American History


New Webinars: Historical Perspectives on the American South, West and Northeast

Newspaper Archives for Academic Research and Training: A Series of Three Regionally Focused Webinars

American newspapers—with their eyewitness reporting, editorials, advertisements, obituaries and human interest stories—have preserved essential records and detailed accounts of nearly every facet of regional and national life. Now searchable online, these regionally diverse newspaper archives span centuries of social, cultural, political, military, business, sports and literary history, providing students and scholars with invaluable original reporting and fresh, local-level insights.

Newspaper Archives of the American Northeast

Thursday, October 18 -- 1 to 2 pm EST

Newspaper publishing in New England and the Mid-Atlantic stateshas had a long and proud history, going back to the colonial era. In this webinar we’ll explore the rich histories of prominent newspapers such as the Boston Herald, New York Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Springfield Republican, Trenton Evening Times, Washington Evening Star and others.

Newspaper Archives of the American South

Thursday, October 25 -- 1 to 2 pm EST

New Webinars: Historical Perspectives on the American South, West and Northeast

Afro-Americana Imprints—Now available for institutional trial

The digital edition of one of the world's preeminent collections for African American studies is now available for institutional trial. Created from the Library Company of Philadephia’s acclaimed Afro-Americana Collection—an accumulation that began with Benjamin Franklin and steadily increased throughout its entire history—this unique online resource will provide researchers with more than 12,000 printed works. These books, pamphlets, and broadsides, including many lesser-known imprints, hold a matchless record of African American history, literature, and culture. This long-awaited collection spans nearly 400 years, from the early 16th to the early 20th centuries. Critically important subjects covered include the discovery and exploitation of Africa by the West; the rise of slavery in the New World along with the growth and success of abolitionist movements; the development of racial thought and racism; descriptions of African American life throughout the Americas; slavery and race in fiction and drama; and many others.
Afro-Americana Imprints—Now available for institutional trial

Freedom of Movement: The Shocking Life of Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan (May 27, 1877 - September 14, 1927). Image from America's Historical Newspapers

Isadora Duncan was dance-struck as a young child in San Francisco. By the time she was six, she was teaching neighborhood children how to move like ocean waves. The strict rules of ballet and conventions of the music hall never held her interest. Indeed, throughout her life as a dancer and teacher, she rebelled against the forms and costumes of traditional dance, preferring movements based on nature and emotion. In 1895, still a teenager, she moved to Chicago and joined the Augustin Daly Company, touring from the Midwest to New York to London. While in London, she also danced solo performances at society events.

Freedom of Movement: The Shocking Life of Isadora Duncan

The "Sensational, Hair-Raising, Blood-Curdling, Penny-Awful" American Life of Ned Buntline

What activities might make up the archetypal life of a 19th-century American man?  Items on such a checklist could include:  Samuel Clemens checked off many of these items: He was a sailor, if on the Mississippi. He went west to make his fortune. He had served briefly in the Civil War. He was a journalist and popular lecturer. He reinvented himself as the author Mark Twain. He became an entrepreneur, and he lost a fortune.

Ned Buntline (1821-1886) from Early American Newspapers

The "Sensational, Hair-Raising, Blood-Curdling, Penny-Awful" American Life of Ned Buntline

The Vermilion Bridge: One of the World’s Most Admired Human Achievements

May 27, 2012, is the 75th anniversary of the opening celebrations of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. When it opened, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.  It spanned the mile-wide strait entering San Francisco Bay, a feat that had been dreamed of, and deemed impossible, for a century.  On May 27, 1937, over 200,000 pedestrians streamed over the bridge in a festive display of wonder and enthusiasm.

Dallas Morning News (May 28, 1937)

The Vermilion Bridge: One of the World’s Most Admired Human Achievements

Hoochie Coochie: The Lure of the Forbidden Belly Dance in Victorian America

“It was downright indecent.  I saw women go out after the creatures had begun what they call their dance.  I did not stay it through. I just couldn’t.”1

(A woman’s indignant account of her visit to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893)

From America's Historical Newspapers

Danse du ventre, oriental dance, the hoochie coochie, coochie coochie, muscle dance, or better known to us as belly dance, was almost unknown in the United States until 1893 when brightly colored dancers dressed in exotic garb from the Middle East appeared at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Their dancing both fascinated and scandalized Victorians.  The Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, commemorated the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World.  It was the first world’s fair with an area of amusements set aside from exhibitions.  This area was known as the Midway Plaisance.  One of the most popular attractions on the Midway was “A Street in Cairo,” where the dancers performed.  Over 27 million people attended the Exposition during its six-month run.2 "The Streets of Cairo” was one of its more memorable attractions for many visitors, as well as one of its most controversial. Victorian visitors often viewed the dancers, now identified from the published descriptions of their costumes as gypsy ghawazi from Egypt3, with a mixture of fascination, amusement and moralistic revulsion:

Hoochie Coochie: The Lure of the Forbidden Belly Dance in Victorian America

Surviving the Titanic: The Stories Behind the Story

No novelist would dare to picture such an array of beautiful climatic conditions—the rosy dawn, the morning star, the moon on the horizon, the sea stretching in level beauty to the skyline—and on this sea to place an ice-field like the Arctic regions and icebergs in numbers everywhere—white and turning pink and deadly cold,—and near them, rowing round the icebergs to avoid them, little boats coming suddenly out of the mid-ocean, with passengers rescued from the most wonderful ship the world has known. 

—Lawrence Beesley, The Loss of the S.S. Titanic (June 1912)

The Titanic. Source: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

Surviving the Titanic: The Stories Behind the Story

Just published — The Readex Report: April 2012

In our latest issue: The exonerated executioner of a Native American sorceress; profiling a polymathic chess master; using a local newspaper archive to uncover an American city's past; and unremembered inhumanity that sparked a world war.
Murder! Or the Remarkable Trial of Tommy Jemmy, 19th-Century Seneca Witch-Hunter and Defender of Indian Sovereignty By Matthew Dennis, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon I never read murder and mayhem stories in the newspaper.  Such sensationalist accounts have been a mainstay of the U.S. popular press since it was invented in the early American republic, and they remain a prominent feature today.  But the tawdry details of homicidal doings, breathlessly recounted, hold little appeal for me.  And yet a few years ago one such story caught my eye and drew me in, sending me on my own investigative journey. (read article)
Just published — The Readex Report: April 2012

The Titanic and Her Passengers: Using America’s Historical Newspapers to Uncover Tales of Tragedy and Love

Thousands of ships over centuries have lined the ocean floor, but even 100 years after it sank, the Titanic still fascinates. James Cameron’s 1997 critically acclaimed "Titanic"—the second bestselling film in U.S. history—was re-released this month in 3-D. The Titanic has also been the subject of several TV documentaries retelling and exploring the disaster. In its own time, no news event was more covered in exacting detail through the pages of the press. News of the Titanic’s shocking demise made front pages across the nation.

The Boston Journal (Source: America's Historical Newspapers)

The Titanic and Her Passengers: Using America’s Historical Newspapers to Uncover Tales of Tragedy and Love

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