in this month’s release is a collection of essays on morality that address slavery.        


Impressions of America (1836)

By Tyrone Power, esq.

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Tyrone Power (1797-1841) was born in Waterford County, Ireland. In his teens Power joined a group of travelling actors and went on to successfully earn a living acting at the leading London theatres and appearing at the Theatre Royal in Dublin. He travelled to the United States several times and recorded his Impressions during journeys made in the early 1830s.

Power offers this description of his arrival in Richmond, Virginia:

Whilst waiting at the landing-place amidst the bustle incident to shifting baggage, landing passengers, and packing carriages, I witnessed a wedding assemblage that amused me highly, and was no bad sample of slavery in the Old Dominion.

‘A covenant with death, an agreement with hell’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘The Privileged Order’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The December release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes three items by women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria V. Clayton and Sallie Holley. Each offers a different perspective on America’s peculiar institution.

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Address in Favor of Universal Suffrage for the Election of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention (1867)

By Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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‘The Privileged Order’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Kill Him in the Case of Resistance’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The November release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an Englishman’s observations on the Atlantic slave trade, a Scot’s concerns for the emancipated slaves in the West Indies, and reflections on the American abolitionist movement and slavery by the third baronet of Wraxall.


Narrative of a Voyage to the Southern Atlantic Ocean (1834)

By William Henry Bayley Webster

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William Henry Bayley Webster served aboard the HMS Chanticleer during her scientific expedition in the South Atlantic from 1828 to 1830. Webster, the ship’s surgeon, recorded the manners and customs of various peoples he encountered traveling along the Atlantic coasts of Africa and South America. He makes notes of finding slavery in South America “at the Cape in its mildest form” and at Rio “in all its plenitude” but after arriving at Maranham in northern Brazil he offers more detail, writing:  

‘Kill Him in the Case of Resistance’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘A White Man’s Government’: Readex Introduces “African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883”

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Curated from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s acclaimed African American history archive, African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883, is a newly released digital collection of searchable books, pamphlets, and speeches. Its coverage begins with the conclusion of the Civil War and spans eighteen of the most formative years in African American history.

Reconstruction marked an end to slavery and a beginning to the enfranchisement of African Americans. Full citizenship, voting rights, land ownership, employment opportunities, and political participation were only some of the significant gains enjoyed, in theory, by African Americans during this period. Although these rights were granted by amendments to the U.S. Constitution and federal legislation, they were not, in practice, universally protected at local levels.


Using this new collection’s “Suggested Searches” feature, students and other researchers can explore these revealing primary source materials with ease.

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‘A White Man’s Government’: Readex Introduces “African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883”

‘The Market of Human Flesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a piece of travel literature describing America and its peculiar institution, a pamphlet bemoaning the ills of Reconstruction, and speeches and writings on the political aspects of slavery by abolitionist and senator Charles Sumner.


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A Tour in the United States of America (1784)

By John Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, Esq.

John Ferdinand Smyth Stuart (1745-1814) studied medicine at Edinburgh University, emigrated to America, and began his practice in Virginia. When the American Revolution began, Stuart, a loyalist, abandoned his home and served in the British Army. During the war he was captured and held prisoner, spending eighteen months in irons. Misfortune followed Stuart. After returning to England after the war, his pension for service was suspended. Moving to the West Indies, he was shipwrecked three times. Returning one more time to England, he learned his pension claims were too old to be heard. In 1814 he was knocked down and killed by a carriage.

Writing of his sojourn in America, Stuart recounts the country’s natural beauty but the charm of his prose is diminished quickly when he writes:

‘The Market of Human Flesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘There’s a Dark Man Comin': Readex Introduces "African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1922"

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Curated from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s acclaimed African American history archive, African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1922, is a newly released digital collection of searchable books, pamphlets and speeches. Its coverage begins with an 1883 decision known as the “The Civil Rights Cases” in which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights Act of 1875, declaring the federal government could not prevent discrimination on the basis of race.

This ruling paved the way for the codification of Jim Crow laws that reversed the hard-earned gains African Americans had made during Reconstruction. Public education, transportation, and accommodations were only a few of the areas of daily life in the U.S. in which segregation was legally allowed.


Using this new collection’s “Suggested Searches” feature, students and other researchers can easily explore revealing primary source materials that provide stark reminders of the fierce sense of separation that permeated American society during this divisive era.

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‘There’s a Dark Man Comin': Readex Introduces "African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1922"

‘The Grievances of the Fair Secesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The September release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an address on slavery by one of America’s Founding Fathers, a biography of William Pitt which contains a description of the Middle Passage, and a history of the 19th Colored Infantry Regiment.


 

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An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Settlements on the Slavery of the Negroes in America (1773)

By Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) signed the Declaration of Independence, attended the Continental Congress, supported the American Revolution, and opposed slavery. He also founded Dickinson College, served as Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and was a leader of the American Enlightenment.

Rush viewed Africans as equals to Europeans and argues here that any differences are either products of slavery or only skin deep. He writes:

…we are to distinguish between an African in his own country, and an African in a state of slavery in America. Slavery is so foreign to the human mind, that the moral faculties, as well as those of the understanding are debased, and rendered torpid by it. All the vices which are charged upon the Negroes in the southern colonies and the West-Indies, such as Idleness, Treachery, Theft, and the like, are the genuine offspring of slavery, and serve as an argument to prove that they were not intended for it.

‘The Grievances of the Fair Secesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘The President Has Been Shot’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The July release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes several regimental histories and other recollections of the war. Highlighted here are reminiscences of cavalrymen from Ohio and New York, and a collection of engravings depicting various battles from American history.


The Battles of America by Sea and Land (1875)

By Robert Tomes

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Robert Tomes (1817-1882) was a physician, diplomat and writer. He practiced medicine briefly in New York before working as a surgeon for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and making several voyages between San Francisco and Panama. Tomes was appointed U.S. consul at Rheims, France, in 1865 and served until 1867. His The Great Civil War a History of the Late Rebellion can also be found in The American Civil War Collection. In this assemblage of images, published to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the American Revolution, Tomes includes engravings of battles and commanders from many wars including the Civil War.

The Buffalo, NY, Superintendent of Education offered the following endorsement:

Having examined the engravings of your work entitled “BATTLES OF AMERICA,” and carefully read some of the advance numbers, I cheerfully recommend it to the reading public. The engravings are of fine execution and are new in design, affording a decided relief from most other works.

‘The President Has Been Shot’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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