19th Century


‘Women Who Wheel’: How the Bicycle Craze of the 1890s Helped to Expand Women’s Freedom

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In the late 19th century women began participating in the bicycle craze which men had enjoyed for two decades. This craze did not last long, but for women it was exciting and liberating. It was mostly affluent society women who defied the naysayers and avidly took to the streets on wheels. By 1889 American newspapers were spreading considerable ink on this latest trend.

In January 1889 the New York Tribune reported on a six-day bicycle race in Madison Square Garden for women only. The competition promised

…an exhibition of woman’s endurance that will rival the female walking matches that took place in certain cities seven or eight years ago….Fifteen women will start in the race and a dozen of the required number have already signed contracts to appear. The women will race eight hours a day instead of twenty-four.

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Two years later in 1891 the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an illustrated article on the “astonishing recent growth of the bicycle habit,” noting particularly that women were flocking to participate. Reporter John Heaton wrote:

‘Women Who Wheel’: How the Bicycle Craze of the 1890s Helped to Expand Women’s Freedom

A Name to Conjure With: Mardi Gras Indians Keep the Faith through the Spirit of Sauk War Leader Black Hawk

The spirit of Black Hawk is alive and well and living in New Orleans. How does the influence of this Sauk war leader inform Creole identity over 250 years after his birth? The answer involves a rich gumbo of Native American and African American culture with dashes of American Spiritualism and the iconography of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

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Black Hawk (Muk-a-tá-mish-o-ká-kaik) was born to a prominent Sauk family in 1767 in Saukenuk, present-day Rock Island, Illinois. He distinguished himself in battle during numerous campaigns against other Indian tribes and thus became influential although he was not a hereditary chief. Life was good for Black Hawk’s band in the years leading up to the 1820s. But it did not last. Edwin D. Coe recounted Black Hawk’s trajectory in an 1896 pamphlet from Readex’s American Pamphlets:

A Name to Conjure With: Mardi Gras Indians Keep the Faith through the Spirit of Sauk War Leader Black Hawk

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

'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

‘Politically, Morally and Personally Unworthy’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

The October release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes many letters and little-known documents tracking New Mexico’s controversial Secretary of the Territory, H.H. Heath.

An unsigned memoir from 1868 offers some background:

Mr. Heath is a native of New York, for several years a resident of Washington, he was for a time a (deputy) clerk of the House of Representatives and established here in 1849 or 1850 a newspaper called the “Southern Press” for the express purpose of defending “Southern rights.”

During the Lecompton struggle he was editor of “The North West” “which supported Southern men and Northern, too, who supported them.”

He held the Post Office at Dubuke [sic] for three years, until ejected by Mr. Lincoln.

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Heath’s service to New Mexico Territory began a year earlier in 1867 after a brief delay. Writing to Secretary of State William Henry Seward on March 15, 1867, Heath asked:

I have the honor to request permission to delay my departure for New Mexico…to afford me time to make my arrangements for taking my family and household goods with me.

Four months later Heath sent another letter to Seward, this time writing:

I have the honor to report my arrival in this place and the assumption of the duties of Secretary of this Territory.

I arrived her yesterday after a very protracted and tedious trek…of 47 days…

In August Heath wrote again to Seward, this time about documents uncovered in his New Mexico office. Describing the find, he writes:  

‘Politically, Morally and Personally Unworthy’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

‘Persons of colour excepted’: Highlights from the Territorial Papers of the United States

The September release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several important collections of letters and correspondence between territories and the executive branch. The subjects under discussion range from suffrage in Indiana Territory to American involvement in the Mexican Revolution to the leasing of school lands in Mississippi Territory.


Bill Extending Right of Suffrage, Feb. 2, 1809

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Kentucky Senator and President pro tempore John Pope (1770-1845) read into the Senate record on Feb. 2, 1889, a bill extending the right of suffrage to certain citizens of Indiana Territory.

That the citizens of the Indiana territory, entitled to vote for representatives to the general assembly thereof, shall, at the time of electing their representatives to the said general assembly, also elect one delegate from the said territory to the congress of the United States, who shall possess the same powers heretofore granted to the delegates from the several territories of the United States.

The bill, which goes on to describe various administrative functions of the general assembly and duties of other territorial bureaucracies, would re-emerge from the committee process two years later.


Senate. No. XXV. Bill To Extend Suffrage, etc., Feb. 8, 1811

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‘Persons of colour excepted’: Highlights from the Territorial Papers of the United States

New 1-Minute Video about American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: "A remarkable product" (Library Journal)

Created to cajole, convince and inform Americans on nearly every issue of the day, pamphlets had a powerful impact on 19th-century life in the United States. Now a unique digital resource provides more than 25,000 fully searchable pamphlets from across the country. Revealing passionate views and perspectives not seen in other print genres, these rare items address many of today's most heavily researched topics.

Learn more in this short new video:

 

Discussing this collection, Library Journal writes:

With unique content combined with the superb quality and accessibility, American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820–1922, is a remarkable product. It will serve researchers from high school to postdoctoral studies and beyond. Large public and university libraries will be interested, and other institutions serving scholars in American politics, history, culture, gender and ethnic issues, religion, and education should consider.

Reference Reviews says:

A unique snapshot of contemporary societal thoughts and concerns….The Readex American Pamphlets collection is an excellent database for researchers and university students. It provides a delightful snapshot of contemporaneous views and thoughts on a variety of topics from the cultural to the political.

And Choice adds:

Pamphlets are…notoriously hard to collect, arrange, and catalog….Having more than 25,000 of these rare items available online for close inspection is a great thing.

New 1-Minute Video about American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: "A remarkable product" (Library Journal)

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)

‘Florida now overrun by hostile Indians’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The August release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several legislative reports related to the Second Seminole War, the costly conflict fought in Florida from 1835 to 1842. Also highlighted here is a bill authorizing the armed occupation of “parts of Florida, east of the Suwanee and south to Cape Sable.”


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House. No. 427. Bill Making Further Appropriation for Suppression of Indian Hostilities, March 10, 1836

Churchill Caldom Cambreleng (1786-1862) represented New York in in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1821 to 1839. While serving as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the 24th Congress, Cambreleng reported the following:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the sum of five hundred thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, in addition to former appropriations, for suppressing Indian hostilities in Florida.

‘Florida now overrun by hostile Indians’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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