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

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

“The Yankee is a nervous, excitable sort of being”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection


The February release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes several imprints of substantial heft. There is a catalogue describing an auction of thousands of items pertaining to the war, a thorough description of how soldiers in the field were able to vote in the 1864 election, and letters written by an Englishman explaining the Yankees to his countrymen. 


A Catalogue of Books and Pamphlets Belonging to Daniel M. Tredwell, Relating to the Great Civil War between the North and the South, or the Free and the Slave States of the American Union (1874) 

Daniel Melancthon Tredwell (1825-1921) was an American businessman, lawyer and bibliophile.In his introduction to this catalog, Tredwell states: 

The Collection of Books and Pamphlets, of which the following Catalogue, was commenced soon after the breaking out of the Civil War, in 1860 [sic], not with the remotest idea, at that time, however, that it would ever assume its present proportions. But for fourteen years it has gradually increased, until there is but little doubt that, of its kind, at the present time, it is the completest [sic] Collection in the Country. 

Bartlett’s Catalogue of Rebellion Literature, published in 1866, with over 6,000 titles, embracing Newspaper and Magazine articles, contains less than one-half of the bound books of this Collection. 

“The Yankee is a nervous, excitable sort of being”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

American Mineral Waters, Resorts and Mad Houses: Physical and Mental Health Concerns in 19th-Century Pamphlets

The January release of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society includes several works addressing the physical and mental health concerns of 19th-century Americans. Among these are a measured evaluation of the efficacy of the mineral waters at the White Sulphur Springs of West Virginia, an assessment of the winter resorts physicians might choose to recommend to their patients, and a first-hand review of the care of mentally ill people. 


Virginia White Sulphur Springs with the analysis of its waters, the diseases to which they are applicable, and some account of society and its amusements at the Springs (1869) 

By J. J. Moorman, Physician to the White Sulphur Springs; Professor of Medical Jurisprudence and Hygiene in the Washington University, Baltimore; Member of the Baltimore Medical Association, &c.  

Doctor Moorman takes care not to promise definite results for specific complaints as a result of taking the waters at White Sulphur Springs because “such certificates, while they might be serviceable in some cases, would nevertheless, be liable to mislead from the want of proper and scientific discrimination as to the precise nature of the cases given.” However, he is most enthusiastic about the generally beneficial aspects of the waters and the climate: 

American Mineral Waters, Resorts and Mad Houses: Physical and Mental Health Concerns in 19th-Century Pamphlets

Cramp, Croup and Convulsions: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society supplement to the Shaw-Shoemaker collection

The January 2016 release of new material includes many single-sheet imprints. These rare works cover a broad range of issues and purposes. The three examples below include an admonitory poem, a promotion for the Columbian Museum in Boston, and an abstract of the bill of mortality for Boston in 1814. 


The Looking Glass, or a Description of Some Female Characters to be Avoided by Youths of Both Sexes. By a Young Man of P (1810)  

From Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819

Although this imprint has some damage which obscures a few words, the reader is yet able to enjoy the whole and intuit the obscured. While the poem is amusing and the descriptions acute, the reader may be left to wonder if any of the indictments of these hapless females might also apply to certain young men. The occasional use of “dose” for “does” is not a typo. 

AVOID the girl who takes delight

To make an outside show,

With ruffles round her neck so white,

And dirty clothes below.

Cramp, Croup and Convulsions: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society supplement to the Shaw-Shoemaker collection

Educated Fleas, Health-Giving Beer, and Sweet-Smelling Elephants: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

The December release of the New-York Historical Society’s American Pamphlets includes a publication by the inventor of the flea circus (with descriptions of more than 15 individual acts), a glossy promotional pamphlet from a 19th-century beer brewery, which offers a room-by-room tour of their Manhattan plant, and a brief book about elephants with striking engravings.


The history of the flea; with notes, observations and amusing anecdotes. By L. Bertolotto, the original inventor of the exhibition of educated fleas (1876)

 

Legs have I, and never walk,

I backbite all, but never talk.

Mr. Bertolotto lived in London where he claims he was the first to exhibit what came to be known as a flea circus. This is his account of how he manipulated the fleas into unusual behavior and developed that “invention” into his exhibition of their performances for many of the crowned heads of Europe. Apparently, it was a sensation. He begins with a scientific examination of the insect:

Pulex, the Flea, in Zoology, a genus of insects belonging to the order of Aptera. It has two eyes, and six feet, fitted for leaping, the feelers are like threads, the rostrum is inflected, setaceous, armed with a sting, and the belly is compressed.

He notes that: 

Educated Fleas, Health-Giving Beer, and Sweet-Smelling Elephants: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

“Here Dwells Youth”: Selections from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

Included in this month’s release are pamphlets on American food and cookery, a satire on the role of insurance companies in the aftermath of the Great Chicago fire, a promotional brochure touting a revolutionary beauty treatment, a colorful souvenir program from the Russian Ballet’s visit to New York City in 1916, and elegant catalogs from coach and automobile manufacturers.

Here are descriptions of the latter three.

 


The New Beauty (1921)

“Here Dwells Youth” trumpets the first page of this illustrated pamphlet produced by Primrose House on East 52nd Street in New York City. This establishment promised women the key to manifesting their real beauty, proclaiming:

That subtle beauty really is within every woman. When she can be made to realize that, her ability to express it will simply have to follow a really scientific method of correcting difficulties and of bringing out her own best points.

This “really scientific method” was called the “Primrose House Face-Molding Treatments.”

The potential client is counseled that “It is careless and unnecessary for a woman to allow signs of neglect—a sagging chin, a drooping cheek, a tired eye” because, after all, “Every man likes to feel proud of his wife. Children love to think mother is the most beautiful person they know.”

There is a description of the lengths to which the founder of Primrose House and her staff have gone to collect only the most exotic beauty preparations from the four corners of the Earth:

“Here Dwells Youth”: Selections from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

Lugubrious Grins, Annual Attacks, and the Social Circus: Highlights from Three Creatively Illustrated 19th-Century Works

In the October release of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society are three whimsical and elaborately illustrated pamphlets unique to this collection. The first two are by illustrator Augustus Hoppin (1828-1896), a widely published American caricaturist who appears to have been largely obscured in the mist of history. We are fortunate to have access to his flights of fancy, highlights of which are seen below. The third work featured here is by another prolific illustrator who flourished at the end of the 19th-century. A master of the Art Nouveau style, H.W. McVickar also remains nearly completely forgotten today.


Carrot-pomade, with twenty-six illustrations by Augustus Hoppin (1864)

Carrot-pomade describes the alchemy that transforms carrots into a miraculous ointment which stimulates and regenerates hair growth: “Hair ten carats fine!” boasts the title page.

 

Author/illustrator Hoppin dedicates his work, “To All those who have witnessed the wonderful effects of Carrot-Pomade on the waste places of the human cranium…” Each illustration corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, beginning with “A is Adolphe with lugubrious grin,” “B is the Bald-spot where the hair is so thin.”

 

Lugubrious Grins, Annual Attacks, and the Social Circus: Highlights from Three Creatively Illustrated 19th-Century Works

Civil War Artwork, Romance, and First-Person Accounts

From The American Civil War CollectionThe current release of imprints from the American Antiquarian Society’s The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes many fine examples of illustrated Civil War envelopes, a scathing indictment of the pension system for veterans and their widows, and an old soldier’s reminiscences of his Union Army service.


The Loyalty States, Union. Illinois (1861)

From The American Civil War CollectionThis single example of the genre Civil War envelopes is from the state of Illinois. To be fully appreciated, it is helpful to view this scarce printed item in context with all of the Civil War envelopes found in the American Antiquarian Society’s extraordinary holdings, many of which are available in this online collection, as seen in the examples below.

According to the American Antiquarian Society (AAS),

Publication of Civil War envelopes began as early as the mid-1850’s, when north-south divisions began to take shape, but ended prior to the war’s conclusion because most believed that it was too indulgent and expensive to continue production in time of war.

 All of the envelopes were decorated with illustrations, many of them in color. The AAS further explains:

Civil War Artwork, Romance, and First-Person Accounts

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