Early American Newspapers


Fish or Cut Bait: Following a Phrase in Early American Newspapers

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The derivation of the phrase “fish or cut bait” is relatively clear, but its meaning has been murky since it became popularized in the mid-nineteenth century. One interpretation is similar to a contemporary idiom more politely expressed as ‘evacuate or vacate the wash closet,’ urging one to either proceed or cease a course of action. Another reading of the expression is it is instructing one to choose between two actions required to attain a particular goal.

An April 30, 1897, New-York Tribune column encouraging Tammany Hall to take action on monetary policy illustrates both the phrase’s origin and that its common usage is incomplete. 

“She must either fish or cut bait,” says “Jimmie.” The fisherman’s formula—intended to express the idea of division of labor with no loafing—is “must either fish, cut bait or go ashore.” The omission of the last choice indicates a purpose of throwing Tammany overboard without giving her a chance to go ashore if she doesn’t either fish or cut bait.

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A Pawtucket Times article from March 24, 1920, describing a call to accomplish the multitude of tasks required to form a fish and game association, also interprets the phrase as a division of labor.

Fish or Cut Bait: Following a Phrase in Early American Newspapers

Women in War: From the American Indian Wars to the American Civil War

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The experiences of women in wartime have been less well documented than those of men. Their contributions, their sufferings and heroism merit closer attention. The wealth of digitized primary sources in Readex collections offer fresh opportunities for researchers to study women who lived through, and often participated in, conflicts across multiple centuries and continents. In this post, we will touch on the diverse roles played by women in American wars from the early days of settlement through the middle of the 19th century.

The earliest European settlements in North America conflicted with the various Indian tribes which populated the eastern lands of the continent. One popular type of publication was the captivity narrative. In 1754 Susanna Willard Johnson and her family were taken captive by the Abenakis and held for four years. After her release she published a popular account.

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Women in War: From the American Indian Wars to the American Civil War

Ribald Renderings, a Nuanced Novella and Informed Innocence: Readex Report (November 2019)

In this issue: Seamy urban newspapers seduce and scandalize readers in 19th-century America, weighty themes abound in yesteryear’s children’s books, and did an 1849 execution inspire an enigmatic American novella?


Washington Goode and Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor: Race and the Death Penalty through Nineteenth-Century Media

By Lenora Warren, Lecturer, Department of English, Ithaca College

Warren-cover-300px.jpgWhat connects the 1849 execution of an obscure African American sailor with Billy Budd, Sailor, the enigmatic novella written by Herman Melville, one of the greatest American writers of the nineteenth century? Perhaps a great deal. Let’s begin with the sailor, a man by the name of Washington Goode, about whom little is known. As a very young man Goode served under Andrew Jackson during the Seminole War, and after the war, he served as a ship’s cook. By 1848 Goode was a resident of “The Black Sea,” a neighborhood frequented by sailors on leave, immigrants, and African Americans, and notorious as a hotbed … > Full Story


The Cultural Work of Child’s Play: Examples from Three Picture Books in Readex Digital Collections

By Laura Wasowicz, Children’s Literature Curator, American Antiquarian Society

Ribald Renderings, a Nuanced Novella and Informed Innocence: Readex Report (November 2019)

Before Hamilton Mania: Joanne B. Freeman on her Scholarly Obsession with an American Enigma

After Joanne B. Freeman’s captivating talk on early congressional violence at the 2019 American Library Association Annual Conference, we sat down with the Yale University history professor to dive deeper into her scholarly interests and use of primary documents. We shared highlights with you in the most recent installment of Readex’s Scholars Speak series; however, no conversation with Freeman would be complete without a focus on Alexander Hamilton.

Decades before Lin Manuel Miranda’s inspiration for the Broadway smash hit, a teenager’s interest in this American enigma was struck in the biography section of her local library. Freeman—who calls herself that “crazy person” who knows more about Hamilton than anybody else—realized upon seeing the musical for the first time that her work was the basis for the song “Ten Duel Commandments.”

Enjoy this behind-the-scenes chat as Freeman discusses what first sparked her interest in this enigmatic founding father, why after decades of research he continues to fascinate her, and how she predicts “Hamilton Mania” will impact history.

 

Before Hamilton Mania: Joanne B. Freeman on her Scholarly Obsession with an American Enigma

Evaluating Evidence: Primary Materials and the Lifelong Value of the Humanities (A Conversation with Professor Joanne B. Freeman)

Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, is a leading expert on early American politics and culture. In this video, the newest in our Scholars Speak series, Freeman describes the essential role that primary source materials have played in her own research. She also discusses the lasting benefits of studying the humanities.

 

The author of the award-winning Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic and The Essential Hamilton, Freeman is particularly well known for her expertise in dirty, nasty politics. Her most recent book, The Field of Blood: Congressional Violence and the Road to Civil War was a New York Times notable book of 2018, one of Smithsonian’s top ten history books of 2018, and a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. A co-host of the popular American history podcast BackStory, her online course, “The American Revolution,” has been viewed in homes and classrooms around the world.


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Evaluating Evidence: Primary Materials and the Lifelong Value of the Humanities (A Conversation with Professor Joanne B. Freeman)

“An equality of wages”: The Evolution of Working Women’s Rights, as Captured by Early American Publications

Among the United States’ earliest and most fervent supporters of working women’s rights was an Irish immigrant named Mathew Carey, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1784. In that city he established a publishing business and a book store, and used his expertise to print broadsides and pamphlets that advocated for progressive causes.

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Toward the end of his life, Carey became a champion of poor seamstresses and spoolers, the women who wound cotton or yarn onto spools. In 1831 he wrote a pamphlet titled “Address to the Wealthy of the Land, Ladies as Well as Gentlemen, on the Character, Conduct, Situation, and Prospects, of those Whose Sole Dependence for Subsistence, is on the Labour of their Hands.” The title page includes a quote from “Barton’s Essay on the Progressive Depreciation of Agricultural Labour:”

We must never forget that THE LOW RATE OF WAGES IS THE ROOT OF THE MISCHIEF, and that unless we can succeed in raising the price of [their] labour, our utmost efforts will do little towards effectually bettering their condition….The increasing necessities of the poor [women] arise from the depreciation of labour, and consequently EVERY REMEDY WHICH FAILS TO COUNTERACT THIS DEPRECIATION, does no more than skim over the wound, without reaching the seat of the disease.

“An equality of wages”: The Evolution of Working Women’s Rights, as Captured by Early American Publications

Readex introduces new digital collections for both STEM and humanities courses

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Readex is pleased to announce a diverse array of new digital collections for teaching and research across the humanities and increasingly studied STEM fields. To learn more, visit Readex at booth 2525 during the American Library Association annual conference or use the links below to request more information.


Origins of Modern Science and Technology

Global Perspectives from the CIA Archives

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Featuring these five individually available products:

Computing and Artificial Intelligence

Global Origins of the Digital Age

Climate Science and Sustainability

Global Origins of Modern Environmentalism

Aeronautics and Space Flight

Global Origins of Modern Aviation and Rocketry

Morality and Science

Global Origins of Modern Bioethics

Nuclear Energy

Global Origins of Energy Resource Management in the Atomic Age

 


 

Readex introduces new digital collections for both STEM and humanities courses

“The Drama Is—Rubbish”: The Early Impact of ‘The Black Crook,’ the Shocking and Scandalous American Musical

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“The Black Crook”—the progenitor of spectacular theater in the United States—opened at Niblo’s Garden, a 3,000-seat New York City playhouse, on September 12, 1866. Whether this American musical can be called the country’s first, “The Black Crook” had an immense impact on the future of popular entertainment in the U.S.  Its initial production ran for nearly 500 performances and created a nationwide mania, stimulated by the clergy who railed against its abundant display of female pulchritude.

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In his preface to “The Naked Truth!”: An Inside History of The Black Crook (1897), digitized from the holdings of the New-York Historical Society and found in American Pamphlets, Joseph Whitton wrote:

It is curious that the history of the Black Crook—the pioneer of the American Spectacular Drama, and greater in tinseled gorgeousness and money-drawing power than any of its followers—should never have been told, or, rather, truthfully told.

Whitton by his own account had a “connection with the financial department of Niblo’s Garden, previous to the production and during the run of the Crook,” which “enables him to know the facts…”

“The Drama Is—Rubbish”: The Early Impact of ‘The Black Crook,’ the Shocking and Scandalous American Musical

Extra! Extra! New Era Begins for America’s Historical Newspapers!

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What a story!

Way back in the early 1940s, book publisher Albert Boni, co-founder of the Modern Library publishing company, established the Readex Microprint Corporation in New York City and Chester, Vermont.

Boni’s purpose: Create surrogates of American historical documents, first to ensure their preservation, and second to enable wide access to the raw materials that document the American journey.

A decade later, in 1955, the American Antiquarian Society invited Readex to publish in microprint form Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800. Suddenly the near-entire corpus of the earliest American books could be accessed in libraries across the United States and the world.

Over the years more books would be discovered and added to the “Evans” collection—a quest that continues even today.

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The success of this partnership led to the microform publication of Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819, and Early American Newspapers , Series 1, 1690-1876.

Extra! Extra! New Era Begins for America’s Historical Newspapers!

The Wall Street Bombing of 1920: Using Historical Newspapers to Trace Terror Campaigns of the Early 20th Century

Lunchtime. Wall Street, September 16, 1920.

Secretaries and clerks crowded the streets of the financial district as a man parked a horse-drawn wagon opposite the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan bank and walked away. The wagon was a bomb: dynamite, with sash weights and other metallic objects serving as makeshift shrapnel. Shortly after noon it exploded.

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The blast shredded the wagon, killed the horse and took the lives of 38 people. Hundreds more were injured. Buildings were damaged and broken glass littered the street. The need to get hundreds of victims to hospitals meant that many were delivered not by ambulance, but by cars that were parked nearby. The street was cleaned. Some evidence was surely lost.

On that first afternoon, police weren’t sure whether the bombing was deliberate or the result of a crash between an automobile and a truck delivering explosives to a nearby construction site. Before long, though, members of the bomb squad became convinced it had been a bomb. Once that was determined, police began trying to figure out who had done it.

The explosion was big news across the country. Thanks to wire service reports, afternoon papers in the Midwest and West could publish stories about it on the day it happened. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram used the Associated Press story, under the headline “Blast Wrecks J.P. Morgan Offices; Over Score Killed.”

A mysterious explosion, disastrous in its effects, occurred today in Wall Street, killing more than a score of persons and injuring hundreds.

The Wall Street Bombing of 1920: Using Historical Newspapers to Trace Terror Campaigns of the Early 20th Century

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