Government Publications


'Free Talk About Free Books': Tracing the evolution of America’s libraries through primary source documents

1. From private collections to public repositories

The first libraries in the United States were largely private, the realm of wealthy and learned men. During the Colonial Era, these men bequeathed books to educational institutions, establishing early college libraries. They also initiated subscription libraries, which were private collections funded by memberships and dues. While such institutions weren’t available to the general public, they laid the foundation for the public lending libraries that soon became a hallmark of American civic and intellectual life.

One of the earlier imprints chronicling this evolution is a broadside dated 1741, found in Readex’s Early American Imprints, notifying the public of a meeting “in order to consider the Proposal of applying for a CHARTER, to incorporate the said Company.”

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That company was the Library Company of Philadelphia, the inspiration of Benjamin Franklin. The same year, Franklin published “a catalogue of books belonging to the company…” which members could borrow to read at their leisure—a rare luxury in a time when books were expensive and difficult to come by.

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Thirteen years later another broadside, this time from New York City, proposed a subscription program to finance a public library. These important institutions were still not free, although their fees were relatively modest for Americans of comfortable financial means.

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'Free Talk About Free Books': Tracing the evolution of America’s libraries through primary source documents

‘Persons of colour excepted’: Highlights from the Territorial Papers of the United States

The September release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several important collections of letters and correspondence between territories and the executive branch. The subjects under discussion range from suffrage in Indiana Territory to American involvement in the Mexican Revolution to the leasing of school lands in Mississippi Territory.


Bill Extending Right of Suffrage, Feb. 2, 1809

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Kentucky Senator and President pro tempore John Pope (1770-1845) read into the Senate record on Feb. 2, 1889, a bill extending the right of suffrage to certain citizens of Indiana Territory.

That the citizens of the Indiana territory, entitled to vote for representatives to the general assembly thereof, shall, at the time of electing their representatives to the said general assembly, also elect one delegate from the said territory to the congress of the United States, who shall possess the same powers heretofore granted to the delegates from the several territories of the United States.

The bill, which goes on to describe various administrative functions of the general assembly and duties of other territorial bureaucracies, would re-emerge from the committee process two years later.


Senate. No. XXV. Bill To Extend Suffrage, etc., Feb. 8, 1811

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‘Persons of colour excepted’: Highlights from the Territorial Papers of the United States

‘Florida now overrun by hostile Indians’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The August release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several legislative reports related to the Second Seminole War, the costly conflict fought in Florida from 1835 to 1842. Also highlighted here is a bill authorizing the armed occupation of “parts of Florida, east of the Suwanee and south to Cape Sable.”


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House. No. 427. Bill Making Further Appropriation for Suppression of Indian Hostilities, March 10, 1836

Churchill Caldom Cambreleng (1786-1862) represented New York in in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1821 to 1839. While serving as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the 24th Congress, Cambreleng reported the following:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the sum of five hundred thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, in addition to former appropriations, for suppressing Indian hostilities in Florida.

‘Florida now overrun by hostile Indians’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

“A campaign against the Navajo”: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

 

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The July release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes many revealing letters between military officers, territorial officials, and the executive branch of the federal government. This correspondence from New Mexico Territory, October 1862, showcases a single episode in the wide range of military campaigns against the Navajo and other tribes covered in this digital collection. 


Captain J.C. Shaw to General B.C. Cutler. Unauthorized Indian Campaigns, etc., Oct. 6, 1862

Writing from Head Quarters, Western Military District, Department of New Mexico, Captain Shaw reports his observations and requests orders:

Sir: In the instructions for the guidance of the Officer commanding this District it states that all parties not legally authorized will be prevented from campaigning against the Navajo Indians etc., and that due notice of any such force being authorized would be furnished to the Commanding Officer of the District.

The Alcalde of this place is now enrolling militia men to be ready to march on the 15th of the month against Navajos. I have seen the Governor …. in relation to the movement, but have no official notice of it.

The attention of the General Commanding is respectfully called to this subject, and his orders, thereon requested.

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“A campaign against the Navajo”: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

‘Those Unfortunate Strangers’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

The June release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several legislative reports on bills relating to policies toward indigenous peoples of North America. Also found in this release are a number of documents pertaining to the Territory of Orleans, which became the State of Louisiana when it was admitted to the Union in 1812. Two of these documents of particular interest are a report on a House bill titled, “Further Providing for Government of the Territory” and a letter from William C.C. Claiborne, Governor of the Orleans Territory.


Orleans, February 26, 1803 - December 26, 1815

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Following sections authorizing the establishment of a state government in the Orleans Territory, the bill contains a section detailing how the census will be performed. This version of the bill includes a curious amendment that could result in a lower official population and delay in the path to statehood.

The handwritten changes to the printed bill indicate the bracketed portion of the following is to be omitted; additions to the bill’s language are in bold.

‘Those Unfortunate Strangers’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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

Request Info

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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

‘Subject to Removal’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The May release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes an array of diverse documents chronicling the nation’s westward expansion in the nineteenth century.


Special List of Cartographic Records Relating to the Territory of Wisconsin; Entry 1, Manuscript and Annotated Maps and Related Cartographic Records, 1839

These large maps of Wisconsin Territory, “Exhibiting the Position of the Lands Occupied by Indian Tribes in Amity with the United States; and also The Lands Ceded to the United States by Treaty with various Indian Tribes,” are but two examples of the valuable cartographic records found in this collection.

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Segregated Records Relating to Ratified Indian Treaties, 1836-1847; Treaty No. 242, Nov. 19, 1842

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Treaty 242 is representative generally of the United States’ method of acquiring lands under Manifest Destiny and is but one of many such examples in this collection of that doctrine’s codification. 

‘Subject to Removal’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

‘Every honest man in Montana’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The March release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several items relating to the fascinating history of the Territory of Montana.


Clipping, on Calling of Political Convention (1866)

Born in Waterford, Ireland, Thomas Francis Meagher (1823-1867) led the Young Irelanders in the Rebellion of 1848. He was convicted of sedition and sentenced to death. Instead, Meagher was “transported for life” to Australia.

Escaping to the United States in 1852, he worked as a journalist, studied law, and lectured on Irish nationalism. At the outbreak of the Civil War Meagher joined the Army, eventually becoming a brigadier general. After the war President Andrew Johnson appointed Meagher as Montana’s Territorial Secretary of State; he also served as acting governor until Governor Green Clay Smith (1826-1895) arrived and assumed the executive duties.

Early in January 1866 the Montana Democrat reported:

Gov. Meagher has changed the time of the election of Delegates of the Convention, to Saturday, the 24th day of February, 1866, and the meeting of the same to Monday, the 26th day of March. The reasons for the change are given in connection with the Proclamation, which are quite satisfactory.

The Governor’s proclamation can also be found in this collection. Defending the Governor from accusations of political chicanery, the Montana Democrat continued:

‘Every honest man in Montana’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

‘The Language and Sentiments of Treason’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The February release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes a Civil War-era warning of an impending invasion from Texas, a petition to allow black suffrage under the Colorado constitution, and reports of murder and robbery on the Mexican border.


Address of Legislature to Citizens, on Invasion from Texas, January 29, 1862

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In 1862 Confederate General Henry Hopkins Sibley led a brigade of volunteer cavalry to invade the Territory of New Mexico. By advancing north along the Rio Grande from Fort Bliss, he hoped to eventually seize the gold and silver mines in Colorado. In the days leading up to the attack, the Territorial Legislature of New Mexico issued an address to the citizenry, warning them of the coming incursion and alerting them to the dangers they faced.

‘The Language and Sentiments of Treason’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

‘This Superannuated and Irritable Governor’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The December release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes a letter to President Van Buren from the secretary of the Iowa Territory containing his most recent contentious exchange with the territory’s governor; a follow-up petition by several territorial legislators seeking removal of the governor; and finally a memorial by the territory’s legislative assembly asking the president to remove the governor for his “total want of abilities.”


Dispute between the Secretary and Governor, January 8, 1839

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Writing to President Martin Van Buren, the secretary of the Iowa Territory (William Bernard Conway) describes the breakdown of his relationship with the territory’s governor (Robert Lucas).

The papers, which accompany this communication, will convey, to your Excellency, the unwelcome intelligence, that relations, between the governor and the Secretary of this Territory, have ceased to be friendly. This information will doubtless occasion regret, and, indeed, the necessity of communicating it, has been, and is, much regretted by the Secretary; but as mere regret can never settle principles, the attention of the President is respectfully, and very earnestly, invited to the facts connected with this misunderstanding, a fair and impartial examination of which, must lead an honest mind to an equitable decision.

‘This Superannuated and Irritable Governor’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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