New-York Historical Society


Bernhardt, Burghers, and Bears: New Items in American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

Below are three new works found in the May release of the digital edition of New-York Historical Society’s American Pamphlets collection.


The Palace Theater presents Madame Sarah Bernhardt in Vaudeville (1912)

“There are five kinds of actresses, said Mark Twain; “bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses, and Sarah Bernhardt.”

Thus begins this handsome promotional brochure announcing that The Palace, Broadway’s newest theatre at the time, had booked Sarah Bernhardt, an international star like no other. This work is generously illustrated with photographs of some of her triumphs, including “Lucrece Borgia” by Victor Hugo, Sardou’s “Theodora,” and “La Dame aux Camelias” by Alexandre Dumas. Near each photograph is a two-page “Outline of the Play.”

Bernhardt, Burghers, and Bears: New Items in American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

This month we focus on three heavily illustrated works found in the April release of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society.


The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Illustrated (1883)

Interspersed with many illustrations, this pamphlet describes the Brooklyn Bridge from its first conception, to its construction, to its opening in May of 1883. There is no doubt that its creation was an astonishing achievement, and the writer, using superlatives generously, returns to this fact often as he recounts the history. He writes, “The details of constructing the towers have been performed under the eyes of all Brooklyn people. Since the tower of Babel and the great pyramid of Egypt, there have been no more massive structures.”

The construction took its toll, especially on the workers. Caissons—large, bottomless wooden boxes into which compressed air was pumped to keep out water—were dangerous places for the laborers who dug out mud and bedrock until they had a solid footing into which concrete was poured:

In the New York caisson the pressure of air at the last was equal to 35 pounds to the square inch. Breathing was a labor, and labor extremely exhausting. Yet brave men subjected themselves to physical suffering of this sort day after day, that the great work might go on, until in many cases nervous disease and paralysis would follow.

The writer refers to the illustrations as “photographs [that] were redrawn by careful, trained artists, and their drawings reproduced and reduced to the present size by photo engraving.” Here are several examples:

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

“Come to the Wilderness”: Highlights for Native American Studies from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

The March release from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of American pamphlets features several publications that focus on Native Americans. Generally using the terms Indians or Indian tribes, these pamphlets depict their lives both before and after European migration into their historic lands. Included in the current release are treaties between the United States government and specific tribes, accounts of travels to, and encounters, with various tribes, tracts about systems of reservations and Indian education, and even a pamphlet promoting tourism.


Massasoit's Town. Sowams in Pokanoket. Its History, Legends and Traditions (1904)

By Virginia Baker

During the Pilgrims’ first years in what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony they were befriended by Wampanoag Indian chief Massasoit.  The author of this pamphlet, in the course of attempting to ascertain the precise location of Massasoit’s place of residence, recounts much of the early history of the relationship between the native inhabitants of what became New England and the English colonists who would largely displace them. It is also a tribute to Massasoit who is described admiringly for his wisdom and generosity. One example is revealed in an episode when Roger Williams had been banned from Salem 1636 and sought refuge in Massapoit’s lands. “[I]n a bitter winter season” he “fled from the savage Christians of Massachusetts Bay to the Christian savages of Narragansett Bay.”

“Come to the Wilderness”: Highlights for Native American Studies from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

“A Population Excitable As Ours”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

Many of the works in the February 2015 release of American Pamphlets concern slavery and the American Civil War. Included are narratives about former slaves, arguments that slavery is ordained by God, arguments against slavery and for abolition, an essay on how to manage one’s slaves, and a detailed accounting of the cost of the Civil War to each town in one New England state. Among the authors of these pamphlets are two great writers, Victor Hugo and John Greenleaf Whittier.

 

“A Population Excitable As Ours”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

Announcing American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

A partnership between Readex and the New-York Historical Society, one of America's pre-eminent cultural institutions, has led to this announcement about the creation of a new online resource: American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922. Created from New York Historical’s vast holdings—an accumulation that began nearly two centuries ago—this unique new resource will provide students and scholars with more than 25,000 short works printed in 49 states between the Jacksonian Era and the dawn of the Jazz Age. 

Louise Mirrer, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New-York Historical Society, writes “The rich scope of the collection illuminates the life and history of the United States in a unique way, and offers outstanding new opportunities for scholarship. The partnership with Readex will make this rich resource more widely available to the public.”

Announcing American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society

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