Archive of Americana


‘The Small Cloud of Evil’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The December release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an array of primary source material. These valuable items range from shorter imprints, such as sermons delivered during the war, to lengthier political histories and biographies published years later.


Our Duty Under Reverse: A Sermon (1861)

By John Fothergill Waterhouse Ware

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One week after the First Battle of Bull Run, Unitarian clergyman John Fothergill Waterhouse Ware (1818-1881) delivered this sermon in the Boston church of “Cambridgeport Parish.” He begins by acknowledging the favor Providence has shown the country, and then addresses the nation’s failure to live up to the duties accompanying that blessing. He identifies the fault that led to the country’s current conflict.

‘The Small Cloud of Evil’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Female Playwrights in Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Works by Clara Harriet Sherwood, Nellie H. Bradley, and More Than 100 Other Women Dramatists

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Among the playwrights in Nineteenth-Century American Drama there are scores of women. The genres of their plays are as varied as those of their male counterparts, although more of the works for children and classrooms are by women. Many of the temperance plays are by women which is not surprising given the prominent role of women in the temperance movement. Some of the women were prolific. Still, it is more difficult to find biographical information about many of the female playwrights.


Little seems to be recorded about the life of Clara Harriet Sherwood, author of three plays included in this digital collection. These three plays all signal an acute social awareness and a ready wit. As with many other women dramatists, Sherwood is concerned with the social nuances of courtship.

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Female Playwrights in Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Works by Clara Harriet Sherwood, Nellie H. Bradley, and More Than 100 Other Women Dramatists

The Power of Metadata: Readex and the Territorial Papers of the United States

Earlier this year Readex published the Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953, the most important early American content not yet digitized—until now.

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More than half of America’s states began as territories. From the 1760s to the 1950s the United States of America expanded southward and westward, acquiring territories that spanned from Florida to California to Alaska. Before they evolved into twenty-seven American states, these territories were managed by the U.S. State and Interior departments. The official history of their formative territorial years is recorded in Territorial Papers of the United States—a collection of Native American negotiations and treaties, official correspondence with the federal government, military records, judicial proceedings, population data, financial statistics, land records, and more.

About two thirds of these documents are in manuscript form. This means they cannot be made full-text searchable through the application of Optical Character Recognition (“OCR”) technologies. Yes, there are technologies today that can do a fairly decent job applying OCR to certain types of manuscripts, but the handwriting needs to be very clear, and extremely uniform, for the technology to work at all, and even then the results don’t match the quality that can be achieved from printed (as opposed to manuscript) documents.

The documents in Territorial Papers of the United States are from many time periods and in many handwritings, making them poor candidates for OCR application.

The Power of Metadata: Readex and the Territorial Papers of the United States

“Those who are only comfortably sick…”: Highlights from the Newest Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

The November release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquity Society includes an olio of rare imprints which are representative of the overall collection. Highlighted here are an advertisement for a mineral springs resort, a broadside promoting an evening’s theatrical entertainment, and another broadside reporting on the meeting of the Republican Party in New York City and county.


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The proprietor of the beautiful and interesting situation above represented, and of the mineral springs connected with it, informs his friends and the public at large, that he has in the course of the last season, greatly extended his establishment. (1815)

This imprint is adorned with a handsome intaglio print which presents a restful view of the Connecticut resort. The proprietor, Samuel Willard, has made what may be extravagant claims about the efficacy of his mineral springs.

For nearly fifty years past, the Mineral Waters of Stafford have been held in high estimation as a remedy in various complaints, affecting the human body. They are a rich and powerful chalybeate.

Willard details the curative power of the waters.

“Those who are only comfortably sick…”: Highlights from the Newest Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

‘The Right of Revolution Is an Enemy to All Government’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The November release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a speech on the limitations of citizens to change the federal government, a defense of pacifism, and an abolitionist’s autobiography.


 

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The Rebellion Cannot Abate the State Governments (1862)

Speech of Hon. A.G. Riddle, of Ohio, in the House of Representatives, May 20, 1862

Mr. Speaker, in the wide sea and chaos of blood, tears, and convulsion, the bare, barren, dry land begins to loom up, and the great end to appear. Soon the patient statistician will gather up his facts, and by his tables will show us the exact thousands of lives squandered in this wide waste, and the innumerable millions of substance consumed in the great conflagration. The curious and industrious annalist will swell his huge volumes of the amazing incidents whose frequent recurrence has robbed us of the power of being astonished even. The moralist will go forth in melancholy to mourn the wide-spread licentiousness and demoralization growing out of this huge war, whose irradicable ulcers shall be the last to cicatrize.

‘The Right of Revolution Is an Enemy to All Government’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Prime Bang Up: Three of the Rarest American Broadsides Published Two Centuries Ago

Shaw Supp 3 Nov 2018 3_Page_2 Image only.jpgThis most recent release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society includes a number of the rarest American broadsides from 200 years ago. These range from the pathos of an honorable man’s petition to the court for protection from his creditors to a peculiar promotion for an evening of entertainment in Augusta, Georgia.


To the Honorable Superior Court to be held at Hartford....The Petition of George Robinson, of Marlborough, in the County of Hartford, humbly sheweth— (1817)

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In the early 19th century it was not unusual for an indebted person to publish a broadside acknowledging his debts and his creditors. George Robinson of Connecticut did exactly that in 1817. Of interest is his specificity and the striking contrasts in the amounts he owed to contemporary creditor. The largest debts were “Orlando Raymond two thousand five hundred dollars” and several for one or two hundred dollars. Many of his obligations were for a few dollars and sometimes for ten and twenty dollars. Robinson appears to support his claim to integrity in the details he provides.

Prime Bang Up: Three of the Rarest American Broadsides Published Two Centuries Ago

Keeping the “Death Angels” from the Door: Healthcare in New Mexico Territory, 1909

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The digital edition of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953, features a great deal of material by and about famous and influential people struggling to extend the structures of federal government to the Western frontier. At the margins of that endeavor the researcher often encounters pioneers in desperately humble circumstances struggling to stay alive.

Such was the case in Doris, New Mexico Territory, in 1909, as described in a lengthy series of letters relating to the medical practice of James R. Franz, whose services were much in demand by the poor persons of that rural place. Doris was more of a mining settlement than a town, in Quay County, New Mexico, on the Texas border near Tucumcari. Doris was in a rugged and arid region known as the Llano Estacado, the Staked (or Palisaded) Plains. It was so small that it does not appear on this 1910 mineral survey map of the area from the Readex digital edition of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994.

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Doris might not have attracted any notice at all but for letters such as the following [excerpted; original in six pages]:

Doris, N. Mex., June 14, 1909

Keeping the “Death Angels” from the Door: Healthcare in New Mexico Territory, 1909

Cold Weather Conflict, Freethinkers & Faith, and Tactical Taxes: Readex Report (Oct. 2018)

In this issue: Soldiers at Chickamauga battle enemies and the elements; black thought leaders weigh outrage and religious conviction; and the political power of tariffs.


Antebellum America’s Galvanizing Issue: The Tariff

William Bolt, Associate Professor of History, Francis Marion University

Tariff Wars.jpgFor the past 50 years few Americans discussed tariffs. That has changed in the past two years. During his presidential campaign of 2016, Donald Trump hinted that he would impose tariffs in order to revitalize manufacturing in the United States. From the stump, Trump assailed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements. While economists recoiled over these pronouncements because of the harm they might cause domestic markets, they forgot that trade restrictions serve a political purpose as well. > Full Story


Black Freethought from Slavery to Civil Rights: Atheism and Agnosticism in African American Cultural and Intellectual Life

Christopher Cameron, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Cold Weather Conflict, Freethinkers & Faith, and Tactical Taxes: Readex Report (Oct. 2018)

‘These Traitors and Villains in This Senate’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes Civil War era works such as a speech from the floor of the House on the subject of slavery and pamphlets from the Loyal Publication Society focused on a faction of the Democratic Party, the Copperheads.


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Slavery in the Capital of the Republic (1862)

Speech of Hon. Edward Henry Rollins, of New Hampshire

Edward Henry Rollins (1824-1889) served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives prior to the Civil War, in the U.S. House during the war, and in the U.S. Senate after the war. On April 11, 1862, arguing in favor of “the bill for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia,” he declared:

The historian who writes the deeds of nations for future generations to read, will not fail to record the truth that slavery put itself front to front with liberty, in the great rebellion of the nineteenth century. Let it be our care that men shall not blush to read that we sought to shun the real foe, and flesh our swords in some spectral horror.

‘These Traitors and Villains in This Senate’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘All the Hypocritical and Lying Tactics’: Highlights from the American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The October release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes speeches and published works taking partisan positions such as on enrolling slaves in service of the Union, the prosecution of the war, and more.  


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Emancipation and Enrollment of Slaves in the Service of the United States (1862)

Speech of Hon. Charles B. Sedgwick, of New York

Charles Baldwin Sedgwick (1815-1883) practiced law in Syracuse, New York, before being elected to the House of Representatives, serving in the 36th and 37th Congresses. On May 23, 1862, Sedgwick spoke in favor of allowing the enlistment of slaves and offering freedom to those who did so. He began by reading an amendment to a bill introduced by the select committee.

And whereas the several States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, and Arkansas, wickedly and unlawfully combining under the title of the Confederate States of America, have, together, made war upon and rebelled against the Government of the United States, and continue in such state of war and rebellion.

After reading the amendment in full, Sedgwick paraphrases key pieces.

‘All the Hypocritical and Lying Tactics’: Highlights from the American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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