Digital Scholarship


“The Drama Is—Rubbish”: The Early Impact of ‘The Black Crook,’ the Shocking and Scandalous American Musical

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“The Black Crook”—the progenitor of spectacular theater in the United States—opened at Niblo’s Garden, a 3,000-seat New York City playhouse, on September 12, 1866. Whether this American musical can be called the country’s first, “The Black Crook” had an immense impact on the future of popular entertainment in the U.S.  Its initial production ran for nearly 500 performances and created a nationwide mania, stimulated by the clergy who railed against its abundant display of female pulchritude.

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In his preface to “The Naked Truth!”: An Inside History of The Black Crook (1897), digitized from the holdings of the New-York Historical Society and found in American Pamphlets, Joseph Whitton wrote:

It is curious that the history of the Black Crook—the pioneer of the American Spectacular Drama, and greater in tinseled gorgeousness and money-drawing power than any of its followers—should never have been told, or, rather, truthfully told.

Whitton by his own account had a “connection with the financial department of Niblo’s Garden, previous to the production and during the run of the Crook,” which “enables him to know the facts…”

“The Drama Is—Rubbish”: The Early Impact of ‘The Black Crook,’ the Shocking and Scandalous American Musical

‘Savage Sessions: The Lost History of Congressional Violence in Antebellum America’ – Announcing the 2019 Readex ALA Breakfast Event

Readex will host a special breakfast presentation titled “Savage Sessions: The Lost History of Congressional Violence in Antebellum America” at the 2019 American Library Association conference in Washington, D.C.  An open discussion will follow the talk by Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University.

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About the Presentation

In 1856, on the eve of the Civil War, a South Carolina congressman named Preston Brooks viciously attacked Senator Charles Sumner, an outspoken Massachusetts abolitionist, as he sat at his desk in the U.S. Senate chamber. Sumner’s caning is unquestionably the most famous violent incident in Congress, but it was far from the only one.

After more than fifteen years of research and writing, historian Joanne Freeman—a leading authority on early American political culture—has uncovered roughly 70 incidents of physical violence in the House and Senate chambers in the decades leading up to the Civil War, most of them long forgotten. Fistfights, guns and knives, canings, duels, and all-out brawls were essentially censored out of the period’s equivalent of the Congressional Record. These incidents show how violence—both the threat of it and the actual fact of it—was a tool of debate on the part of Southerners who threatened Northerners into compliance or silence on the contentious issue of slavery.

About the Presenter

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‘Savage Sessions: The Lost History of Congressional Violence in Antebellum America’ – Announcing the 2019 Readex ALA Breakfast Event

Illuminating Our Own Moment (Nineteenth-Century American Drama): A Conversation with Professor Amy E. Hughes

Amy E. Hughes is Associate Professor of Theater History and Criticism at Brooklyn College (CUNY). In this January 2019 interview, she discusses how the study of theater deepens our understanding of history and society; what happens in the classroom when students use these kinds of primary sources; and what the digitization of collections like Nineteenth-Century America Drama has meant to her.

 

 

Prof. Hughes’ first book, Spectacles of Reform: Theater and Activism in Nineteenth-Century America, received the 2013 Barnard Hewitt Award from the American Society for Theatre Research. Her latest book is A Player and a Gentleman: The Diary of Harry Watkins, Nineteenth-Century U.S. American Actor (2018), a critical and digital edition of the pre-Civil War diary of actor-playwright Harry Watkins, coedited with Naomi J. Stubbs.


For more information about Nineteenth-Century American Drama, please contact Readex Marketing.

Illuminating Our Own Moment (Nineteenth-Century American Drama): A Conversation with Professor Amy E. Hughes

Rhyming Verse Reveal, Wielded Women, and a Fraught Freedom: Readex Report (March 2019)

In this issue: Ferreting out forgotten verses of a gifted female poet; using women’s reputations as weapons in Jacksonian Era politics; and Caribbean slaves take faltering steps toward freedom.


The Value of Digitized Newspaper Collections in Researching Neglected Women’s Writing: Two Newly Recovered Works by Ella Rhoads Higginson, First Poet Laureate of Washington State

Laura Laffrado, Professor of English, Western Washington University

RR March 2019 1.jpgIn recent years, my scholarly efforts have been devoted to the recovery of Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862?-1940), the first prominent literary author from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Internationally celebrated for her writing, Higginson put the Pacific Northwest on the literary map. People across the nation and around the world were first introduced to the Pacific Northwest and the people who lived there when they read Higginson’s award-winning… > Full Story


The Role of Women in Early American Presidential Campaigns: Using Newspapers to Explore the Informal Politics of the Jacksonian Era

Rhyming Verse Reveal, Wielded Women, and a Fraught Freedom: Readex Report (March 2019)

‘Dramatic Effects’: 19th-Century Theater as Epicenters of Social Networking

Think about this word: melodrama. What image comes to mind?

Brooklyn College theater historian Amy E. Hughes began her presentation at the 2019 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting with that short thought experiment, asking attendees to picture melodrama.

Did you “see” what they did?

 

Many in the audience had envisioned something akin to the “Railroad Rescue,” a scene that originated in Augustin Daily’s Under the Gaslight, a popular play which premiered in New York City in 1867. But as Hughes would reveal, the “Railroad Sensation”—as it was called then—has a “surprisingly complicated and convoluted history.” View the full presentation.

Throughout her talk, titled “Dramatic Effects: The Impact of Theater on 19th-Century U.S. Culture and Society,” Prof. Hughes provided a fascinating overview of the 19th-century theater industry. She shared some of the discoveries her recent research has reWatkins sm.jpgvealed, and she unpacked the little-known history of that “Railroad Rescue,” pointing out its significant political and social factors.

‘Dramatic Effects’: 19th-Century Theater as Epicenters of Social Networking

Cold Weather Conflict, Freethinkers & Faith, and Tactical Taxes: Readex Report (Oct. 2018)

In this issue: Soldiers at Chickamauga battle enemies and the elements; black thought leaders weigh outrage and religious conviction; and the political power of tariffs.


Antebellum America’s Galvanizing Issue: The Tariff

William Bolt, Associate Professor of History, Francis Marion University

Tariff Wars.jpgFor the past 50 years few Americans discussed tariffs. That has changed in the past two years. During his presidential campaign of 2016, Donald Trump hinted that he would impose tariffs in order to revitalize manufacturing in the United States. From the stump, Trump assailed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements. While economists recoiled over these pronouncements because of the harm they might cause domestic markets, they forgot that trade restrictions serve a political purpose as well. > Full Story


Black Freethought from Slavery to Civil Rights: Atheism and Agnosticism in African American Cultural and Intellectual Life

Christopher Cameron, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Cold Weather Conflict, Freethinkers & Faith, and Tactical Taxes: Readex Report (Oct. 2018)

“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

“The highlight of my conference”: The Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

The Readex-sponsored breakfast presentation continues to be a must-attend event during the American Library Association Annual Conference. In a post-event survey, participants said:

“Always one of the highlights of attending ALA.”

“The Readex breakfast is the highlight of my conference every year.”

“Thanks for not shying away from possibly controversial topics. The speakers are always good.”

Invite for Blog Post ALA 2018 Highlights.JPGOn Sunday, June 24 in New Orleans, Prof. Stephen Aron—a leading authority on the American frontier—presented an alternative history of the Louisiana Territory in a fascinating talk titled “When Indians and Americans Got Along.”

Aron, professor of history and Robert N. Burr Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles, described a period of U.S. history in which Americans and Indians found common ground—at least for a time. He emphasized that the alternative history he describes actually happened, unlike “alternate history”—a genre of fiction in which one or more historical events have a different outcome from what really occurred.

Aron is currently writing a book with the working title Can We All Get Along: An Alternative History of the American West.  Throughout his research, Aron has drawn on digital primary documents, including those in Readex collections:

 

 

View the full presentation.

“The highlight of my conference”: The Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

Immersed in Primary Documents: A Conversation with Professor Daniel Feller [VIDEO]

This past January, history professor Daniel Feller delivered a highly praised presentation on shifting views of Andrew Jackson at the American Librarian Association midwinter meeting in Denver. Following his talk, Prof. Feller met with Readex to discuss how digitized primary sources have helped to unlock many important new discoveries about this controversial figure whose reputation has “undergone some remarkable somersaults over the years.” 

Feller began by describing the mission of “The Papers of Andrew Jackson”—the major project he directs at the University of Tennessee—to create a complete literary record of the nation’s seventh president by, among other things, tracking down every letter Andrew Jackson wrote, and every letter written to him. Digitized documents and the ability to use keyword search have proven critical to the project’s continued success.

“Digital databases, such as newspapers, now enable us to find things that we never would have been able to find before,” Feller said. He is also optimistic that Readex’s digital edition of The Territorial Papers of the United States will yield additional new findings critical to a fuller understanding of Jackson’s presidency.

Watch the interview to learn how a creative search strategy enabled his research team to find previously unknown letters, published as “curiosities” in newspapers, long after they were written and far from where they originated.

Immersed in Primary Documents: A Conversation with Professor Daniel Feller [VIDEO]

‘When Indians and Americans Got Along’ – Announcing the Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

On Sunday, June 24, Readex will host a special breakfast presentation titled “When Indians and Americans Got Along: An Alternative History of the Louisiana Territory.” An open discussion will follow the talk by Stephen Aron, professor of history and Robert N. Burr Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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About the Presentation

In this enlightening talk, Prof. Aron—a leading authority on the American frontier—disputes textbook histories that treat the ejection of Indians from their lands as inevitable and relations between native peoples and American pioneers as unremittingly hostile. Aron’s spirited presentation uncovers an alternative history in which some Indian and American migrants to Spanish Louisiana, including most famously Daniel Boone, overcame their enmities and cordially cohabited.

Drawing on Spanish colonial records and the Territorial Papers of the United States, Aron explores how former enemies found common ground in the 1790s and how generally friendly interactions continued after the Louisiana Purchase transferred the territory to the United States. But in the decade after the War of 1812, he explains, amicable relations gave way to pressure from a new group of settlers and to the demands of “American democracy.” These changes challenged the authority of territorial officials like William Clark and paved the trail for Indian removals to and through the Louisiana Territory.

About the Speaker

‘When Indians and Americans Got Along’ – Announcing the Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

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