Historical Newspapers


Fish or Cut Bait: Following a Phrase in Early American Newspapers

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The derivation of the phrase “fish or cut bait” is relatively clear, but its meaning has been murky since it became popularized in the mid-nineteenth century. One interpretation is similar to a contemporary idiom more politely expressed as ‘evacuate or vacate the wash closet,’ urging one to either proceed or cease a course of action. Another reading of the expression is it is instructing one to choose between two actions required to attain a particular goal.

An April 30, 1897, New-York Tribune column encouraging Tammany Hall to take action on monetary policy illustrates both the phrase’s origin and that its common usage is incomplete. 

“She must either fish or cut bait,” says “Jimmie.” The fisherman’s formula—intended to express the idea of division of labor with no loafing—is “must either fish, cut bait or go ashore.” The omission of the last choice indicates a purpose of throwing Tammany overboard without giving her a chance to go ashore if she doesn’t either fish or cut bait.

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A Pawtucket Times article from March 24, 1920, describing a call to accomplish the multitude of tasks required to form a fish and game association, also interprets the phrase as a division of labor.

Fish or Cut Bait: Following a Phrase in Early American Newspapers

Women in War: From the American Indian Wars to the American Civil War

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The experiences of women in wartime have been less well documented than those of men. Their contributions, their sufferings and heroism merit closer attention. The wealth of digitized primary sources in Readex collections offer fresh opportunities for researchers to study women who lived through, and often participated in, conflicts across multiple centuries and continents. In this post, we will touch on the diverse roles played by women in American wars from the early days of settlement through the middle of the 19th century.

The earliest European settlements in North America conflicted with the various Indian tribes which populated the eastern lands of the continent. One popular type of publication was the captivity narrative. In 1754 Susanna Willard Johnson and her family were taken captive by the Abenakis and held for four years. After her release she published a popular account.

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Women in War: From the American Indian Wars to the American Civil War

Ribald Renderings, a Nuanced Novella and Informed Innocence: Readex Report (November 2019)

In this issue: Seamy urban newspapers seduce and scandalize readers in 19th-century America, weighty themes abound in yesteryear’s children’s books, and did an 1849 execution inspire an enigmatic American novella?


Washington Goode and Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor: Race and the Death Penalty through Nineteenth-Century Media

By Lenora Warren, Lecturer, Department of English, Ithaca College

Warren-cover-300px.jpgWhat connects the 1849 execution of an obscure African American sailor with Billy Budd, Sailor, the enigmatic novella written by Herman Melville, one of the greatest American writers of the nineteenth century? Perhaps a great deal. Let’s begin with the sailor, a man by the name of Washington Goode, about whom little is known. As a very young man Goode served under Andrew Jackson during the Seminole War, and after the war, he served as a ship’s cook. By 1848 Goode was a resident of “The Black Sea,” a neighborhood frequented by sailors on leave, immigrants, and African Americans, and notorious as a hotbed … > Full Story


The Cultural Work of Child’s Play: Examples from Three Picture Books in Readex Digital Collections

By Laura Wasowicz, Children’s Literature Curator, American Antiquarian Society

Ribald Renderings, a Nuanced Novella and Informed Innocence: Readex Report (November 2019)

'Free Talk About Free Books': Tracing the evolution of America’s libraries through primary source documents

1. From private collections to public repositories

The first libraries in the United States were largely private, the realm of wealthy and learned men. During the Colonial Era, these men bequeathed books to educational institutions, establishing early college libraries. They also initiated subscription libraries, which were private collections funded by memberships and dues. While such institutions weren’t available to the general public, they laid the foundation for the public lending libraries that soon became a hallmark of American civic and intellectual life.

One of the earlier imprints chronicling this evolution is a broadside dated 1741, found in Readex’s Early American Imprints, notifying the public of a meeting “in order to consider the Proposal of applying for a CHARTER, to incorporate the said Company.”

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That company was the Library Company of Philadelphia, the inspiration of Benjamin Franklin. The same year, Franklin published “a catalogue of books belonging to the company…” which members could borrow to read at their leisure—a rare luxury in a time when books were expensive and difficult to come by.

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Thirteen years later another broadside, this time from New York City, proposed a subscription program to finance a public library. These important institutions were still not free, although their fees were relatively modest for Americans of comfortable financial means.

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'Free Talk About Free Books': Tracing the evolution of America’s libraries through primary source documents

“Not the sort of thing one forgets”: Using primary source documents to trace the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

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On April 26, 1986, a safety experiment at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine went terribly awry, unleashing plumes of fire and invisible radioactive particles that rained down on surrounding towns and cities. Considered the worst nuclear accident in history, the Chernobyl disaster exposed millions of people to radiation and displaced some 200,000 people from their homes.

Yet coverage of the disaster by the Soviet government and state media was shockingly circumspect, focusing on the valiant efforts of workers rather than the devastation experienced by innocent people and animals. A July 1986 report from Pravda, the official newspaper of the USSR, for example, praised the “organized and precise work” of cleanup crews, adding that “many of the power station workers serving the power units are setting examples of courage [muzhestvo] and enthusiasm in their labor.”

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“Not the sort of thing one forgets”: Using primary source documents to trace the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Before Hamilton Mania: Joanne B. Freeman on her Scholarly Obsession with an American Enigma

After Joanne B. Freeman’s captivating talk on early congressional violence at the 2019 American Library Association Annual Conference, we sat down with the Yale University history professor to dive deeper into her scholarly interests and use of primary documents. We shared highlights with you in the most recent installment of Readex’s Scholars Speak series; however, no conversation with Freeman would be complete without a focus on Alexander Hamilton.

Decades before Lin Manuel Miranda’s inspiration for the Broadway smash hit, a teenager’s interest in this American enigma was struck in the biography section of her local library. Freeman—who calls herself that “crazy person” who knows more about Hamilton than anybody else—realized upon seeing the musical for the first time that her work was the basis for the song “Ten Duel Commandments.”

Enjoy this behind-the-scenes chat as Freeman discusses what first sparked her interest in this enigmatic founding father, why after decades of research he continues to fascinate her, and how she predicts “Hamilton Mania” will impact history.

 

Before Hamilton Mania: Joanne B. Freeman on her Scholarly Obsession with an American Enigma

'Exploring African American History with Primary Sources'--a free eBook

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This unique new eBook offers these five original articles by faculty specializing in African American history, literature and culture:

  • Commemorating W.E.B. Du Bois and “The Crisis”: Reflections on Religion and American History
  • Excavating Antebellum Black Politics via America’s Historical Newspapers
  • The Robinson Interregnum: The Black Press Responds to the Signing of Jackie Robinson
  • Writing the David Ruggles Biography: Newspapers Help Complete the Portrait of a Radical Black Abolitionist
  • A True Tale of Adultery, Murder, and Dismemberment in Black Women's History

Each author provides a first-hand description of the discovery of valuable primary sources in Readex databases, including African American Newspapers, African American Periodicals, Afro-Americana Imprints, and other digital collections.

Download the eBook.

'Exploring African American History with Primary Sources'--a free eBook

Now available for trial: Origins of Modern Science and Technology

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Readex has released a new family of digital resources that support learning and research across STEM and humanities disciplines. Each of these five fully searchable collections is comprised of thousands of primary source documents from around the world, collected and translated into English by the Central Intelligence Agency between 1957 and 1995:

Now available for trial: Origins of Modern Science and Technology

Evaluating Evidence: Primary Materials and the Lifelong Value of the Humanities (A Conversation with Professor Joanne B. Freeman)

Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, is a leading expert on early American politics and culture. In this video, the newest in our Scholars Speak series, Freeman describes the essential role that primary source materials have played in her own research. She also discusses the lasting benefits of studying the humanities.

 

The author of the award-winning Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic and The Essential Hamilton, Freeman is particularly well known for her expertise in dirty, nasty politics. Her most recent book, The Field of Blood: Congressional Violence and the Road to Civil War was a New York Times notable book of 2018, one of Smithsonian’s top ten history books of 2018, and a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. A co-host of the popular American history podcast BackStory, her online course, “The American Revolution,” has been viewed in homes and classrooms around the world.


For more information about Readex newspaper databases, please contact Readex Marketing.

 

Evaluating Evidence: Primary Materials and the Lifelong Value of the Humanities (A Conversation with Professor Joanne B. Freeman)

“An equality of wages”: The Evolution of Working Women’s Rights, as Captured by Early American Publications

Among the United States’ earliest and most fervent supporters of working women’s rights was an Irish immigrant named Mathew Carey, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1784. In that city he established a publishing business and a book store, and used his expertise to print broadsides and pamphlets that advocated for progressive causes.

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Toward the end of his life, Carey became a champion of poor seamstresses and spoolers, the women who wound cotton or yarn onto spools. In 1831 he wrote a pamphlet titled “Address to the Wealthy of the Land, Ladies as Well as Gentlemen, on the Character, Conduct, Situation, and Prospects, of those Whose Sole Dependence for Subsistence, is on the Labour of their Hands.” The title page includes a quote from “Barton’s Essay on the Progressive Depreciation of Agricultural Labour:”

We must never forget that THE LOW RATE OF WAGES IS THE ROOT OF THE MISCHIEF, and that unless we can succeed in raising the price of [their] labour, our utmost efforts will do little towards effectually bettering their condition….The increasing necessities of the poor [women] arise from the depreciation of labour, and consequently EVERY REMEDY WHICH FAILS TO COUNTERACT THIS DEPRECIATION, does no more than skim over the wound, without reaching the seat of the disease.

“An equality of wages”: The Evolution of Working Women’s Rights, as Captured by Early American Publications

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