Archive of Americana


‘Vegetables for the well men’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was created by Congress in 1861 as a private agency to care for sick and wounded Union troops, but it also provided supplies and creature comforts to many other U.S. Army soldiers. Women assumed a prominent role in its efforts, and the USSC raised the equivalent of almost 400 million dollars today. The current release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes three imprints that focus on the Commission’s work and related Sanitary Fairs.


 

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Catalogue: Arms, Trophies, and Curiosities (1865)

During the course of the Civil War, volunteers staged numerous Sanitary Fairs throughout the North. These ambitious and elaborate events were instrumental in raising money for the USSC. This imprint details war-related items on exhibition at a Chicago fair. The extensive catalogue includes these entries:

Bed Quilt made by the children of the Freedsman’s (sic) School, Huntsville Alabama, expressly for this Fair. Names of the children written on the white block.

Bed Spread, from Appotomax (sic) C.H.

Bushwhackers’ saddles.

Ring from the body of Capt. Stennbere, 23d Rebel Tenn. Regt. from 21st regt.

Gourd dish, from a plantation in South Carolina.

Confederate spelling book.

‘Vegetables for the well men’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The United States Enters World War I: 28 Newspaper Front Pages from 100 Years Ago Today

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On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on the German Empire. Although public opinion had been mixed, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson stood before a special joint session to make the case that “armed neutrality…is impracticable.” “The wrongs against which we now array ourselves,” he said, “are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.” The Senate passed Wilson’s war resolution 82 to 6; the House voted 373 to 50.

The following front pages—representing more than 20 states and 25 cities—capture the momentous American decision to join the Allies in a “war to end all wars.” Each was published a century ago today and can be found in Early American Newspapers, Series 1 to 13, 1690-1922.

From Alaska

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From Arizona

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From California

The United States Enters World War I: 28 Newspaper Front Pages from 100 Years Ago Today

‘Docile attention and cheerful obedience’: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Second Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker

Elmina Cuts_Page_3 dance.jpgThe March release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society includes a rare description of a “Juvenile Seminary” in New York City; a discourse delivered to the New-York Historical Society in 1809 marking the 200th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the region; and a whimsical, illustrated story for young women.


 

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A Discourse Designed to Commemorate the Discovery of New-York by Henry Hudson; Delivered before the New-York Historical Society, September 4, 1809; Being the Completion of the Second Century Since that Event (1810)

By Samuel Miller, D.D., one of the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New-York, and member of the Historical Society

In his opening remarks, Miller recognizes the importance of the date of his delivery:

‘Docile attention and cheerful obedience’: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Second Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker

‘The Most Excitable Senator’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The February release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes examples of the use of pseudoscience to justify racism, a defense of Senator Sumner’s anti-slavery “Crime Against Kansas” speech, and more.


 

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Negroes and Negro Slavery (1853)

By John H. Van Evrie, M.D.

John H. Van Evrie (1814-1896) authored several books defending slavery and racism, edited the white supremacist newspaper Weekly Day Book, and owned a publishing company. He was referred to as the first professional racist in American history. Van Evrie often employed the pseudoscience of race biology to defend his beliefs, in this case his opposition to miscegenation.

‘The Most Excitable Senator’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘The Bullet Splintered Tree’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

5350 illus_Page_01 sm inset2.jpgThe current release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a scathing editorial from “The Atlantic Monthly” excoriating President Andrew Johnson and the National Union Party, an illustrated copy of a song celebrating the rescue of a besieged Union force by General William Tecumseh Sherman, and a catalogue of war relics on display in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the 1880s.


 

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The Johnson Party: From The Atlantic Monthly, September 1866 (1866)

‘The Bullet Splintered Tree’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

‘Flying from Persecution’: Highlights from Supplement 1 to Early American Imprints, Series II

Michaux Sugar Maple sm.jpgThe February release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 1 from the American Antiquarian Society includes many scarce printings, including a history of the Colony of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson, a description of the wide array of forest trees in North America, an affidavit attesting to a sea monster sighting, and an advertisement for an act of acrobatics.


 

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Notes on the State of Virginia (1803)

By Thomas Jefferson

The third president of the United States prefaces his work with a letter written in late February 230 years ago:

The following Notes were written in Virginia, in the year 1781, and somewhat corrected and enlarged in the Winter of 1782, in answer to queries proposed to the author, by a foreigner of distinction, then residing among us. The subjects are all treated imperfectly; some scarcely touched on. To apologise for this by developing the circumstances of the time and place of their composition, would be to open wounds which have already bled enough.

Jefferson writes about many topics, including early religious intolerance in the Colony of Virginia:

‘Flying from Persecution’: Highlights from Supplement 1 to Early American Imprints, Series II

Early 19th-Century Children’s Literature: Scarce Works in American Antiquarian Society Collection

EAI II Supp 2 Jan 17 3_Page_7 intro.jpgThe January 2017 release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society includes more scarce editions of children’s literature similar to those which we highlighted last month. Most of these seem to be somewhat threatening and to treat death and injury as a natural result of childish impetuosity and naughtiness. As a respite from spiteful children, we also offer a rare imprint of beautifully illustrated birds meant to instruct juveniles.


 

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Short Conversations; or, An Easy Road to the Temple of Fame: Which All May Reach Who Endeavour To Be Good (1815)

For social Converse, you will find,

Can please and edify the Mind;

And those who heedful to attend,

May gain much Knowledge from a Friend.

Early 19th-Century Children’s Literature: Scarce Works in American Antiquarian Society Collection

Histories of Union Regiments: Amateur Historians and the American Civil War

CW Jan 3a inset.jpgThe current release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a number of histories of Union regiments each written many years after the end of the war by amateur historians. In each instance, the author describes the challenging task in his preface and admits to his perceived shortcomings. We can see that these various accounts deviate from any established norm. And yet, each is similar in its description of the general experience of so many young men, even boys, whose lives were upended by the war and, in many instances, forever changed.


 

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History of the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers: From its Organization to Appomattox; to which is Added Experiences of Prison life and Sketches of Individual Members (1898)

By Thos. (Thomas) D. Marbaker. Sergeant Co. E.

Thomas D. Marbaker describes his process of determining how best to write the history of the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers:

Histories of Union Regiments: Amateur Historians and the American Civil War

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Arch_Street_Ferry 2.jpgThe January release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes:

♦ a description of the first major yellow fever epidemic in the United States

♦ a collection of verse by an African slave who became a leading American poet 

♦ and W.E.B. Du Bois' first scholarly book—a history of the slave trade based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation.


Jones Title Page.jpgA Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793 (1794)

By Absalom Jones and Richard Allen

Absalom Jones (1746-1818) and Richard Allen (1760-1831) were both born into slavery and through various transactions were subsequently separated from their families. They were also both clergymen; Jones, in 1804, became the first African American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States, and Allen, in 1794, founded the first independent black denomination in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In this jointly-written narrative they describe the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic and respond to criticisms of African Americans who assisted in caring for the sick.

They write:

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Included in the January 2017 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia are several works that provide insight into the conditions under which many African Americans lived in Antebellum America.


The Farmer’s Accountant and Instructions for Overseers (1828)

By Pleasant Suit

Pleasant Suit, the author of this bookkeeping guide for farmers, notes that he has “been in the habit of keeping Books upwards of thirty years, part of the time in the largest importing and exporting Mercantile house in Virginia.”  He illustrates his method of accounting for African Americans among other “stock accounts” with charts like this:

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Entries in the book’s “F.A.Q.” section include:

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Q. Why do you debit Negro account to Stock account?

A. Because it is a component part of it, and it enables you at all times to know how many you have, by comparing the debtor’s side with the credit: If any are sold you credit the account by what you receive, and if one or more dies you credit the account by Profit and Loss for the valuation; and if your women should have children, you debit this amount to Profit and Loss for the number and value of them.

Q. Why do you debit Horse account to Stock account?

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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