19th Century


'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

“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

“A campaign against the Navajo”: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

 

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The July release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes many revealing letters between military officers, territorial officials, and the executive branch of the federal government. This correspondence from New Mexico Territory, October 1862, showcases a single episode in the wide range of military campaigns against the Navajo and other tribes covered in this digital collection. 


Captain J.C. Shaw to General B.C. Cutler. Unauthorized Indian Campaigns, etc., Oct. 6, 1862

Writing from Head Quarters, Western Military District, Department of New Mexico, Captain Shaw reports his observations and requests orders:

Sir: In the instructions for the guidance of the Officer commanding this District it states that all parties not legally authorized will be prevented from campaigning against the Navajo Indians etc., and that due notice of any such force being authorized would be furnished to the Commanding Officer of the District.

The Alcalde of this place is now enrolling militia men to be ready to march on the 15th of the month against Navajos. I have seen the Governor …. in relation to the movement, but have no official notice of it.

The attention of the General Commanding is respectfully called to this subject, and his orders, thereon requested.

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“A campaign against the Navajo”: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

“The best presentation at this year’s ALA”: Librarians praise Readex-sponsored talk by Yale’s Joanne B. Freeman

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For more than a decade Readex has brought acclaimed historians to speak about their scholarly work to the sharp and curious membership of the American Library Association. At the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., last month, Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, presented “Savage Sessions: The Lost History of Congressional Violence in Antebellum America.”

Freeman shared evidence of more than 70 incidents in the United States House of Representatives and Senate of mortal threats, canings, fist fights and even a duel. In a post-event survey, participants offered their reactions:

Dr. Freeman was a fantastic speaker. She was engaging, she was insightful.

Best presentation yet! Wonderful speaker, timely topic.

Great! Informative & entertaining.

Presentation brought history to life!

The best presentation at this year’s ALA. Dr. Freeman’s depth of knowledge was stunning.

In her fascinating talk, Freeman described the events leading up to the Brooks-Sumner Affair, which occurred on May 22, 1856. While it may be the most well-known act of Congressional violence, it was far from the only incident. See the full presentation.

So, why hasn’t the story of congressional violence been more fully told before?

“The best presentation at this year’s ALA”: Librarians praise Readex-sponsored talk by Yale’s Joanne B. Freeman

‘Those Unfortunate Strangers’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

The June release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several legislative reports on bills relating to policies toward indigenous peoples of North America. Also found in this release are a number of documents pertaining to the Territory of Orleans, which became the State of Louisiana when it was admitted to the Union in 1812. Two of these documents of particular interest are a report on a House bill titled, “Further Providing for Government of the Territory” and a letter from William C.C. Claiborne, Governor of the Orleans Territory.


Orleans, February 26, 1803 - December 26, 1815

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Following sections authorizing the establishment of a state government in the Orleans Territory, the bill contains a section detailing how the census will be performed. This version of the bill includes a curious amendment that could result in a lower official population and delay in the path to statehood.

The handwritten changes to the printed bill indicate the bracketed portion of the following is to be omitted; additions to the bill’s language are in bold.

‘Those Unfortunate Strangers’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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