The political question of internal improvements challenged lawmakers in the earlier days of the United States with the majority supporting the federal government taking an active role in the construction of roads, canals, and railroads. This view prevailed. Many schemes were put forward to construct railways that would connect canals and other waterways.
In 1829, W.C. Redfield published a pamphlet proposing a route that would establish connections among New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and several territories.
The construction of a Great Western Railway...is recommended to the attentive consideration of every citizen who feels an interest in the prosperity of his country, and wishes to promote its rapid advancement in wealth and power, by the multiplication of those physical resources which constitute national greatness, and best promote individual happiness and prosperity.
By the 1830s railroads were being proposed and constructed rapidly. Many of these were of limited scope but funded variously by regional commercial and civic interests or the War Department which had a sustaining interest in the nation’s defense infrastructure.
“The Black Crook”—the progenitor of spectacular theater in the United States—opened at Niblo’s Garden, a 3,000-seat New York City playhouse, on September 12, 1866. Whether this American musical can be called the country’s first, “The Black Crook” had an immense impact on the future of popular entertainment in the U.S. Its initial production ran for nearly 500 performances and created a nationwide mania, stimulated by the clergy who railed against its abundant display of female pulchritude.
In his preface to “The Naked Truth!”: An Inside History of The Black Crook (1897), digitized from the holdings of the New-York Historical Society and found in American Pamphlets, Joseph Whitton wrote:
It is curious that the history of the Black Crook—the pioneer of the American Spectacular Drama, and greater in tinseled gorgeousness and money-drawing power than any of its followers—should never have been told, or, rather, truthfully told.
Whitton by his own account had a “connection with the financial department of Niblo’s Garden, previous to the production and during the run of the Crook,” which “enables him to know the facts…”
Robert Davis, Adjunct Assistant Professor, English Department, John Jay College (CUNY)
Thomas Hamblin (1800-1853) was arguably the most influential—and contradictory—figure in antebellum U.S. theater. An English actor and manager, he became synonymous with American working-class nativist culture. He transformed New York City’s Bowery Theatre from a failed venue for refined drama to what became known as “The House of Blood and Thunder.” Hamblin excelled at producing successful melodramas, tragedies, and farces... > Full Story
This is the time of year many St. Patrick’s Day celebrants literally go green, whether by donning green apparel, quaffing green beer, or just watching the flow of a local river temporarily dyed green. In 21st-century America, most people are reasonably sure the added color is harmless; however, in the 18th and 19th centuries beer drinkers had good reason for concern. While today’s large breweries assure customers their beer is made from only the finest ingredients, including water of unmatched purity, the use of pure or even clean water was not always the case. And in 1840 a New Yorker was sued for $300,000 for saying just that.
Readex will offer a live webinar on Feb. 26, 2015, for librarians, faculty and students who have an interest in Visual Culture studies. This in-depth session will explore the content, features and functionality of American Broadsides and Ephemera, 1749-1900, a Readex Archive of Americana collection.
Based on the American Antiquarian Society’s landmark collection, American Broadsides and Ephemera provides nearly 30,000 fully searchable images of visual and graphical materials printed in America during the 18th and 19th centuries. These rare materials provide
In this issue: celebrating a milestone of African American freedom; China's canal system sparks domestic curiosity and competition; students reveal the history of Radical Republicans; and fetching females hawk clipper-ship trips.
Freedom Bound: The Sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation
By Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Associate Professor of History, University of Delaware, and Director of the Program in African American History, Library Company of Philadelphia
In 2013, people across the United States will celebrate the sesquicentennial of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. As the country approached a third year of bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln issued what has become the most symbolic of mandates. Although limited in many ways, the Proclamation stands as a centerpiece in the long struggle to end racial slavery in America, an institution that spanned more than two centuries and brought death and despair to millions of people of African descent. (read article)
Lake Erie by Way of Guangzhou: Or, The Other Canal Boom
By Dael Norwood, Ph.D. Candidate in History, Princeton University
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. America’s Historical Newspapers contains hundreds of contemporaneous articles about this genius of English literature, as well as reviews of his works and advertisements for his books. Here are a few samples, supplemented by the menu of a banquet held in his honor, found in American Broadsides and Ephemera.
In our latest issue: A professor lauds his colleagues in the library; dissecting a timeless inaugural speech; consumption versus nationalism in early America; and the unheralded impact of a hard-swinging civil rights giant.
In Praise of Librarians and Archivists: Appreciating the Colleagues Who Make Professors’ Jobs EasierBy Mark Cheathem, Associate Professor of History, Cumberland University
Since I was a child begging my mother to take me to the library on a daily basis, I have appreciated the designated keepers of books. Conducting research as an undergraduate student made me aware of the specialized jobs that academic librarians did every day to make life easier for the clueless young people like me who wandered into the building with no idea about how to find academic journal articles or primary sources.... (read article)
Henry Whitney Bellows (1814-1882), planner and president of the United States Sanitary Commission, the leading soldiers' aid society, during the American Civil War.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The first shots had been fired in a war that would last four long and bloody years. This April marked the beginning of a four-year commemoration of the 150th anniversary, or Sesquicentennial,of the American Civil War. Over the next four years, Civil War re-enactors, historians and history enthusiasts from across the United States will gather to help commemorate the battles and other important events linked to the war.