William Stearns


About Author: 

William is Senior Editor, Readex Digital Collections. He has been Editor of the Readex edition of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set since its early days. Previously, he was Editor of NewsBank Global Products and Assistant Vocabulary Editor. For the past ten years, he has also trained numerous NewsBank and Readex indexers.

Posts by this Author

“Achievements that should not be omitted”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The May release of the American Antiquarian Society’s American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes:

• an unusual account of the role that American Indians played in assisting the Union Army in the Trans-Mississippi Theater

• the diary of a young gentleman from Massachusetts recounting his nine months of service in the Union Army’s campaign in North Carolina

• and a program detailing the 1904 National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in the city of Boston. 


The Union Indian Brigade in the Civil War (1922)

By Wiley Britton 

The American Civil War Collection includes various accounts of the role that African Americans, both free and enslaved, played in the war on both sides. It is unusual to read an account of the participation of American Indians in the conflict. Wiley Britton provides a detailed and laudatory history of

“Achievements that should not be omitted”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

“A common railer and brawler”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection

The May release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a document arguing that slavery enslaves the owners as well as the enslaved, written by a woman who had lived in the American South, an account of an abolitionist address that ends when the minister delivering it is arrested, and the affecting address to the court from a man found guilty of assisting a fugitive slave in making an escape. 


Influence of Slavery upon the White Population. By a Former Resident of Slave States (1855) 

This tract, published by American Anti-Slavery Society in 1855, was written by Louisa Jane Whiting Baker. She establishes her position at the outset:

A true understanding of the nature and influences of American slavery forces the conviction that this system renders the master no less a “victim” than the slave. The attractive elegances of social life may deceive the superficial observer; but a deeper insight will discover, under this light drapery, not only a world of secret misery, but of hideous corruption.

“A common railer and brawler”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection

“The stylus of history shall make a truthful record”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Civil War Collection

The April release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a richly illustrated pictorial history of the war, an essay by a Scottish aristocrat on the causes of the war, and a history of the decade leading to the war written by an abolitionist correspondent from Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune whose views underwent revision and revelation. 


The Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War in the United States of America

By Benson J. Lossing, LL.D. Illustrated by many hundred engravings on wood, by Lossing and Barritt, from sketches by the author and others (1879) 

The promise of the title is not in vain. Indeed, this three-volume work is profusely illustrated. The citation assigns the imprint to the genres of Intaglio prints and Relief prints among others. Further, the citation also references many engravers and illustrators, by name, whose work contributed to the history. Appreciation of this imprint is enhanced by some knowledge of Benson John Lossing, a 19th-century American historian. 

“The stylus of history shall make a truthful record”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Civil War Collection

“A Very Surprising Narrative of a Young Woman, Who Was Discovered in a Rocky Cave!” and Other Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker

The April release of newly digitized material available in the American Antiquarian Society Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker includes a cautionary account of the death of a child, a captivity narrative which is likely false, and a beautifully illustrated display of engraving ciphers. 


Obituary of Charles Petit, a boy who lately died at the Orphan Asylum, in New York (1818) 

This pamphlet was published by the Philadelphia Female Tract Society and printed by Lydia R. Bailey (1779-1869), one of the most successful women in the 19th-century printing business. While it was not unusual for women to be printers, most commonly because they were the widows or daughters of male printers, Bailey was distinctive. She was active for nearly 50 years and upon her retirement was considered to be the last of the widow printers as the industry and society evolved. 

In contrast to Bailey’s long and successful life, Charles Petit was a poor orphan whose death at an early age is here related.  

“A Very Surprising Narrative of a Young Woman, Who Was Discovered in a Rocky Cave!” and Other Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker

“Rational pastime for the vacant hour”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints: Evans

From the April release of Early American Imprints, Series I: Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society, here are three scarce 18th-century works, each newly digitized. Featured here is a sermon preached in 1772 by the Mohegan clergyman Samson Occom upon the occasion of the execution in New Haven, Connecticut, of another Native American for murder. Also described below are a rare almanac for Georgia and the Carolinas in 1787 and an unusual bookplate from a Salem, Massachusetts, bookseller’s circulating library.  


A sermon, preached at the execution of Moses Paul, an Indian, who was executed at New-Haven, on the 2d of September, 1772, for the murder of Mr. Moses Cook, late of Waterbury, on the 7th of December, 1771. Preached at the desire of said Paul. By Samson Occom, Minister of the Gospel, and missionary to the Indians (1773) 

“Rational pastime for the vacant hour”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints: Evans

“A Blessing No Doubt”: Works of Parody and Satire in the Anti-Slavery Cause

The March release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes two works that employ parody and satire to counter the arguments of the pro-slavery faction in America in the 1830s. Also described below is the three-volume journal of an English abolitionist’s sojourn in the Antebellum United States. 


The Little Western against the Great Eastern: or Brother Jonathan vs. John Bull: Being a Review by a Plebeian of the Western Hemisphere of Abolitionism, as Exposed by Doctor Sleigh (1838)

The author, using the pen name Little Western, introduces his argument: 

In order to show what I want to refute, I must first show what the Doctor wants to prove. It becomes, therefore, necessary to copy his Title page, and here it is:

“A Blessing No Doubt”: Works of Parody and Satire in the Anti-Slavery Cause

Uncurbed Desires and Heavenly Glory: Three Execution Narratives in the American Antiquarian Society Supplement to Early American Imprints

The March release of the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints: Evans includes several accounts of men and women who were executed in the last decades of the 18th century. Each of these narratives appears to have been intended as a cautionary lesson. The three selected items below are but a small representation of such jailhouse conversions to Christianity found in Early American Imprints, Series I and II. 


The Adventures and Death of William M'Ilheney: Of the District of Ninety-Six in South-Carolina, who after a very Profligate life, was executed at Prince-Edward Court-House, in Virginia, on the 15th of October, 1789, with Frederic Briggs, and died a penitent (1792) 

Publisher William Glendinning, a “Preacher of the Gospel,” introduces the reader to William M’Ilheney in the first paragraph as a man whose 

Uncurbed Desires and Heavenly Glory: Three Execution Narratives in the American Antiquarian Society Supplement to Early American Imprints

Election Cake, Tongue Pie, and Whipt Syllabub: Newly Available Works in Shaw-Shoemaker Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society

The February release of the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker includes a history of the Mohegan tribe in Connecticut published in 1804, a rare edition of Hoyle’s rules for games from 1816, and a important cookbook “peculiarly adapted to the American mode of cooking. By an American lady.” 


A Memoir of the Moheagan Indians (1804) 

Abiel Holmes (1763-1837) was the pastor of the First Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He appears to have had an interest in and compassion for the native people of New England. This pamphlet was prepared by him for presentation to the Committee for Publications for the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Holmes states his purpose: 

Every document, which elucidates the numbers, characters, or condition, of any of the Indian tribes of North-America, at whatever period, is doubtless worthy of preservation. The entire extirpation of some tribes, and gradual diminution of the rest, furnishes a subject of affecting contemplation to the man of feeling, and of curious investigation to the philosopher….On the authenticity and correctness of this account you may entirely rely; for, in passing through Moheagan [sic], the last September, I obtained it of James Haughton, Esquire, one of the Overseers of this tribe, who lives within its limits. 

Election Cake, Tongue Pie, and Whipt Syllabub: Newly Available Works in Shaw-Shoemaker Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society

“My body holds a hundred hearts”: Newly Available Works in Evans Collection Supplement

In the February 2016 release of the American Antiquarian Society’s supplement to Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans are 43 newly digitized works. Among them are imprints that describe the discovery of an improbably ancient hermit, offer juveniles an illustrated book of riddles, and articulate a vision of the American Revolution which brings the Roman Catholic Church to its knees.


Wonder of Wonders! or The Remarkable Discovery of an American Hermit, Who Lived Upwards of 220 years (1795) 

This obscure document purports to be a true narrative of events that occurred when two explorers first ventured into the western regions of Virginia at a time when the state had no clearly defined western boundary. The author begins by stating: 

A knowledge of human nature under every appearance, is not only pleasing, but in many respects useful and necessary. The following account, as it is a discovery made within the limits of our own country, and confirmed by them who were eye-witnesses, may with great propriety deserve our notice. 

The author sets us on this strange journey: 

“My body holds a hundred hearts”: Newly Available Works in Evans Collection Supplement

“Intensifying the life of all”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

After a final release in February of nearly 600 additional pamphlets from the New-York Historical Society, American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, is now complete. This unique treasure trove of more than 25,000 catalogued pamphlets embraces a vast number of subjects and purposes, many of which are strikingly illustrated. Newly digitized pamphlets in this last release include a 19th-century promotion for an electric cure-all device, an illustrated account of Boston in the late 21st century, and photographs of a steamship line at the dawn of the 20th century. 


Dr. Bryan's Electro-Voltaic and Magnetic Belts and Appliances for Imbuing the Human Organism with New Life, Health, and Strength (1876)

American Pamphlets is rich in works promoting health-giving treatments, tonics, and resorts. The use of electricity to address myriad complaints was a popular remedy in the 19th century. In this illustrated pamphlet, featuring testimonials from physicians and patients alike, Dr. Bryan makes an all-out case for his patented device:  

“Intensifying the life of all”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

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