Afro-Americana Imprints


‘Gas! Gas! Gas!’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The November 2016 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several Antebellum broadsides announcing a variety of entertainment events, a volume describing a dangerous expedition to Central Africa, and a Reconstruction-era speech delivered in the U.S. Senate by a former Republican governor from Indiana.


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Gas! Gas! Gas! (1853)

By Masonic Hall (Philadelphia, PA)

This broadside advertises a number of extraordinary attractions including an infant percussionist “who beats over one hundred popular airs on the drum” and B.S. Bowen, the “celebrated banjoist and Southern Ethiopian delineator.” However, the main attraction was undoubtedly Dr. Greenwood’s exhibition of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

…Professor Greenwood will exhibit his nitrous oxide gas being the only person now engaged in exhibiting its most pleasing and sensitive powers in public exhibitions. Upwards of 500,000 persons, both Ladies and Gentlemen, have inhaled this most wonderful Gas, administered only by Professor Greenwood, a great many of whom have admitted to have been greatly benefited by its most wonderful powers.


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An Account of the Progress of the Expedition to Central Africa (1854)

‘Gas! Gas! Gas!’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Two Strange Lumps of Humanity’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an autobiography by conjoined twins, instructions on how to stage a successful minstrel show, and a collection of racist illustrations depicting African Americans in the South.


 

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History and Medical Description of the Two-headed Girl (1869)

 

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We are, indeed, a strange people, justly regarded both by scientific and ordinary eyes as the greatest natural curiosities the world has ever had sent upon its surface.

Millie and Christina were born into slavery in North Carolina in 1852. In addition to the “two-headed girl,” they were referred to as the Carolina twins, the United African twins, and the two-headed nightingale. They write in their autobiography about having been bought and sold several times while still in their infancy:

…we became separated from our parents, and after a few more transfers in the way of ownership, became the property of Mr. Jos. P. Smith, who gave for us, two strange lumps of humanity, the sum of $30,000. He, with a goodness of heart…ascertained where our parents were…purchased them, and all our little brothers and sisters, thus bringing a long separated family together…

‘Two Strange Lumps of Humanity’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

A ‘Nation of Slaveholders’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The August release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes publications with differing religious perspectives on American slavery. Highlighted here are works by one of the founders of the United States General Convention of Universalists, Elhanan Winchester, and by two lesser-known authors.


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The Reigning Abominations, Especially the Slave Trade (1788)

By Elhanan Winchester

Elhanan Winchester was an itinerant preacher, five-time husband, and a founder of what became the Universalist Church of America. He was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1751 and was ordained a Baptist minister 20 years later. During his ministry, Winchester travelled to South Carolina and Virginia preaching to both blacks and whites and sharing openly the gospel with slaves. In 1781 his congregation was excommunicated by the Baptist Church.

Describing his experience in Virginia, Winchester writes:

Though I have been in Virginia but a few days, I have seen and heard that which greatly affects my heart, and I shall therefore take notice of some of those abominations which, I fear, greatly prevail in this country, and which threaten it with ruin and desolation, unless repentance and reformation prevent.

A ‘Nation of Slaveholders’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“What appears to be wise and right”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

LincolnPortrait.jpgThis month’s release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes works illustrating various forms of internal strife caused by slavery and the opposition to it. Highlighted here—in George Washington's "Last Will and Testament," a book by an Irish abolitionist, and a compilation of the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln—are examples of conflicting sentiments within an individual, a movement, and a country. 


 

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The Last Will and Testament of General George Washington (1800)

By George Washington

Item. Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire that all the slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom. To emancipate them during her life, would, though earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties, on account of their intermixture by marriages with the dower negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the dower negroes are held, to manumit them.

Washington continues, describing the treatment he expects of his slaves upon their eventual emancipation:

“What appears to be wise and right”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“The Savage Mob”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The June release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of letters by an Englishman about his stay in the Antebellum United States, a compilation of poems about religion, slavery and drinking, as well as an anthology of murders and confessions. 


 

Men and Things in America: Being the Experience of a Year’s Residence in the United States, in a Series of Letters to a Friend (1838) 

By Andrew Bell 

In 1835 English historian and author Andrew Bell travelled to the United States. During his yearlong stay in America he took copious notes of his experiences and upon his return compiled them as a series of letters written under the pseudonym, A. Thomson. Bell discusses many topics including the opinions of Americans toward the Irish and that of the Irish toward Americans, the “pretended absence of poverty in America,” and the conditions of African Americans. 

After writing about both the Shakers and the Quakers, Bell describes the relationship of the latter with African Americans. 

“The Savage Mob”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“Bewitching matter”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Included in the latest release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921, are these illustrated works from the holdings of the Library Company of Philadelphia:

· a four-volume examination of the Moors, Wolofs and other ethnic groups;

· an early 19th-century account of Southern Africa by a resident;

· and a description of “three years’ travels and adventures in the unexplored regions of Central Africa from 1868 to 1871.” 


 The World in Miniature: Africa (1821) 

Edited by Frederic Shoberl 

“Bewitching matter”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Sweetly Thrilling Symphonies”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The April release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes two late 19th-century collections of biographical sketches, one of African American musicians and a second including a wide range of influential African Americans. Also found in the current release is a history of African American troops in the Civil War. 


Music and Some Highly Musical People (1878) 

By James Monroe Trotter 

In 1842, James Monroe Trotter was born into slavery in Mississippi. Freed by their owner, he and his two sisters and mother, Letitia, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Trotter could grow up in freedom. Prior to the Civil War, Trotter taught in Ohio and met Virginia Isaacs, his future wife. During the war, he served, and was promoted quickly, in the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he worked in the Post Office Department in Boston and as Recorder of Deeds in Washington, D.C. 

Trotter begins this volume by asking, what is music? And then offers this elegant answer:  

“Sweetly Thrilling Symphonies”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The April release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of observations on tropical medicine, an anthology of poems by James Montgomery, and an assemblage of laws pertaining to the British West Indies. 


Medical and Miscellaneous Observations, Relative to the West India Islands (1817) 

By John Williamson, M.D.  

Dr. John Williamson was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and had served as a surgeon for the Caithness Highlanders, a regiment of the Highland Fencible Corps.

In 1798 Williamson traveled to Jamaica where he remained for over a decade. Williamson writes about encountering specific ailments: “The yaws have been long a loathsome and disgusting disease, as well as an immense source of loss to proprietors.” And describes the need for reforming the administration of the island’s health services: “The hospital management of negroes being defective, improvements are suggested, to place these establishments on a foundation consistent with the comfort and welfare of mutual interests.” 

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“The Iron Hand of Persecution”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an English minister's examination of the "United States of America and of the European Settlements in America and the West-Indies," published in 1796. This work includes the color plate of a tobacco plant seen to the right. Also highlighted below are works printed in London offering two perspectives on the slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean.   


An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the United States of America and of the European Settlements in America and the West-Indies (1796) 

By William Winterbotham 

“The Iron Hand of Persecution”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“How to Solve the Race Problem” and other Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The February release of Black Authors, 1556-1922 includes a work on class and race in Philadelphia published during the Antebellum Period, an examination of the post-Reconstruction South by a Barbados-born lawyer, and an early 20th-century solution to the race problem “by eminent men of both races and in every walk of life.” Among the African American leaders who convened at the 1903 Washington Conference on the Race Problem in the United States were the 18 whose photographs appear below.


Sketches of the Higher Classes of Colored Society in Philadelphia (1841) 

By A Southerner  

Joseph Wilson, using the pseudonym A Southerner, wrote about his adopted city in hopes of proving to the white community that the African American community also contained an upper echelon and to offer advice to the privileged members of that class. Wilson’s work is particularly notable because it is a very early account of class and race in Philadelphia, predating W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro by half a century.  

“How to Solve the Race Problem” and other Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

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