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.

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Shattered Nerves and Lethargic Stomachs: Highlights from American Pamphlets

This month’s release from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, includes a sales pitch from an early American auto club which encourages prospective members to explore a country “almost as undiscovered as Africa,” an enthusiastic explanation of the moral and intellectual virtues of croquet, and colorful zoological descriptions of P.T. Barnum’s menagerie, complete with elegant illustrations.


Discover America (1910)

This pamphlet, produced by the Automobile Touring Club of America, is generously illustrated with photographs, beginning with the club’s four-story headquarters in New York City. The size and location of the building and the ambitious tenor of the text are testimony to how rapidly Americans were embracing the still new horseless carriages that were ushering in the age of the automobile.

Clearly, this publication was designed to promote the club by selling annual memberships and adding car insurance into the bargain. Annual dues are five dollars, and the insurance is promised to “save from $5 to $40 per year” meaning “you save at least as much as you pay in” and “you may even make a profit” which will mean that all of the expert advice on travel routes, road conditions, and accommodations along the way will cost the member nothing.

Shattered Nerves and Lethargic Stomachs: Highlights from American Pamphlets

“Unspeakable losses of treasure, love and life”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The current release of imprints from the American Antiquarian Society’s American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes strikingly different assessments of the war’s origins as described a half century apart by two very different men. In 1862 the governor of Virginia’s Union sympathetic rump government left no doubt as to where the responsibility for the war lay. By contrast, writing 50 years later a veteran of the Union Army is not nearly so certain as the governor.

“Unspeakable losses of treasure, love and life”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

“Free from Care”: Resort and Hotel Brochures from the American Pamphlets collection

From American PamphletsThe first days of summer are a fine time to highlight pamphlets advertising the glories of two resort hotels and one city establishment. These three documents are from this month’s release of American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society. They are among many other pamphlets celebrating country rambles, local histories, and recreational pastimes.


Echoes from the Sea: Coleman House [by] Frank B. Conover (1901)

We begin our holiday tour at the ocean, specifically at Asbury Park, New Jersey, where “stands the Coleman House, the centre of coast life and gaiety.” Mr. Conover, the author, has the highest praise for this grand hotel and for “Mr. Frank B. Conover, whose management of the hotel has been most successful for the past three seasons.” His fulsome description of Asbury Park is a striking contrast to the contemporary condition of the resort. It has been undergoing significant revival but only after having fallen on hard times.

In 1901 Conover was able to write that “it is a refined resort, abounding in great natural beauty and numerous forms of enjoyment. It is not merely a seashore resort, but it is a city of the sea, comprising a beautiful blending of country, seashore and city life.”

From American Pamphlets

“Free from Care”: Resort and Hotel Brochures from the American Pamphlets collection

“Dead Rebel” and Nearly 900 Other Newly Digitized Stereographs in The American Civil War Collection

From The American Civil War CollectionThe June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society features an extensive accumulation of images created throughout the conflict and into its aftermath. They are presented as a single work of 1,756 pages entitled "Civil War Stereographs, 1865-1900."  Its citation reads, in part,

The American Antiquarian Society's collection of Civil War stereographs includes more than 800 examples, some that were published during the war years, 1861-1865, and others that were published as memorials towards the end of the nineteenth century. Includes cards published by many publishers from the works of many photographers. Included are works by Matthew Brady and W.H. Tipton…  

The collection includes many views from the major battlefields during the war, including Antietam, Battle of the Wilderness, and the Battle of Gettysburg, shown after the destruction, some with the dead on the fields. There are images of the Boston Light Infantry, soldier camps, families, and the cities of Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., Richmond, Fredericksburg and Petersburg, Va. Also includes images of the monuments erected and dedicated to those lost at the Battle of Gettysburg. Includes views of the Washington Navy Yard, Libby Prison, Fort Marion in Florida, Lookout Mountain and cemeteries of dead soldiers.  

“Dead Rebel” and Nearly 900 Other Newly Digitized Stereographs in The American Civil War Collection

Bernhardt, Burghers, and Bears: New Items in American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

Below are three new works found in the May release of the digital edition of New-York Historical Society’s American Pamphlets collection.


The Palace Theater presents Madame Sarah Bernhardt in Vaudeville (1912)

“There are five kinds of actresses, said Mark Twain; “bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses, and Sarah Bernhardt.”

Thus begins this handsome promotional brochure announcing that The Palace, Broadway’s newest theatre at the time, had booked Sarah Bernhardt, an international star like no other. This work is generously illustrated with photographs of some of her triumphs, including “Lucrece Borgia” by Victor Hugo, Sardou’s “Theodora,” and “La Dame aux Camelias” by Alexandre Dumas. Near each photograph is a two-page “Outline of the Play.”

Bernhardt, Burghers, and Bears: New Items in American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

Buboes, Gleets, and Chordee: New Selections from Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819

Highlighted below are a few of the items added in May to the major new enrichment to the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker collections of early American printed materials. These rare works, now available for the first time in Readex digital editions of Early American Imprints, are from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society.


The porcupine, alias the hedge-hog: or, The fox turned preacher: Written after the manner of Ignatius Irony, Bartholomew Burlesque, and Samuel Satire (1795)

By L.S. living in Fox Island

Indeed, this imprint employs irony, burlesque, and satire:

“A Certain Fox (not the cunningest of his species) having frequent occasion to pass by a country church, and contrasting his own leanness with the Parson’s fatness, he concluded it more safe, as well as more honorable, to preach than to kill poultry…”

Hence, the fox attends evening lectures at the church, observing that the preacher…

…would repeatedly inform his audience, that such and such passages were wrongly translated, he determined to avail himself of this, and take the same liberty, by which means [the fox] might be enabled to construe every text to his own liking, and impose upon his hearers at pleasure.

Stealing a Bible from the church, the fox is particularly taken by a passage from Acts: “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” He determines that he shall call himself Peter and issue an address:

Buboes, Gleets, and Chordee: New Selections from Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

This month we focus on three heavily illustrated works found in the April release of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society.


The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Illustrated (1883)

Interspersed with many illustrations, this pamphlet describes the Brooklyn Bridge from its first conception, to its construction, to its opening in May of 1883. There is no doubt that its creation was an astonishing achievement, and the writer, using superlatives generously, returns to this fact often as he recounts the history. He writes, “The details of constructing the towers have been performed under the eyes of all Brooklyn people. Since the tower of Babel and the great pyramid of Egypt, there have been no more massive structures.”

The construction took its toll, especially on the workers. Caissons—large, bottomless wooden boxes into which compressed air was pumped to keep out water—were dangerous places for the laborers who dug out mud and bedrock until they had a solid footing into which concrete was poured:

In the New York caisson the pressure of air at the last was equal to 35 pounds to the square inch. Breathing was a labor, and labor extremely exhausting. Yet brave men subjected themselves to physical suffering of this sort day after day, that the great work might go on, until in many cases nervous disease and paralysis would follow.

The writer refers to the illustrations as “photographs [that] were redrawn by careful, trained artists, and their drawings reproduced and reduced to the present size by photo engraving.” Here are several examples:

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

“Separate the callapach from the callapee”: New Selections from Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819

A rebus by Ben FranklinHighlighted below are four newly added items in the major new enrichment to the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker collections.  These diverse works, now available for the first time in Readex digital editions of Early American Imprints, are from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society.

The Evans Supplement includes Daniel Boone’s autobiographical account of his early adventures in what was even then called Kentucky, and John Wesley’s reflections on the history of slavery to which he was opposed. The Shaw-Shoemaker Supplement includes Benjamin Franklin’s whimsical rebus for children, advising them to be thrifty, and a captivating cookbook by “an American orphan.”


Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon, one of the original settlers of Kentucky: containing the wars with the Indians on the Ohio, from 1769 to the present time, and the first establishment and progress of the settlements on that river. Written by the colonel himself (1793)

Many Americans grew up thinking of Daniel Boone as one of the first rough-and-ready frontiersmen who discovered the easiest route through the mountains separating modern-day Virginia from Kentucky. It is surprising then to read this account and to appreciate the quality of his writing and the sensitivity of some of his observations. In a description of “a pleasing ramble” with a friend he writes:

“Separate the callapach from the callapee”: New Selections from Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819

Goodbye Comrades: The Voskhod Space Mission in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

The Voskhod program was primarily designed to produce spectacular firsts in space flight. In October of 1964 the Soviets launched the first Voskhod mission. It was the first spacecraft to carry more than one cosmonaut, and among its three-man crew was a medical doctor. His presence aboard and the decision not to wear space suits were also firsts in the space race.  The first spacewalk occurred during the Voskhod’s second and final flight in March 1965.  


Click to open in PDFAccount of the Voskhod Flight (1964)

This is a first-hand account of the mission by two of the Voskhod cosmonauts as told to two correspondents from Pravda. Consequently, it is in the first person and has a rather vernacular appeal. The men begin by talking about the night before the launch, revealing personal relationships among the crew and among all of the other personnel engaged in the program.

When the crew had been raised by elevator to enter the capsule, they paused to look down at the crowd below them:

At parting, the heart always aches a little. Involuntarily, all three of us cried out one and the same thing: Goodbye, Comrades!

Goodbye Comrades: The Voskhod Space Mission in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

“Come to the Wilderness”: Highlights for Native American Studies from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

The March release from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of American pamphlets features several publications that focus on Native Americans. Generally using the terms Indians or Indian tribes, these pamphlets depict their lives both before and after European migration into their historic lands. Included in the current release are treaties between the United States government and specific tribes, accounts of travels to, and encounters, with various tribes, tracts about systems of reservations and Indian education, and even a pamphlet promoting tourism.


Massasoit's Town. Sowams in Pokanoket. Its History, Legends and Traditions (1904)

By Virginia Baker

During the Pilgrims’ first years in what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony they were befriended by Wampanoag Indian chief Massasoit.  The author of this pamphlet, in the course of attempting to ascertain the precise location of Massasoit’s place of residence, recounts much of the early history of the relationship between the native inhabitants of what became New England and the English colonists who would largely displace them. It is also a tribute to Massasoit who is described admiringly for his wisdom and generosity. One example is revealed in an episode when Roger Williams had been banned from Salem 1636 and sought refuge in Massapoit’s lands. “[I]n a bitter winter season” he “fled from the savage Christians of Massachusetts Bay to the Christian savages of Narragansett Bay.”

“Come to the Wilderness”: Highlights for Native American Studies from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

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