Archive of Americana


‘I Am by Nature, Education, and Religion a Yankee-Hater’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The August release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes a pictorial of a dramatic naval engagement, an argument against an eventual reconciliation between the North and South, and the memorial of General Francis C. Barlow.


 

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The Privateer’s Fate (1861)

The first and last cruise of the pirate, or privateer, Petrol is recorded in this series of sketches. This recording suggests the Petrol mistook the USS St. Lawrence for a merchant ship and was sunk after a failed attack.

Other accounts of this naval encounter tell of the Petrel, sailing under the British colors, being pursued for several hours before being overhauled by the St. Lawrence. The Petrel then ran up the Confederate colors and after an exchange of fire was hit in the bow and sunk. Thirty-eight sailors were rescued and transported north aboard the USS Flag. Although the present account depicts a rescue there is no reference to the Flag; instead it tells of a more immediate judgment passed against the rescued sailors—as seen in the uppermost image.  

 

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‘I Am by Nature, Education, and Religion a Yankee-Hater’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

“A Rare Window into U.S. Culture” – 1-Minute Video on America’s Most Popular Form of Entertainment in the 19th Century

In the nineteenth century, drama became the most popular form of entertainment in the United States. Now a unique digital collection titled Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment is available to researchers worldwide. This new online resource sheds light on an enormous range of heavily studied topics, including daily life in the United States; politics, both local and national; culture in all of its forms; and the shifting and evolving tastes of Americans from across the country.

Learn more about this new digital collection in this 1-Minute Video:

 

Discussing this collection, English professor and theater scholar Robert Davis writes:

By making so many plays that have largely been forgotten available, Nineteenth-Century American Drama can bring back a vital part of U.S. cultural history. Its tragedies, poetic dramas, comedies, farces, sketches, and burlesques provide a rare window into nineteenth-century U.S. culture. Many of these works…were wildly successful at the time. Others formed parts of nineteenth-century social and political movements like abolitionism, temperance, and suffrage, making these plays key to understanding U.S. literary, political, and social history.

“A Rare Window into U.S. Culture” – 1-Minute Video on America’s Most Popular Form of Entertainment in the 19th Century

Reindeer Games: The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Reindeer Importation Program in Alaska

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It’s well established that reindeer only fly in a metaphorical sense, such as when bounding across the snowy tundra. In the 1890s, however, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Education large numbers of reindeer traveled by boat across the Bering Strait from Siberia, or by boat, rail, and boat again from Finland to what was then known as Alaska Department, or District. The following letter from Commissioner of Education William T. Harris in Readex’s Territorial Papers of the United States describes how that came to pass:

In 1890, Doctor Sheldon Jackson, General Agent of Education in Alaska, reported to me that owing to the rapid killing off of the whale and walrus in the Arctic waters of Alaska and the destruction of the fur-bearing animals of the land, the Eskimo of that region were on the verge of starvation.

With the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, Congress was asked to make a small appropriation for the introduction of the domesticated reindeer of Siberia into Alaska as a permanent food supply.

 

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Reindeer Games: The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Reindeer Importation Program in Alaska

Ye Spleeny Folks: Highlights from the Most Recent Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

The July release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, includes three anonymous works discussing sobriety, levity, and the cost of crime. 


The Importance of Sobriety: Illustrated by the Evils of Intemperance (1802)

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This imprint concerns itself with “the evils of intemperance” and begins with this anecdote:

Cyrus, when quite a youth, at the court of his grandfather, Astyages, undertook one day to perform the office of cup bearer. He delivered the cup very gracefully; but omitted the usual custom of first tasting it himself. The king reminded him of it, supposing he had forgotten.

“No, Sir,” replied Cyrus; “but I was afraid there might be poison in it; for I have observed that the lords of your court, after drinking, become noisy, quarrelsome, and frantic; and that even you, Sir, seem to have forgotten that you were a king.”

The king goes on to ask if the same thing did not happen to Cyrus’s father:

“Never,” answered Cyrus…. ”Why, when he has taken what wine he chooses, he is no longer thirsty, that is all.”

Happy the man, who shall live in those days, in which the practice of excessive drinking shall be universally laid aside, and detested!

Expanding on his thoughts, the author continues:

Ye Spleeny Folks: Highlights from the Most Recent Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

‘Too Much Johnson’ and Other Plays by William Gillette, Eminent American Actor, Playwright and Director

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It is likely that people remember William Gillette best for the whimsical castle he built in his retirement on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam. The estate devolved to the state of Connecticut and today is a state park named for Gillette. The castle has been preserved, but its three-mile-long gauge railroad and complicated infrastructure is gone.

 

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Before building his castle, Gillette had a long and productive theater career as an actor, stage manager, director, producer, and playwright. He was born in 1853 into a family and community of wealth, privilege, and creativity in Hartford, Connecticut, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States for several decades following the Civil War. Gillette’s neighbors included Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Charles Dudley Warner.

 

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‘Too Much Johnson’ and Other Plays by William Gillette, Eminent American Actor, Playwright and Director

‘Those nutmeg-selling, mackerel-catching, cod-livered Yankees’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The July release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922 includes these three quite different accounts of the war—all from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society.


The Heroes of the War for the Union and Their Achievements (1864)

By the Rev. P.V. Ferree, M.D., of the Ohio Conference of the M.E. Church

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Rev. P.V. Ferree originally intended his work to be the first volume of a series telling the

“…complete history of the Great Rebellion, consisting of biographical sketches of officers and statesmen; pictures of great battles, sieges, desperate charges, and skirmishes; personal encounters and daring; thrilling incidents; with all else of interest connected with the national struggle for existence”

Ferree begins the endeavor with a description of the political environment prior to the war.

‘Those nutmeg-selling, mackerel-catching, cod-livered Yankees’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953: Its Unique and Extensive Coverage of American Indian History

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Materials related to American Indians or Native Americans make up a very substantial portion of the Readex’s new digital edition of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953. Indeed, few other topics in the database are covered in such depth. The reason for this is that the Territorial Papers of the United States contains all of the Territorial-era documents collected by the State and Interior Departments, and this means—crucially—that it contains all of the reports and correspondence of the Territorial Governors, whose chief duties and challenges often revolved around the American Indians within their territories. Because of this, this new digital resource will provide researchers with a vast amount of material on Native America—material that until now was only available by locating and researching the original documents or corresponding microfilm at the National Archives.

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Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953: Its Unique and Extensive Coverage of American Indian History

“Bustle in the House of Wisdom:” The Life and Crimes of Vermont Congressman Matthew Lyon

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Multiple choice: You’re Matthew Lyon, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1801. On the occasion of your fifty-second birthday, you’re asked what your most enduring legacy will be, that for which you’ll be remembered in two hundred years.  Which of the following answers do you choose?

  1. You were the first person convicted for violating the Sedition Act of 1798, when you accused President John Adams in print of “ridiculous pomp,” among other things.
  2. You were the first (and only) member of Congress to be reelected while imprisoned (for the above infraction).
  3. You were the first member of Congress charged with “gross indecency” and were repeatedly threatened with expulsion from office, for spitting in the face of a fellow member of Congress, and for the physical violence that ensued.
  4. You cast the deciding Congressional vote to elect Thomas Jefferson as President during the Election of 1800

With perfect hindsight from the twenty-first century, the election of Thomas Jefferson looms large in the list above, but all of these choices are notable for their impact on the course of early American history. Matthew Lyon was an Irish immigrant, an entrepreneur, and an (allegedly) disgraced Revolutionary War officer who served with Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys. Lyon was a vehement anti-Federalist. The Federalists believed in a strong central government, whereas Lyon and his fellow Democratic-Republicans feared monarchy and favored states’ rights instead.

“Bustle in the House of Wisdom:” The Life and Crimes of Vermont Congressman Matthew Lyon

‘A warning to all wicked people”: Highlights from the newest supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

Recently released material from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, includes these three exceptionally rare printed works: an illustrated book of children’s games, a handbook offering methods of clairvoyance, and a tale of the perils suffered by drunkards and blasphemers.


Youthful Sports (1802)

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In addition to its detailed images of carefree children at play, this imprint includes a warning to boys playing with weapons.

Bows and arrows are not so commonly in use as they were formerly, and when little boys get them, they are not always sufficiently careful how they use them. I knew a little boy who had one of his eyes shot out by an arrow, which his companion unthinkingly aimed at him. Those who are allowed to use the bow, ought to shoot at some mark, or at the trunk of a tree; but never at little birds, as it is very cruel to hurt harmless creatures.

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The discussion of cricket offers this heeding:

‘A warning to all wicked people”: Highlights from the newest supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

‘Seize the Whole of This Unsuspecting Multitude’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The most recent release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains an 18th-century history of Algiers, a debate on the slave-trade in the British Parliament, and a speech on the Compromise of 1850 from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

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A Complete History of Algiers (1728)

By Joseph Morgan

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Joseph Morgan was an early 18th century British historian and editor. In this history of Algiers, “to which is prefixed, an epitome of the general history of Barbary, from the earliest times: interspersed with many curious passages and remarks, not touched on by any writer whatever,” Morgan covers vast expanses of time and territory. He also includes the following information about a well-known desert traveler.

‘Seize the Whole of This Unsuspecting Multitude’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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