The Readex Reportis a quarterly e-newsletter that explores diverse aspects of both modern librarianship and digital historical collections. Through original articles by academic faculty and librarians, The Readex Report provides insights on topics as wide-ranging as those found in the following list of the most clicked-upon articles published since 2006.
Preserving the Library in the Digital Age
By Benjamin L. Carp, Assistant Professor of History, Tufts University [Volume 4, Issue 4]
One of the joys of browsing American historical newspapers is discovering the unexpected from around the world. Take this photograph, for example, of a car being dragged across a Siberian river during the Peking-to-Paris race in 1907:
Low-fat? Low-calorie? Low-carb?
Headlines seem to grab the public’s interest every day with warnings about what and what not to eat. With food-related health issues and rising obesity rates getting so much attention in the United States and around the world, it is tempting to think that mankind’s struggles with diet are new. But of course they aren’t!
[Note: On April 7, 2011, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, as part of its 87th annual competition, awarded a Fellowship to T.J. Stiles based on impressive prior achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. This article by T.J. Stiles appeared in the February 2010 issue of The Readex Report. Here he discusses his use of the Readex digital edition of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set in researching The First Tycoon, which won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize.]
Mechanicsburg, Ohio is a really small place today—less than 2,000 people—so imagine what the population would have been in 1857. But this little community was the site of an event that lead to a federal court case to determine the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Many local students knew vaguely of the story of Addison White, a runaway slave from Kentucky. His master tracked him to Mechanicsburg and sent slave catchers to bring him back. No one expected the townspeople of Mechanicsburg to arrive with pitchforks and carpet beaters to chase the slave catchers away.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company was a business that made shirtwaists, the common term of the day for women's blouses. The business, owned by Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, was located on the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the Asch Building in New York City. Most of its employees were young women, mainly Italian and European Jewish immigrants. While the building was relatively modern and clean, the pay was low, the days were long, and working conditions were often dangerous. These factors combined to make the factory a classic example of a "sweatshop."
An early mention of Valentine’s Day in an American newspaper comes from the Farmers' Register (Lansingburgh, NY). This article, reprinted from an unnamed British paper, notes the increase in Valentine’s Day letters passing through the London post office from 60,000 in 1804 to 80,000 in 1805. Clearly, the practice of sending notes to a lover was growing noticeably.
Connecticut Herald (14 May 1811)
In May 1811, the Connecticut Herald (Hartford, CT) quoted a London paper reporting “the love stricken of both sexes thought fit to send to the respective objects of their passion…” not “less than 300,000 of these inflammatory packets…through the post office, within forty-eight hours.” Jumping ahead to February 1844, the Boston Evening Transcript printed a document from the New York Post Office indicating “that the Postmaster of Great Gotham does not intend to be beaten in his arrangements for distributing the missives suggested by the anniversary of St. Valentine, whatever may have been his ill fortune with the foreign mails.”
Maybe you missed it, or perhaps you weren’t yet born. But imagine for just a moment that you’d made the trip from Seattle, Washington, to Max Yasgur’s Bethel, New York, farm in the late summer of 1969. You were one of the half-million people attending the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. One of your traveling companions embarked on the trip to protest the war in Vietnam. Another tagged along for the three-day party. You however came for the music. And moreover, you’d endured three hungry days of rain, long Porta-John lines, and National Guard rations for this singular moment. The opening riff to Jimi Hendrix’s “Message to Love” brings you out of your tent, and onto your feet. He’s your hometown hero. His white Fender Stratocaster, manufactured for a right-handed player, is strung upside-down for his deft left-handed manipulation. He’s working the fret-board furiously with long, spindly fingers. And just then, you flash back.
In his highly regarded 2006 Yale Book of Quotations, Yale law librarian Fred Shapiro gives on page 649 the following source for the phrase “lunatic fringe”:
The lunatic fringe was fully in evidence, especially in the rooms devoted to the Cubists and Futurists, or Near-Impressionists. (Outlook, 29 Mar. 1913)
This, along with a usage in Roosevelt’s Autobiography (1913), represents the earliest known use of the phrase lunatic fringe.
Shapiro therein follows the entries for “lunatic fringe” found in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 17th edition (2002), the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations, 2nd edition (2002), and the Dictionary of Quotations by Bergen Evans (1968), and perhaps other of the numerous quotation dictionaries.