Archive of Americana


Black Politics, Transatlantic Adventures, and Working Women’s Dress: The Readex Report (Sept. 2016)

In this issue: Mining elusive proof of Antebellum black politics; wily wealth building during the Revolutionary War era; and runaway slave ads provide unintentional insight into Colonial Era fashion.


Excavating Antebellum Black Politics via America’s Historical Newspapers

Van Gosse, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of History, Franklin & Marshall College

RR 916 1.jpgI am finishing a history of antebellum black politics, a little-studied topic for which many of the usual sources are unavailable: white politicians did not record their correspondence with black men, and the latter rarely donated personal papers to libraries, for obvious reasons. However, America’s Historical Newspapers (AHN), used with precision, can produce extraordinary insights into the quotidian fabric of American politics and culture, evidence otherwise unavailable.> Full Story


The Mysterious Mr. Carter: Transatlantic Adventures in Early American Finance

Tom Cutterham, Lecturer in U.S. History, University of Birmingham

Black Politics, Transatlantic Adventures, and Working Women’s Dress: The Readex Report (Sept. 2016)

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

The 1864 GOP National Convention and ‘the Little Squad of Bolters’

250px-Republican_presidential_ticket_1864b.jpgEvery four years the American political parties gather to nominate their presidential candidate. The months preceding the conventions are often the most fractious periods in American politics as spring turns to summer and internecine squabbles turn to feuds. This was particularly true in 1864.

As the National Union Party convention in Baltimore neared the young Republican Party was at risk of being torn apart. An uncompromising faction of the party, the Radical Republicans, opposed nominating President Lincoln for a second term and even held their own convention in Cleveland. They objected to the president’s policy on slavery, his administration of the war, and his post-war plans which they found too lenient.

Most Radical Republican leaders expected the Confederates to be treated severely after the war. In early January 1864, under the headline “The Logic of History: Bloodthirsty Venom of the ‘Loyalists,’” the Wisconsin Daily Patriot printed the following:

During the summer of 1863, according to the Washington Chronicle, Jim Lane, a Republican United States Senator from Kansas, made a speech in Washington, in which he gave utterance to the following bloodthirsty sentiments:

“I would like to live long enough to see every white man in South Carolina, in hell, and the negroes inheriting their territory.”

[Loud applause.]

The 1864 GOP National Convention and ‘the Little Squad of Bolters’

"Equal power and privileges": Victoria Woodhull, First Woman Nominated for President of the United States

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In 2016 Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win a major political party’s nomination for U.S. president. While she campaigns this year to earn the votes of as many men and women as possible, the first woman to run for America’s highest office did so at a time when only men had the right to vote. Although Victoria Woodhull knew her 1872 bid for the U.S. presidency would be considered outlandish, she understood that a female bid for the presidency would be seriously considered in the future.

In the presidential election of 1872 Woodhull faced Republican Party nominee Ulysses S. Grant, Liberal Republican Party nominee Horace Greeley, and several others.  Coverage of the Woodhull campaign, as found in Early American Newspapers, gives a unique perspective of the public response to her audacious role in American politics.

Reporting reveals Woodhull to have been an electrifying public speaker who expressed her opinions, no matter what the response. The press seemed to have enjoyed making a spectacle of her public speeches and depicted them as well-attended, rowdy events:

"Equal power and privileges": Victoria Woodhull, First Woman Nominated for President of the United States

The Sylvan Retreats of Early American Gentry: A Newly Available Work in the American Antiquarian Society Supplement

pl_007062016_1001_53420_15_Page_02.jpgIncluded in the July release of newly digitized material from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker is a collection of intaglio prints created by artist William Russell Birch.  In this important work he depicts many of the elegant country estates of early 19th-century American gentry.


The Country Seats of the United States of North America, With Some Scenes Connected With Them (1809)

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William Russell Birch, an engraver and an enamel portraitist, was born in England in 1775. In his youth he was apprenticed to a jeweler as well as portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds. Birch emigrated to the United States in 1794, and in 1809 he published this influential collection of intaglio prints of elegant country homes of prominent Americans.

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This imprint contains little text, but the prints are enchanting in their portrayal of sylvan retreats of America’s earlier gentry. The pleasure of the collection rests entirely on the beauty of his work, which helped shape American style in architecture and landscape design.

The Sylvan Retreats of Early American Gentry: A Newly Available Work in the American Antiquarian Society Supplement

“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

“My knees then smote one against the other”: Highlights from Supplement to Early American Imprints, Shaw-Shoemaker

Monument at Hubbardton Battlefield, Hubbardton, Vermont, commemorating Revolutionary War battle of 7 July 1777.This month’s release of new material in the Early American Imprints Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society includes:

• a biographical account of a young American rebel who was wounded and captured by the British in the Battle of Hubbardton

• an odd tale of a vision experienced by a traveler in the early 19th century

• and an appeal from the Shakers in New York, pleading for their status as conscientious objectors to military service. 


 

“My knees then smote one against the other”: Highlights from Supplement to Early American Imprints, Shaw-Shoemaker

“A common railer and brawler”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection

The May release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a document arguing that slavery enslaves the owners as well as the enslaved, written by a woman who had lived in the American South, an account of an abolitionist address that ends when the minister delivering it is arrested, and the affecting address to the court from a man found guilty of assisting a fugitive slave in making an escape. 


Influence of Slavery upon the White Population. By a Former Resident of Slave States (1855) 

This tract, published by American Anti-Slavery Society in 1855, was written by Louisa Jane Whiting Baker. She establishes her position at the outset:

A true understanding of the nature and influences of American slavery forces the conviction that this system renders the master no less a “victim” than the slave. The attractive elegances of social life may deceive the superficial observer; but a deeper insight will discover, under this light drapery, not only a world of secret misery, but of hideous corruption.

“A common railer and brawler”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection

“The stylus of history shall make a truthful record”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Civil War Collection

The April release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a richly illustrated pictorial history of the war, an essay by a Scottish aristocrat on the causes of the war, and a history of the decade leading to the war written by an abolitionist correspondent from Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune whose views underwent revision and revelation. 


The Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War in the United States of America

By Benson J. Lossing, LL.D. Illustrated by many hundred engravings on wood, by Lossing and Barritt, from sketches by the author and others (1879) 

The promise of the title is not in vain. Indeed, this three-volume work is profusely illustrated. The citation assigns the imprint to the genres of Intaglio prints and Relief prints among others. Further, the citation also references many engravers and illustrators, by name, whose work contributed to the history. Appreciation of this imprint is enhanced by some knowledge of Benson John Lossing, a 19th-century American historian. 

“The stylus of history shall make a truthful record”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Civil War Collection

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