American Literature


“The illigant position of a man-shaver”: A Look at Three 19th-Century American Farces

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The third release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama includes plays that are self-identified as farces or comedietta, a more abstruse variation.

 


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A Little More Cider: A Farce was published in 1870 by George M. Baker. Here are the characters of this work, which is also identified as a temperance play:

Erastus Applejack, the cider-maker.

Zeb Applejack, his son.

Deacon Peachblossom.

Isaac Peachblossom, his son.

Hans Drinker.

Miss Patience Applejack.

Polly Applejack.

Hetty Mason.

Like many such productions, this one is written in a dialect. Unlike many, it is not so easy to identify it. An excerpt:

Zeb. Gosh all hemlock! Polly, what air yeou a thinkin’ on? Thinkin’ ‘bout some feller, I bet.

Polly. Wa’n’t doin’ nothin’ of the sort. I was thinkin’ ‘bout my new Sunday bunnet.

Zeb. Well, fashion or fellers, they’re all alike. When a gal gits thinkin’ ‘bout either on ‘em, she ain’t good for nothin’.

Polly. Precious little you know ‘bout either on ‘em. I heerd Sally Higgins say that your go-to-meetin’ coat looked as though it had been made in the Revolution.

“The illigant position of a man-shaver”: A Look at Three 19th-Century American Farces

‘Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartly’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II

The April release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, includes these three rare items: a strident political broadside, a treatise on logic by a popular hymn writer, and a piece of juvenile literature describing the season of rebirth.


To the Independent Electors of York and Adams Counties (1803)

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This broadside, supporting Frederick Eichelberger’s election to the Pennsylvania Senate, begins by attacking his political opponents.

Contrived and written by Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartley, have been published for the express purpose of abusing Frederick Eichelberger, and destroying the public confidence in a man, whom they lately recommended to the Republicans, as well qualified for a Republican Legislator, and whose election they supported, as zealously as they now oppose him. They ought, at least, to inform us what he has done since they voted him into the Assembly, that makes him so unfit for a Senator; but they cannot give a reason.

The advertisement continues its scathing review:

It would become Charles Hartley, to pay more attention to the duties of his Office, and to SWIG it less, rather than to be eternally babbling about Elections.

Stewart ought to be satisfied with receiving SIX DOLLARS per day, from the Public, for his fine Speeches in Congress --- It is pitiful in an HONORABLE Member of the National Legislature, to be writing and publishing personal slander, in anonymous hands-bills.

‘Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartly’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II

Scandal, Brothels and Blackmail: Announcing the Release of “American Underworld: The Flash Press”

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“When the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) was founded in 1812, its ambitious goal was to collect one of everything printed in the United States.  Thus this national research library of early American history and culture has a premier collection of low-life raunchy urban periodicals. Rarely saved by more decorous libraries, these obscure publications define a largely masculine subculture (saloons, brothels, boxing rings) that posed a stark alternative to antebellum respectability.”

— Patricia Cohen, co-author of The Flash Press

In the first half of the 19th century a number of unruly urban newspapers—collectively called the Flash Press—began to appear.  One of the earliest titles in this short-lived form of journalism was The Flash, which inspired scores of copycat papers. More than sixty of these heavily researched publications from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society are planned for Readex’s American Underworld: The Flash Press. And now more than a third of these ephemeral titles have been digitized and released in this unique new digital newspaper collection.

 

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Scandal, Brothels and Blackmail: Announcing the Release of “American Underworld: The Flash Press”

Lucretia, Tommy Playlove and the Good Boy: Rare Early American Juvenile Literature

One of the delights of the Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society is the large number of rare, illustrated children’s books. The current release has many lovely examples.


Lucretia; or The Triumph of Virtue (1808)

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Clarissa and Lucretia Bellegrove were the daughters of a gentleman of large property. Nature had lavished on Clarissa a person so lovely, that the most refined judges of beauty could not discover any fault in her form or face; while Lucretia was very deformed and ugly, having a great hump upon her back, and a very disagreeable face. When the sisters were first introduced to strangers, Clarissa was surveyed with admiration, while poor Lucretia’s person excited nothing but disgust.

However, Clarissa “was so proud and haughty, that no one, when she was known to them, could love or admire her.”

Lucretia, on the contrary, had such a mild and amiable disposition, was so sweet-tempered, gentle, modest, and sensible, that her friends forgot the deformities of her person in contemplation of her mind.

As our tale begins, Mr. Bellegrove is anticipating a visit from his wealthy relative and “he resolved to leave no means untried to prevail on her [Clarissa] to disguise her temper before her uncle, whom he well knew had a great aversion to pride and petulance.” Clarissa laughed at his advice convinced her beauty would always win the day. As for Lucretia her father had other plans.

Lucretia, Tommy Playlove and the Good Boy: Rare Early American Juvenile Literature

Why de dickens?: The Lampooning of African Americans as an American Form of Entertainment

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Included in the second release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900, are several minstrel plays. Developed in the United States beginning in the 1830s, minstrel shows mocked the appearances and language of black characters, reinforcing white views on race for more than a century.  This first example, An Elephant on Ice, is subtitled "An Ethiopian Interlude, in One Scene":

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Costumes

Sam Johnson.—Well worn grey pants and vest, a black patch covering entire seat of pants, with patches on knees; dark back, with huge red patch between the shoulders on vest; fancy striped shirt; large shoes; and battered white hat, high crowned.

Sol Squash.—Dandy dress, wig parted in the middle, silk hat, cane; kid gloves and eye glass.

An example of the dialogue as the play opens:

Scene.—A street in second or third grooves.

Enter Sam Johnson R., carrying a buck and saw on his shoulder.

Why de dickens?: The Lampooning of African Americans as an American Form of Entertainment

An American Bohemian, Incriminating an Injustice, and Hopeful of a History: Readex Report (March 2018)

In this issue: A 19th-century stage manager sows blood and thunder; the righteous tones of a patriotic black newspaper; and early Americans envision an inspired past.


Thomas Hamblin’s House of Blood and Thunder: The Transformation of New York’s Bowery Theatre in the Early 19th Century

Robert Davis, Adjunct Assistant Professor, English Department, John Jay College (CUNY)

Davis image 2.jpgThomas Hamblin (1800-1853) was arguably the most influential—and contradictory—figure in antebellum U.S. theater. An English actor and manager, he became synonymous with American working-class nativist culture. He transformed New York City’s Bowery Theatre from a failed venue for refined drama to what became known as “The House of Blood and Thunder.” Hamblin excelled at producing successful melodramas, tragedies, and farces... > Full Story

An American Bohemian, Incriminating an Injustice, and Hopeful of a History: Readex Report (March 2018)

“Dip not thy meat in the sauce”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

February’s release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society includes rare books for children which are intended to inform and instruct them. They include behavioral and etiquette instruction and, in one case, graphic as well as moral illustrations.


Jacky Dandy’s Delight: Or, The History of Birds and Beasts; in Verse and Prose. Adorned with Cuts (1805)

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No author of this imprint is identified, but the publisher, Ashbel Stoddard, proves to be an interesting person. The citation provides this “Publication Information: Hudson (N.Y.): Printed by Ashbel Stoddard at the White House, corner of Warren and Third Streets, 1805.” Stoddard was one of the first printers in the early days of white settlements in the Hudson Valley. He owned a bookstore and published a newspaper. The relief prints are charmingly primitive and the book is intended to instruct children about natural history and good behavior.

Jack Dandy was an active fellow,

Merry as any Punchinello,

And did the Part of Harlequin;

Here do but look, he’s just come in.

 

Good Mr. Har. Instruct me pray,

How I may be a pretty boy.

Says Harlequin, I’ll grant your suit,

Learn to be good, and that will do’t.

The author weaves moral lessons with illustrations and descriptions of the birds and beasts. As an instance, we meet Billy Froward who “went a bird catching with Tommy Telltruth, and they agreed at their first setting out, to be partners in their success.” But Billy is a treacherous lad who attempts to hide the linnet he has bagged from Tommy.

“Dip not thy meat in the sauce”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

Now available for trial! Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900

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The inaugural release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama includes plays that range over the most popular genres of its 80-year time span. There are comedies and melodramas, Revolutionary and Civil War dramas, plays with all-women and all-black casts, temperance plays, and plays for children for school and home entertainment, as well as many plays written by women. Here are some examples of the diversity of genres and titles now available:

Histories:

  • ‘Pocahontas. A Historical Drama, in Five Acts’ by Robert Dale Owen (1837)
  • ‘The Ku Klux Klan, or, The Carpet-Bagger in New Orleans’ by Elizabeth Avery Meriwether (1877)

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Tragedies:

  • ‘Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet. A Tragedy in Five Acts’ by George Henry Miles (1850)

Comedies:

Now available for trial! Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900

‘The Village of Innocence’: Rare Early 19th-Century Children’s Books from the American Antiquarian Society

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Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society makes available more than 1,700 rare and unique publications printed between 1801 and 1819. Included in the newest release, and highlighted below, are several illustrated works of juvenile literature intended to instruct and uplift.


A Premium (1803)

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It can be striking to observe how many stories for children used to refer to death occasionally to attribute it as a naughty youngster’s fate . A verse of the poem which opens this tale:

Do whate’er thy hand shall find,

With all thy might with all thy mind,

Now in works of love abound,

None can in the grave be found.

This somber poem is followed by another titled “On the Death of a Favorite Cat.” The ensuing illustration depicts three children pointing to a dead cat which had been hanged from a branch. This cat had been enticed by a trap set to catch a fox.

The text includes a sprinkling of aphorisms, including:

He that is his own appraiser, will be disappointed in the value.

‘The Village of Innocence’: Rare Early 19th-Century Children’s Books from the American Antiquarian Society

Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

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At the confluence of the period of racial violence known as Red Summer (1919) and the first Red Scare (1917-1920), Jamaica-born poet and journalist Claude McKay merged black anger with radical politics in his most well-known poem, “If We Must Die.”

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McKay’s sonnet initially appeared in the July 1919 issue of The Liberator, a radical socialist magazine published in New York City from 1918-24 by Max and Crystal Eastman. The fame and impact of “If We Must Die” was such that it was soon reprinted as a rallying cry in other progressive magazines such as the September 1919 issue of The Messenger, available in African American Periodicals, 1825-1995.

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Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

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