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

‘Idle Amusements’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

November’s release of Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, contains more than two dozen rare broadsides covering a wide variety of topics. They range from legislative acts regarding taxation of theatrical exhibitions and regulations for New York Harbor to advertisements from an assortment of early 19th-century businesses. Also found in this release is a diverse array of scarce juvenile literature, including collections of poems, prayers, and short stories; instructional primers such as spellers, alphabet books, and grammars; and works containing nursery rhymes, riddles, and Bible stories.


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An Act, To Regulate and Tax Theatrical Exhibitions in the City of New York, and for other purposes therein mentioned (1802)

By the Legislative Assembly of the State of New York

WHEREAS Theatrical Exhibitions and the like idle amusements have a tendency to corrupt the morals of Youth in general, and frequently prove a source of distress to families: Therefore, BE IT ENACTED by the People of the State of New-York, represented in Senate and Assembly, That it shall be lawful, from and after the passing of this Act, for the Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty of the city of New York, and they are hereby authorized and directed to levy and collect a tax of [   ] per cent, on all Tickets, to be issued by them, for Theatrical Exhibitions within the said city.

‘Idle Amusements’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

‘Gas! Gas! Gas!’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The November 2016 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several Antebellum broadsides announcing a variety of entertainment events, a volume describing a dangerous expedition to Central Africa, and a Reconstruction-era speech delivered in the U.S. Senate by a former Republican governor from Indiana.


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Gas! Gas! Gas! (1853)

By Masonic Hall (Philadelphia, PA)

This broadside advertises a number of extraordinary attractions including an infant percussionist “who beats over one hundred popular airs on the drum” and B.S. Bowen, the “celebrated banjoist and Southern Ethiopian delineator.” However, the main attraction was undoubtedly Dr. Greenwood’s exhibition of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

…Professor Greenwood will exhibit his nitrous oxide gas being the only person now engaged in exhibiting its most pleasing and sensitive powers in public exhibitions. Upwards of 500,000 persons, both Ladies and Gentlemen, have inhaled this most wonderful Gas, administered only by Professor Greenwood, a great many of whom have admitted to have been greatly benefited by its most wonderful powers.


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An Account of the Progress of the Expedition to Central Africa (1854)

‘Gas! Gas! Gas!’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Deceive and Distress Your Adversaries’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

The first release of Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819 includes a two-volume compilation of an 1808 magazine parodying culture and politics, a book of rules and improvements to various recreational pastimes, and “a new and complete system of fortune telling” published in 1817.


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Salmagundi (1808)

Salmagundi, subtitled The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. and Others, was a satirical periodical lampooning New York City culture and politics. The authors, Washington Irving, his brother William, and James Kirke Paulding, produced 20 issues between January 24, 1807, and January 15, 1808, before the magazine was discontinued due to a disagreement between the writers and the publisher. Articles appeared under a variety of pseudonyms including Will Wizard, Launcelot Langstaff, Pindar Cockloft, and Mustapha Rub-a-Dub Keli Khan.

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Each issue begins with the following lines of mock Latin and their translation:

In hoc est hoax, cum quiz et joksez,

Et smokem, toastem, roastem folksez

Fee, faw, fum.

                                                            Psalmanazar

‘Deceive and Distress Your Adversaries’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

‘Two Strange Lumps of Humanity’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an autobiography by conjoined twins, instructions on how to stage a successful minstrel show, and a collection of racist illustrations depicting African Americans in the South.


 

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History and Medical Description of the Two-headed Girl (1869)

 

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We are, indeed, a strange people, justly regarded both by scientific and ordinary eyes as the greatest natural curiosities the world has ever had sent upon its surface.

Millie and Christina were born into slavery in North Carolina in 1852. In addition to the “two-headed girl,” they were referred to as the Carolina twins, the United African twins, and the two-headed nightingale. They write in their autobiography about having been bought and sold several times while still in their infancy:

…we became separated from our parents, and after a few more transfers in the way of ownership, became the property of Mr. Jos. P. Smith, who gave for us, two strange lumps of humanity, the sum of $30,000. He, with a goodness of heart…ascertained where our parents were…purchased them, and all our little brothers and sisters, thus bringing a long separated family together…

‘Two Strange Lumps of Humanity’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

A ‘Nation of Slaveholders’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The August release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes publications with differing religious perspectives on American slavery. Highlighted here are works by one of the founders of the United States General Convention of Universalists, Elhanan Winchester, and by two lesser-known authors.


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The Reigning Abominations, Especially the Slave Trade (1788)

By Elhanan Winchester

Elhanan Winchester was an itinerant preacher, five-time husband, and a founder of what became the Universalist Church of America. He was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1751 and was ordained a Baptist minister 20 years later. During his ministry, Winchester travelled to South Carolina and Virginia preaching to both blacks and whites and sharing openly the gospel with slaves. In 1781 his congregation was excommunicated by the Baptist Church.

Describing his experience in Virginia, Winchester writes:

Though I have been in Virginia but a few days, I have seen and heard that which greatly affects my heart, and I shall therefore take notice of some of those abominations which, I fear, greatly prevail in this country, and which threaten it with ruin and desolation, unless repentance and reformation prevent.

A ‘Nation of Slaveholders’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The 1864 GOP National Convention and ‘the Little Squad of Bolters’

250px-Republican_presidential_ticket_1864b.jpgEvery four years the American political parties gather to nominate their presidential candidate. The months preceding the conventions are often the most fractious periods in American politics as spring turns to summer and internecine squabbles turn to feuds. This was particularly true in 1864.

As the National Union Party convention in Baltimore neared the young Republican Party was at risk of being torn apart. An uncompromising faction of the party, the Radical Republicans, opposed nominating President Lincoln for a second term and even held their own convention in Cleveland. They objected to the president’s policy on slavery, his administration of the war, and his post-war plans which they found too lenient.

Most Radical Republican leaders expected the Confederates to be treated severely after the war. In early January 1864, under the headline “The Logic of History: Bloodthirsty Venom of the ‘Loyalists,’” the Wisconsin Daily Patriot printed the following:

During the summer of 1863, according to the Washington Chronicle, Jim Lane, a Republican United States Senator from Kansas, made a speech in Washington, in which he gave utterance to the following bloodthirsty sentiments:

“I would like to live long enough to see every white man in South Carolina, in hell, and the negroes inheriting their territory.”

[Loud applause.]

The 1864 GOP National Convention and ‘the Little Squad of Bolters’

Running Amuck: Following a Phrase in Early American Newspapers

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Running amuck is one of the terrors of the East, but is far less common than it formally was….The word amuck is a corruption of amoak, Javanese, to kill, and the thing is simply a miscellaneous, indiscriminate killing. The natives of those Eastern lands become, from long continued, excessive use of opium, ferociously frantic, and their frenzy is often intensified by religious fanaticism. Then, absolutely mad, they rush into the streets—frequently nude—cursing, biting, and stabbing…whomever they encounter.[1]

Although the inspired description of the act of running amuck, as described in this 1880 article, is dubious, its definition and derivation are on firmer footing. The article, continuing its flair for the dramatic, concludes:

Nothing is as formidable as an amuck-runner, and it is not strange that he is mercilessly slain….A European or American who has seen an amuck is very apt to remember it.[2]

The phrase “running amuck” appears in the Early American Newspapers subset of America's Historical Newspapers as early as 1825 in a Daily National Journal article[3] and by the turn of the century it had become ubiquitous. Also pervasive in 19th-century America was alcohol, and much like “excessive use of opium” was seen as a cause of running amuck in the East, so too was alcohol viewed in America.

Running Amuck: Following a Phrase in Early American Newspapers

“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 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

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