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

“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

“That Execrable Sum of All Villainies”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The June release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes narratives by both a British Army cavalryman and the British Army’s Commander-in-Chief. Also found in this release is an account by an Austrian explorer who was one of the first Europeans to visit Lake Turkana in the Kenyan Rift Valley.  


 

Travels in Western Africa, in 1845 & 1846 (1847) 

By John Duncan 

Scotsman John Duncan served in the British Army’s cavalry and journeyed twice to Africa. During the Niger expedition of 1841 he was struck with a poisoned arrow and suffered from fever but was undaunted. He returned to Africa in 1845 and traveled “from Whydah, through the kingdom of Dahomey, to Adofoodia, in the interior.” 

Duncan uses a regrettable tone to describe some of the peoples he encounters, declaring the Fantee “of all the Africans I have yet seen the laziest and dirtiest….They are remarkably dull of comprehension, and, unless constantly watched, will lie down and do nothing.” Nor is he impressed by their superstition-based approach to medicine. However, Duncan is most disturbed by their exuberant celebrations, writing:  

“That Execrable Sum of All Villainies”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Bewitching matter”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Included in the latest release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921, are these illustrated works from the holdings of the Library Company of Philadelphia:

· a four-volume examination of the Moors, Wolofs and other ethnic groups;

· an early 19th-century account of Southern Africa by a resident;

· and a description of “three years’ travels and adventures in the unexplored regions of Central Africa from 1868 to 1871.” 


 The World in Miniature: Africa (1821) 

Edited by Frederic Shoberl 

“Bewitching matter”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Sweetly Thrilling Symphonies”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The April release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes two late 19th-century collections of biographical sketches, one of African American musicians and a second including a wide range of influential African Americans. Also found in the current release is a history of African American troops in the Civil War. 


Music and Some Highly Musical People (1878) 

By James Monroe Trotter 

In 1842, James Monroe Trotter was born into slavery in Mississippi. Freed by their owner, he and his two sisters and mother, Letitia, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Trotter could grow up in freedom. Prior to the Civil War, Trotter taught in Ohio and met Virginia Isaacs, his future wife. During the war, he served, and was promoted quickly, in the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he worked in the Post Office Department in Boston and as Recorder of Deeds in Washington, D.C. 

Trotter begins this volume by asking, what is music? And then offers this elegant answer:  

“Sweetly Thrilling Symphonies”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

"Elevating Savages and Barbarians": Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Within the April release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia are an extensive study of the earth and solar system, including several maps of Africa; a report from the superintendent of the London Missionary Society’s stations in South Africa; and an account of an 1834 “visit to Sierra Leone” titled The White Man's Grave.


Modern Geography: A Description of the Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Colonies (1802) 

By John Pinkerton 

Scottish antiquarian, cartographer, author, numismatist, and historian, John Pinkerton was influential in redefining cartography in the early 19th century and remains best known for Pinkerton’s Modern Atlas. Pinkerton is also recognized as an early advocate of Germanic racial supremacy theory. He wrote several books in which he attempts to remove all Celtic elements from Scottish history, arguing the Gaels were a degenerate imposter race. 

"Elevating Savages and Barbarians": Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The April release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of observations on tropical medicine, an anthology of poems by James Montgomery, and an assemblage of laws pertaining to the British West Indies. 


Medical and Miscellaneous Observations, Relative to the West India Islands (1817) 

By John Williamson, M.D.  

Dr. John Williamson was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and had served as a surgeon for the Caithness Highlanders, a regiment of the Highland Fencible Corps.

In 1798 Williamson traveled to Jamaica where he remained for over a decade. Williamson writes about encountering specific ailments: “The yaws have been long a loathsome and disgusting disease, as well as an immense source of loss to proprietors.” And describes the need for reforming the administration of the island’s health services: “The hospital management of negroes being defective, improvements are suggested, to place these establishments on a foundation consistent with the comfort and welfare of mutual interests.” 

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“The Iron Hand of Persecution”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an English minister's examination of the "United States of America and of the European Settlements in America and the West-Indies," published in 1796. This work includes the color plate of a tobacco plant seen to the right. Also highlighted below are works printed in London offering two perspectives on the slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean.   


An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the United States of America and of the European Settlements in America and the West-Indies (1796) 

By William Winterbotham 

“The Iron Hand of Persecution”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“We Are Recognized Citizens of This Nation”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The March release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes Nat Turner’s published confession, the first issue of David Ruggles’ Mirror of Liberty, and a petition to the U.S. Congress for suffrage rights by the National Convention of the Colored Men of America. 


The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831)

Introducing Nat Turner’s confession, Thomas R. Gray describes how he acquired it and provides evidence of its authenticity. Gray was given access to the imprisoned Turner, who had been captured by “Benjamin Phipps, armed with a shot gun well charged,” and 

…finding that he was willing to make a full and free confession of the origin, progress and consummation of the insurrectory movements of the slaves of which he was the contriver and head; I determined for the gratification of public curiosity to commit his statements to writing, and publish them, with little or no variation, from his own words. That this is a faithful record of his confessions, the annexed certificate of the County Court of Southampton, will attest. 

“We Are Recognized Citizens of This Nation”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“Power, Grandeur, and Oppression”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The February release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a compilation of travel literature written by several African explorers and two multi-volume works by Edward Delaval Hungerford Elers Napier. 


The Modern Traveller (1800)  

By William Fordyce Mavor 

William Fordyce Mavor (1758-1837) was a teacher, politician, and priest. Introducing his four volumes of travel literature, Mavor writes: 

Valuable as these productions are, yet the size and expense of the volumes preclude many readers of curiosity, intelligence, and knowledge, from being able conveniently to purchase such sources of gratification….To accommodate those who may be desirous of being acquainted with modern discoveries, without choosing to be at such an expense, the object of the present publication is to present, in an abridged form, the most remarkable travels and voyages, which have recently afforded important accessions to our acquaintance with countries and mankind. 

“Power, Grandeur, and Oppression”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

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