American History


‘I Have Nothing To Be Ashamed Of’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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Personal narratives digitized for the September release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, include a compelling example of mendicant literature by a disabled veteran, the Confederate Army adventures of a male impersonator, and the sensitive reminiscences of a Union captain.


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The Empty Sleeve, or the Life and Hardships of Henry H. Meacham in the Union Army. By Himself (1865)

At the breaking out of the great Rebellion, I was engaged at carriage-making in the Town of Russell, in Massachusetts, but thought it my duty to enter the service in defense of my country and do what little I could to keep traitors from trampling the good old flag under their feet.

Henry Meacham, twice rejected for poor health, was finally accepted and “placed in Company E, Thirty-Second Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, who were at that time lying at Culpeper, Virginia.” He finds quickly that military life is more difficult than he had imagined; marching for twenty-three hours in a day, experiencing the Battle of Rappahannock Station, and lacking adequate rations. Of the last he writes:

‘I Have Nothing To Be Ashamed Of’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘An Executive of Tried Experience and National Views’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The September release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an early U.S. history text that covers the introduction of slavery to the colonies, an 1835 copy of The Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine, and a call for centrism in the 1856 presidential election.


 

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History of the United States (1816)

By David Ramsay, M. D.

David Ramsay (1749-1815) served in the South Carolina legislature during the Revolutionary War and was later a delegate to the Continental Congress. In this work he explores the history of the country from its colonial days to the first decade of the 19th century. While describing the introduction of slavery to the colonies, Ramsay, a practicing physician, points to distinctions between the North and South.

…the principal ground of difference on this head…arose, less from religious principles, than from climate, and local circumstances. In the former, they found it to be their interest to cultivate their lands with white men, in the latter, with those of an opposite color. The stagnant waters, and low lands, so frequent on the shores of Maryland and Virginia, and on the coasts, and near the rivers in the southern provinces, generate diseases, which are more fatal to whites than blacks.

‘An Executive of Tried Experience and National Views’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Announcing ‘Immigrant Communities’ – The newest series of Early American Newspapers from the American Antiquarian Society

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In 1800, America had fewer than 100,000 foreign-born citizens; in 1880 there would be more than six million. Newspapers published by and for these newly arrived immigrants began in America’s Eastern seaboard cities, but by the 1840s they had spread into the heartland. In some communities new immigrants were welcomed, but in others they fell victim to ethnic or religious prejudice.

Early American Newspapers, Series 15, 1822-1879: Immigrant Communities, is designed to provide a one-of-a-kind window into both sides of this uniquely American story. Series 15 contains 160 immigrant papers, many of which are considered the most important 19th-century publications of this genre. Complementing these and providing valuable context are traditional, general-interest newspapers published contemporaneously in those same cities or regions.

For more information about this unique, on-the-scene history of America’s ethnic cultures, please contact Readex Marketing.

Announcing ‘Immigrant Communities’ – The newest series of Early American Newspapers from the American Antiquarian Society

Hostile Takeover: Utah Territory (Barely) Puts Up with its Imposed Territorial Governors

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At the beginning of the end of Utah Territory’s isolation there was Alfred Cumming, who in 1858 arrived with an army at his back to replace the popular Mormon leader Brigham Young as the federally appointed Governor. Readex’s Territorial Papers of the United States makes it clear that this was far from a casual undertaking:

Utah Affairs. Alfred Cumming appointed Governor, during recess of the Senate.

Instructed as follows: xxx “A detachment of the army is under orders to take up a position in that country, for the performance of the ordinary military duties of security and protection upon our frontiers, and alas, if necessary, to aid in the enforcement of the law. The commanding officer has been ordered to carry into effect your requisitions for the service of the troops in support of the public peace. A copy of these orders from the War Dep’t is herewith communicated. xx

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Cumming left after a couple of years; the army stayed. Relations were so fraught that in 1861 Cumming’s successor, John Dawson, couldn’t quite manage a month in the position. Following Dawson’s departure, Governor Stephen Harding eked out a few years from 1862-1863 before being driven out of office himself. For non-Mormons, being governor of Utah Territory was a thankless job exercised in a trackless waste over an intractable people.

Hostile Takeover: Utah Territory (Barely) Puts Up with its Imposed Territorial Governors

‘I Am by Nature, Education, and Religion a Yankee-Hater’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The August release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes a pictorial of a dramatic naval engagement, an argument against an eventual reconciliation between the North and South, and the memorial of General Francis C. Barlow.


 

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The Privateer’s Fate (1861)

The first and last cruise of the pirate, or privateer, Petrol is recorded in this series of sketches. This recording suggests the Petrol mistook the USS St. Lawrence for a merchant ship and was sunk after a failed attack.

Other accounts of this naval encounter tell of the Petrel, sailing under the British colors, being pursued for several hours before being overhauled by the St. Lawrence. The Petrel then ran up the Confederate colors and after an exchange of fire was hit in the bow and sunk. Thirty-eight sailors were rescued and transported north aboard the USS Flag. Although the present account depicts a rescue there is no reference to the Flag; instead it tells of a more immediate judgment passed against the rescued sailors—as seen in the uppermost image.  

 

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‘I Am by Nature, Education, and Religion a Yankee-Hater’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

“A Rare Window into U.S. Culture” – 1-Minute Video on America’s Most Popular Form of Entertainment in the 19th Century

In the nineteenth century, drama became the most popular form of entertainment in the United States. Now a unique digital collection titled Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment is available to researchers worldwide. This new online resource sheds light on an enormous range of heavily studied topics, including daily life in the United States; politics, both local and national; culture in all of its forms; and the shifting and evolving tastes of Americans from across the country.

Learn more about this new digital collection in this 1-Minute Video:

 

Discussing this collection, English professor and theater scholar Robert Davis writes:

By making so many plays that have largely been forgotten available, Nineteenth-Century American Drama can bring back a vital part of U.S. cultural history. Its tragedies, poetic dramas, comedies, farces, sketches, and burlesques provide a rare window into nineteenth-century U.S. culture. Many of these works…were wildly successful at the time. Others formed parts of nineteenth-century social and political movements like abolitionism, temperance, and suffrage, making these plays key to understanding U.S. literary, political, and social history.

“A Rare Window into U.S. Culture” – 1-Minute Video on America’s Most Popular Form of Entertainment in the 19th Century

Reindeer Games: The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Reindeer Importation Program in Alaska

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It’s well established that reindeer only fly in a metaphorical sense, such as when bounding across the snowy tundra. In the 1890s, however, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Education large numbers of reindeer traveled by boat across the Bering Strait from Siberia, or by boat, rail, and boat again from Finland to what was then known as Alaska Department, or District. The following letter from Commissioner of Education William T. Harris in Readex’s Territorial Papers of the United States describes how that came to pass:

In 1890, Doctor Sheldon Jackson, General Agent of Education in Alaska, reported to me that owing to the rapid killing off of the whale and walrus in the Arctic waters of Alaska and the destruction of the fur-bearing animals of the land, the Eskimo of that region were on the verge of starvation.

With the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, Congress was asked to make a small appropriation for the introduction of the domesticated reindeer of Siberia into Alaska as a permanent food supply.

 

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Reindeer Games: The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Reindeer Importation Program in Alaska

Ye Spleeny Folks: Highlights from the Most Recent Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

The July release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, includes three anonymous works discussing sobriety, levity, and the cost of crime. 


The Importance of Sobriety: Illustrated by the Evils of Intemperance (1802)

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This imprint concerns itself with “the evils of intemperance” and begins with this anecdote:

Cyrus, when quite a youth, at the court of his grandfather, Astyages, undertook one day to perform the office of cup bearer. He delivered the cup very gracefully; but omitted the usual custom of first tasting it himself. The king reminded him of it, supposing he had forgotten.

“No, Sir,” replied Cyrus; “but I was afraid there might be poison in it; for I have observed that the lords of your court, after drinking, become noisy, quarrelsome, and frantic; and that even you, Sir, seem to have forgotten that you were a king.”

The king goes on to ask if the same thing did not happen to Cyrus’s father:

“Never,” answered Cyrus…. ”Why, when he has taken what wine he chooses, he is no longer thirsty, that is all.”

Happy the man, who shall live in those days, in which the practice of excessive drinking shall be universally laid aside, and detested!

Expanding on his thoughts, the author continues:

Ye Spleeny Folks: Highlights from the Most Recent Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

‘Too Much Johnson’ and Other Plays by William Gillette, Eminent American Actor, Playwright and Director

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It is likely that people remember William Gillette best for the whimsical castle he built in his retirement on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam. The estate devolved to the state of Connecticut and today is a state park named for Gillette. The castle has been preserved, but its three-mile-long gauge railroad and complicated infrastructure is gone.

 

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Before building his castle, Gillette had a long and productive theater career as an actor, stage manager, director, producer, and playwright. He was born in 1853 into a family and community of wealth, privilege, and creativity in Hartford, Connecticut, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States for several decades following the Civil War. Gillette’s neighbors included Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Charles Dudley Warner.

 

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‘Too Much Johnson’ and Other Plays by William Gillette, Eminent American Actor, Playwright and Director

‘Those nutmeg-selling, mackerel-catching, cod-livered Yankees’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The July release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922 includes these three quite different accounts of the war—all from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society.


The Heroes of the War for the Union and Their Achievements (1864)

By the Rev. P.V. Ferree, M.D., of the Ohio Conference of the M.E. Church

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Rev. P.V. Ferree originally intended his work to be the first volume of a series telling the

“…complete history of the Great Rebellion, consisting of biographical sketches of officers and statesmen; pictures of great battles, sieges, desperate charges, and skirmishes; personal encounters and daring; thrilling incidents; with all else of interest connected with the national struggle for existence”

Ferree begins the endeavor with a description of the political environment prior to the war.

‘Those nutmeg-selling, mackerel-catching, cod-livered Yankees’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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