Archive of Americana


‘Keep Them in Subjection’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The May release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes differing perspectives on American slavery from a British naturalist and a British religious leader.  Also included is a report by a Congressional select committee investigating the 1866 riots in New Orleans.


Life in the South (1863)

By Catherine Cooper Hopley

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In this two-volume book, British author, artist, and naturalist Catherine Cooper Hopley (1817-1911) is sympathetic to the Confederacy and slave owners. She recounts her observations of the social culture in Virginia from the spring of 1860 to August 1862.  Contrasting the attitudes of Northerners and Southerners toward the English, Hopley writes:

By this time one could scarcely fail to remark how essentially the characters of the Northern and Southern people differ. Here it was common to hear one’s country and one’s countrymen extolled with a generosity quite untainted by the petty envyings and jealousies, fostered, if not expressed, by the Yankee proper towards the rival Englishman. The Southern people were ever ready to speak in praise of any English person they had happened to know, and appeared to take pleasure in so doing; and the more the hostile feeling increased towards the North the more cordial did they appear in their welcome to the descendants of their ancestral England.

‘Keep Them in Subjection’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘The Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The May release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a 1767 address against slavery by an American physician, diplomat and politician; a memoir of travels through Africa by the self-described discoverer of the source of the Blue Nile; and Civil War-era campaign literature by the author of “Negro-mania.”

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Extract From an Address, in the Virginia Gazette, of March 19, 1767 (1767)

By Arthur Lee

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Arthur Lee (1740-1792) served as an American diplomat to Britain and France during the Revolutionary War. Prior to the war he was educated in both law and medicine. He practiced the former in London and upon returning to Virginia served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In this early work, Lee speaks against slavery, arguing:

Permit me in your Paper, to address the Members of our Assembly, on two points, in which the public interest is very nearly concerned.

The abolition of slavery, and the retrieval of a specie in this colony, are the subjects, on which I would bespeak their attention.

‘The Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“The illigant position of a man-shaver”: A Look at Three 19th-Century American Farces

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The third release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama includes plays that are self-identified as farces or comedietta, a more abstruse variation.

 


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A Little More Cider: A Farce was published in 1870 by George M. Baker. Here are the characters of this work, which is also identified as a temperance play:

Erastus Applejack, the cider-maker.

Zeb Applejack, his son.

Deacon Peachblossom.

Isaac Peachblossom, his son.

Hans Drinker.

Miss Patience Applejack.

Polly Applejack.

Hetty Mason.

Like many such productions, this one is written in a dialect. Unlike many, it is not so easy to identify it. An excerpt:

Zeb. Gosh all hemlock! Polly, what air yeou a thinkin’ on? Thinkin’ ‘bout some feller, I bet.

Polly. Wa’n’t doin’ nothin’ of the sort. I was thinkin’ ‘bout my new Sunday bunnet.

Zeb. Well, fashion or fellers, they’re all alike. When a gal gits thinkin’ ‘bout either on ‘em, she ain’t good for nothin’.

Polly. Precious little you know ‘bout either on ‘em. I heerd Sally Higgins say that your go-to-meetin’ coat looked as though it had been made in the Revolution.

“The illigant position of a man-shaver”: A Look at Three 19th-Century American Farces

‘The Accursed Incubus’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The April release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a book about the war’s causes by “A Southerner,” a sermon on the “national troubles” by a New Englander, and the autobiography of a prisoner of war by a self-described opium addict.


Fanaticism, and Its Results: or, Facts Versus Fancies (1860)

By A Southerner

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Under the subtitle “Facts versus Fancies,” the author begins his work.

In offering to the public the few imperfect and hastily written thoughts which are herein contained, we have been influenced by no party zeal, or sectional motives. The only feelings which have influenced us, have been truth and justice. A desire to do justice to both parties—North and South.

He continues, writing in a section titled “The Demon of Abolitionism”:

We would not do injustice to any one or any party, and we trust that we will be able to show that our assertion is true, and that the only traitors in the land are those who are known as the Abolition and Republican parties.

Continuing his characterization of Republicans and abolitionists as traitors, the author proclaims his support for a unified nation before writing: 

The South has now an opportunity offered her, which, in our humble judgment, she ought not to neglect. The State of South Carolina proposes to her sister Southern States, that they shall each appoint delegates to a Convention, to be held in Atlanta, Georgia.

‘The Accursed Incubus’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartly’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II

The April release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, includes these three rare items: a strident political broadside, a treatise on logic by a popular hymn writer, and a piece of juvenile literature describing the season of rebirth.


To the Independent Electors of York and Adams Counties (1803)

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This broadside, supporting Frederick Eichelberger’s election to the Pennsylvania Senate, begins by attacking his political opponents.

Contrived and written by Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartley, have been published for the express purpose of abusing Frederick Eichelberger, and destroying the public confidence in a man, whom they lately recommended to the Republicans, as well qualified for a Republican Legislator, and whose election they supported, as zealously as they now oppose him. They ought, at least, to inform us what he has done since they voted him into the Assembly, that makes him so unfit for a Senator; but they cannot give a reason.

The advertisement continues its scathing review:

It would become Charles Hartley, to pay more attention to the duties of his Office, and to SWIG it less, rather than to be eternally babbling about Elections.

Stewart ought to be satisfied with receiving SIX DOLLARS per day, from the Public, for his fine Speeches in Congress --- It is pitiful in an HONORABLE Member of the National Legislature, to be writing and publishing personal slander, in anonymous hands-bills.

‘Sneaking Stewart, Fool Myer, and Drunken Hartly’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II

‘The voice of female sorrow’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the first edition of the abolitionist newsletter The Tourist, a two-volume work examining the sinfulness of American slavery, and a collection of letters by and to noted social reformer Abigail Hopper Gibbons.


The Tourist; or, Sketch Book of the Times (1832)

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Published under the superintendence of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, The Tourist was a literary and anti-slavery journal. It focused upon the exposure of slavery abuses but also contained poetry and essays on religion, housewife duties, and ancient astronomy. The first edition includes this moving account of a white woman attempting to purchase her childhood friend’s freedom:                                                    

‘The voice of female sorrow’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Scandal, Brothels and Blackmail: Announcing the Release of “American Underworld: The Flash Press”

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“When the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) was founded in 1812, its ambitious goal was to collect one of everything printed in the United States.  Thus this national research library of early American history and culture has a premier collection of low-life raunchy urban periodicals. Rarely saved by more decorous libraries, these obscure publications define a largely masculine subculture (saloons, brothels, boxing rings) that posed a stark alternative to antebellum respectability.”

— Patricia Cohen, co-author of The Flash Press

In the first half of the 19th century a number of unruly urban newspapers—collectively called the Flash Press—began to appear.  One of the earliest titles in this short-lived form of journalism was The Flash, which inspired scores of copycat papers. More than sixty of these heavily researched publications from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society are planned for Readex’s American Underworld: The Flash Press. And now more than a third of these ephemeral titles have been digitized and released in this unique new digital newspaper collection.

 

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Scandal, Brothels and Blackmail: Announcing the Release of “American Underworld: The Flash Press”

Lucretia, Tommy Playlove and the Good Boy: Rare Early American Juvenile Literature

One of the delights of the Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society is the large number of rare, illustrated children’s books. The current release has many lovely examples.


Lucretia; or The Triumph of Virtue (1808)

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Clarissa and Lucretia Bellegrove were the daughters of a gentleman of large property. Nature had lavished on Clarissa a person so lovely, that the most refined judges of beauty could not discover any fault in her form or face; while Lucretia was very deformed and ugly, having a great hump upon her back, and a very disagreeable face. When the sisters were first introduced to strangers, Clarissa was surveyed with admiration, while poor Lucretia’s person excited nothing but disgust.

However, Clarissa “was so proud and haughty, that no one, when she was known to them, could love or admire her.”

Lucretia, on the contrary, had such a mild and amiable disposition, was so sweet-tempered, gentle, modest, and sensible, that her friends forgot the deformities of her person in contemplation of her mind.

As our tale begins, Mr. Bellegrove is anticipating a visit from his wealthy relative and “he resolved to leave no means untried to prevail on her [Clarissa] to disguise her temper before her uncle, whom he well knew had a great aversion to pride and petulance.” Clarissa laughed at his advice convinced her beauty would always win the day. As for Lucretia her father had other plans.

Lucretia, Tommy Playlove and the Good Boy: Rare Early American Juvenile Literature

Union POWs in Confederate Prisons: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

 

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The latest release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes several accounts by Union soldiers who were prisoners of war in Confederate prisons.


Prison-life in the Tobacco Warehouse at Richmond by a Ball's Bluff Prisoner, Lieut. Wm. C. Harris, of Col. Baker's California Regiment (1862)

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In an earlier release from this collection we featured a walking tour of Richmond, Virginia, during which the narrator observes the prison that had been converted from a tobacco warehouse. This imprint describes life inside that prison. Prisoner Harris gives us his personal recollections and dedicates his reflections:

To my Brother-Prisoners in Richmond these sketches are affectionately inscribed by the author

In his preface the author states his intention:

These sketches were written to lessen the tedium of my lengthy imprisonment; and if they serve to recall to my prison-companions the scenes enacted in the old Warehouse, and enlist the interest and sympathies of the reader, they will have accomplished all that is desired by the publication of them.

Union POWs in Confederate Prisons: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Why de dickens?: The Lampooning of African Americans as an American Form of Entertainment

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Included in the second release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900, are several minstrel plays. Developed in the United States beginning in the 1830s, minstrel shows mocked the appearances and language of black characters, reinforcing white views on race for more than a century.  This first example, An Elephant on Ice, is subtitled "An Ethiopian Interlude, in One Scene":

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Costumes

Sam Johnson.—Well worn grey pants and vest, a black patch covering entire seat of pants, with patches on knees; dark back, with huge red patch between the shoulders on vest; fancy striped shirt; large shoes; and battered white hat, high crowned.

Sol Squash.—Dandy dress, wig parted in the middle, silk hat, cane; kid gloves and eye glass.

An example of the dialogue as the play opens:

Scene.—A street in second or third grooves.

Enter Sam Johnson R., carrying a buck and saw on his shoulder.

Why de dickens?: The Lampooning of African Americans as an American Form of Entertainment

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