Seamus Dunphy


About Author: 

A Readex Editorial Content Analyst, Seamus joined NewsBank in 2006 as a U.S. Congressional Serial Set indexer. He received his BA in History from Marlboro College and continues to study political science and economics. His passion for organic gardening stems from the lessons of hard work and sustainable living he learned on his family’s farm.

Posts by this Author

“Attempting To Prefer Death To Slavery”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The initial release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the first widely-read slave narrative, an early history of African-American patriotism, and Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom.

Crispus Attucks, first martyr of the American Revolution


The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1816)
By Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano’s story, one of the first widely-read slave narratives, includes his kidnapping in Africa, the horrors of a slave ship, and his wonderment at snow upon his arrival in England. He describes how he survived a naval battle, a shipwreck in the West Indies, and two earthquakes.

Aboard the slave ship, Equiano lived under wretched conditions, often witnessed violence, and became familiar with death. For some captives, death was preferable to enslavement:

“Attempting To Prefer Death To Slavery”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“A thousand rooted and hallowed prejudices”: Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

View of St. Thomas, West IndiesThe initial release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an 18th-century account of natural disasters in the West Indies, an early 19th-century description of sugar cultivation and rum production, and a later report enumerating the terrible punishments meted out under the Danish crown to insubordinate and recaptured slaves.


A General Account of the Calamities Occasioned by the Late Tremendous Hurricanes and Earthquakes in the West-India Islands, Foreign as Well as Domestic (1781)

The Great Hurricane of 1780 is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, killing between 20,000 and 22,000 people. The hurricane struck the Lesser Antilles with winds possibly as strong as 200 mph leaving extensive damage to the many islands’ coastlines as well as causing heavy losses to the British and French fleets patrolling the area.

Within this account the devastation is described as:

…perhaps the most complicated and universal catastrophe that ever yet befell the islands under our immediate contemplation.

The natural disaster was so destructive this imprint concludes with an advertisement seeking support throughout Great Britain for the storm victims:

“A thousand rooted and hallowed prejudices”: Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“I am on Tenterhooks!”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

In the first release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia we find a description of a clever lion hunting method utilized in southern Africa, a desperate plea for assistance by a British army officer in northern Africa, and an ethnographic examination of the Twi people of western Africa.

The Lion and the Elephant (1873)
By Charles John Andersson

Born in Sweden, Charles John Andersson is most famous for the books he published about his explorations of Africa. In 1850, Andersson arrived at the Cape of Good Hope and travelled into the interior, intending to reach Lake Ngami in modern-day Namibia. Andersson recorded his travels in Lake Ngami in 1855 and The Okavango River in 1859. In this 1873 volume, The Lion and the Elephant, Andersson describes one method of hunting lion in southern Africa “as ingenious as daring:”

One hunter, “carrying a large shield of a concave form, made of thick buffalo hide, approaches the animal boldly, and hurls at him an assegai, or javelin. The lion bounds on the aggressor, but the man in the meanwhile has thrown himself at full length on the ground, covered by his buckler. Whilst the beast is trying the effect of his claws and teeth on the concave side of the shield, where they make no impression, he loses a favourable opportunity. He redoubles his efforts. And in the meantime the armed men surround him, and pierce his body with numerous assagais, all of which he fancies he receives from the individual lying beneath the shield.

 “I am on Tenterhooks!”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“The Market Value of an Eye”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints

the first slave narrative published in Great Britain, and The March release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a late 17th-century report on Morocco by the French ambassador, an Englishman’s assessment of the Royal African Company, the first slave narrative by a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom, and a journalist’s widely translated perspective on the 1857 Pierce Butler slave sale.


The Present State of the Empire of Morocco (1695)
By Monsieur de St. Olon

In 1690, Francois Pidou de Saint Olon served as ambassador of Louis XIV to Morocco. His mission was twofold: he was charged with making a prisoner exchange with Morocco’s Sultan Moulay Ismael and affecting a peace treaty between the two countries. The Ambassador failed in both efforts and was even briefly imprisoned by the Sultan. Monsieur de St. Olon’s description of the manners, religion and government of the people of Morocco is thorough, colorful, and not above condescension:

“The Market Value of an Eye”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints

“Loathing and Contempt” on the Abolitionist Campaign Trail: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1860-1922

The March release of The American Slavery Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes the American Anti-Slavery Society’s compilation of early American documents supporting slavery. Also included are two speeches by the abolitionist senator from Ohio, Benjamin Franklin Wade.


The Constitution. A Pro-Slavery Compact: Selections from the Madison Papers, &c. (1844)


In 1844, the American Anti-Slavery Society published a critique of the United States Constitution in which they drew on extracts from James Madison’s reports on the Constitutional Convention, state conventions, and debates of the first Federal Congress to illuminate the inherent contradictions within the Constitution; namely that of codifying the institution of slavery while purporting to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

These extracts develop most clearly all the details of that “compromise,” which was made between freedom and slavery, in 1787; granting to the slaveholder distinct privileges and protection for his slave property, in return for certain commercial concessions on his part toward the North. They prove also that the Nation at large were fully aware of this bargain at the time, and entered into it willingly and with open eyes. 

The society also included extracts from Article 1, Sections 8 and 9, and Article 4, Sections 2 and 4, of the Constitution of the United States:

“Loathing and Contempt” on the Abolitionist Campaign Trail: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1860-1922

Going Green: The Essence of Porter, and Other Examples of the Brewing Industry’s Murky Past

This is the time of year many St. Patrick’s Day celebrants literally go green, whether by donning green apparel, quaffing green beer, or just watching the flow of a local river temporarily dyed green. In 21st-century America, most people are reasonably sure the added color is harmless; however, in the 18th and 19th centuries beer drinkers had good reason for concern. While today’s large breweries assure customers their beer is made from only the finest ingredients, including water of unmatched purity, the use of pure or even clean water was not always the case. And in 1840 a New Yorker was sued for $300,000 for saying just that.

From American Broadsides and Ephemera

Going Green: The Essence of Porter, and Other Examples of the Brewing Industry’s Murky Past

“Why favor the traitor…?”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The March release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes wartime discussions of paradoxical legal and constitutional situations prompted by the conflict.

Also found here is an early 20th-century military history by James Madison Drake, a Civil War veteran and 1873 recipient of the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism on 6 May, 1864."

“Why favor the traitor…?”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

“An Engine of the Most Diabolical Oppression”: Highlights from the American Slavery Collection

Many works in the February release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society illustrate the backlash against the abolitionist movement in early 19th-century America. Not only were attempts made to silence abolitionists at religious conferences but also their petitions were refused to be heard in the United States House of Representatives.   
Debate on "Modern Abolitionism," in the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held in Cincinnati, May, 1836 (1836)
“An Engine of the Most Diabolical Oppression”: Highlights from the American Slavery Collection

“Ventilated Crudities, Absurdities, and Blasphemies”: African Exploration, Abolition, Women’s Rights, and Voodoo

From an 18th-century report on an African expedition to a 19th-century compilation of American folklore, the February 2015 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, contains a wide variety of valuable documents, all from the holdings of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Additional highlights include a work by Harriet Beecher Stowe describing the foundation and inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a compilation of her articles promoting women’s rights, and an autobiography by James Still, illustrating some of the best and worst aspects of 19th-century America.

A Narrative of Four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentots, and Caffraria (1789)
By Lieut. William Paterson
“Ventilated Crudities, Absurdities, and Blasphemies”: African Exploration, Abolition, Women’s Rights, and Voodoo

Tinkering Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The February release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an array of documents relatable to wars from nearly any era: the battlefield readiness of new military technology; prisoner mistreatment and battlefield atrocities; and the deadly threat of espionage from within.

Engineer Stimer's Report of the Last Trial Trip of the "Passaic": Unparalleled Attempt to Throw Discredit upon Superiors, Language Unbecoming an Officer, His Dismissal from the Service Demanded, the Public Probably Deceived as to the "Result" of the Experiment of Firing inside the Turret (1862)
By One of the People

Alban Crocker Stimers was a U.S. Navy Chief Engineer who assisted with the design of the Navy’s latest technological marvel, the ironclads. After the launch of the U.S.S. Monitor, the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy, and drawing on lessons learned from its performance, naval engineers quickly began designing the new Passaic-class ironclad.
Tinkering Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

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