“Humbugs and fol-de-rols!”: Highlights from Nineteenth-Century American Drama

This final release of plays from Nineteenth-Century American Drama includes a devastating assault on Abraham Lincoln, an all-female cast in a courtroom drama meant to ridicule women, and a “Negro sketch in two scenes.”


The Royal Ape. By William Russell Smith (1863)

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William Russell Smith was a U.S. congressman from Alabama who served from 1851 to 1857. He subsequently served as a member of the first and second Confederate Congresses. Smith was not the first, nor the last, to describe Lincoln as a simian. He wrote this “dramatic poem” after the Union’s defeat in the Battle of Manassas as the South preferred to call what the North called the First Battle of Bull Run. It is dated January 1, 1863, in anticipation of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Smith’s cast of characters—with the exception of two former slaves, two White House maids, and extras including officers, soldiers, citizens, and senators—are all prominent politicians and generals of the time. In following the action of the play, knowledge of the actual events of the time provides some perspective.

Act I, Scene I, occurs in the White House on the eve of the battle which Smith refers to as Manassas. We discover Mrs. Lincoln and her son Robert who would have been age 20. He has just returned from the House of Representatives and describes with gusto a physical fight that had broken out there.

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“Humbugs and fol-de-rols!”: Highlights from Nineteenth-Century American Drama

“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

Now Open for Bidding: Silent Auction to Support 2019 GODORT Scholarship

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Established in 1994, the W. David Rozkuszka Scholarship provides financial assistance to an individual who is 1) currently working with government documents in a library and 2) trying to complete a master’s degree in library science.

photosDavid_0.jpgSponsored by Readex and GODORT (American Library Association’s Government Documents Round Table), the award is named after W. David Rozkuszka, a former Documents Librarian at Stanford University whose talent, work ethic and personality left an indelible mark on the profession.

The scholarship award is $3,000, and has assisted 24 students since 1995 with their library education. The 2019 recipients were Ben Chiewphasa and Lauren Hall. Ben is currently pursuing an MLIS degree at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Lauren is an MLIS student at San José State University and works full-time as a Resource Management Specialist at California State University.

Place your bid today to stay in beautiful Naples, Florida, or charming Chester, Vermont. Auction bidding ends at 4 pm EST on Monday, July 1, 2019.

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Thank you for supporting GODORT and the W. David Rozkuszka Scholarship!

Now Open for Bidding: Silent Auction to Support 2019 GODORT Scholarship

‘Savage Sessions: The Lost History of Congressional Violence in Antebellum America’ – Announcing the 2019 Readex ALA Breakfast Event

Readex will host a special breakfast presentation titled “Savage Sessions: The Lost History of Congressional Violence in Antebellum America” at the 2019 American Library Association conference in Washington, D.C.  An open discussion will follow the talk by Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University.

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About the Presentation

In 1856, on the eve of the Civil War, a South Carolina congressman named Preston Brooks viciously attacked Senator Charles Sumner, an outspoken Massachusetts abolitionist, as he sat at his desk in the U.S. Senate chamber. Sumner’s caning is unquestionably the most famous violent incident in Congress, but it was far from the only one.

After more than fifteen years of research and writing, historian Joanne Freeman—a leading authority on early American political culture—has uncovered roughly 70 incidents of physical violence in the House and Senate chambers in the decades leading up to the Civil War, most of them long forgotten. Fistfights, guns and knives, canings, duels, and all-out brawls were essentially censored out of the period’s equivalent of the Congressional Record. These incidents show how violence—both the threat of it and the actual fact of it—was a tool of debate on the part of Southerners who threatened Northerners into compliance or silence on the contentious issue of slavery.

About the Presenter

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‘Savage Sessions: The Lost History of Congressional Violence in Antebellum America’ – Announcing the 2019 Readex ALA Breakfast Event

‘A Melancholy Catalogue of Events’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The April release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, has added more than 350 additional documents to this unique digital collection. Among them are the two Civil War-era reports below from top officials of the New Mexico Territory: Henry Connelly and William Frederick Milton Arny. Both were appointed to their positions by President Lincoln.


Third Annual Message of Governor Connelly to Legislature, December 6, 1864

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Addressing “Gentlemen of the Council And House of Representatives,” Henry Connelly writes:

The mind of man is a mighty maze in which is engendered, not only the more amiable qualities of the heart, those which teach us charity towards our fellow-beings, and amiabilities of social life, but it is also the laboratory from which do sometimes issue the effects of passion, that lead to the unhappiness of the human race. Pride, envy, egotism, malevolence, and ambition, so unamiable in private life, frequently become criminal when carried into the discharge of public duties.

Connelly continues:

The exercise of these virtues is as essential in legislation as it is in the intercourse of social life. Courtesy in discussion, charity and consideration, with respect to the motives and intentions of your associates, and harmony in your councils, cannot fail to result in honor to yourselves and in benefit to the public.

‘A Melancholy Catalogue of Events’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

What makes a primary source interface a GREAT interface?

When Readex recently posed this question to a wide range of researchers, we heard four crucial things:

  • Modern styling—researchers want primary source databases that are visually engaging and feel “right”
  • Ease of use—both experts and novices want their path to primary sources to be simple and intuitive
  • Speed!—software must search quickly, deliver relevant results in a blink, and rapidly display large images
  • Flexible tools that optimize content use and which map to common user needs and workflows.

With this feedback front and center, Readex has been busy making fresh improvements to its interfaces.

Two months ago I had the pleasure of announcing a major overhaul of the America’s Historical Newspapers and World Newspaper Archive platform. User reaction has been extremely positive, and it’s gratifying to see more usage and better research outcomes.

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We’ve already saved many users a substantial amount of time, too, by introducing a number of efficiencies to the interface.

Of course the work is never done, nor should it be. It’s important to stay abreast of needs and to make continuous improvements to our interfaces and services.

During the past several months we’ve been focusing on the fourth bullet above—“flexible tools that optimize content use.” Much of our effort has focused on enhancing the “document view” experience (sometimes called the “image viewer”) in our products. This is where users encounter the actual primary source in image form.

Throughout 2018, we met with users and asked them about the image viewer. Here’s what they said:

What makes a primary source interface a GREAT interface?

Secrets, Deception and Thwarted Love: Comediettas in Nineteenth-Century American Drama

Hundreds of plays in Nineteenth-Century American Drama are designated as comedies in their titles. Of these, there are scores of scripts subtitled as comedietta which oxforddictionaries.com defines as “a short comedy, typically light-hearted or farcical in tone or subject matter.” Some common themes are entwined in most comediettas. As seen in these examples, these themes include mistaken identity (accidental or deliberate), talking at cross purposes and other miscommunications, inheritances with conditions, and love triumphant.


Miss Madcap: A Comedietta in One Act

By Charles Townsend

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This comedy concerns a will with conditions that necessitate deception. When the curtain rises, Clara is sorting through her mail, opening a letter from her father. She reads it aloud.

“My dear daughter. Your aunt Charlotte is dead. She leaves her fortune to your cousin, Augustus Everson, and yourself—provided you two marry. If either of you refuse to marry, the property goes to the other. I have just seen Augustus. He looks like a dude, but he will hardly throw away a fortune by refusing to marry you, and, although he is a bitter pill—well, suit yourself. He is coming to see you. As ever, your loving father.”

Secrets, Deception and Thwarted Love: Comediettas in Nineteenth-Century American Drama

‘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

Illuminating Our Own Moment (Nineteenth-Century American Drama): A Conversation with Professor Amy E. Hughes

Amy E. Hughes is Associate Professor of Theater History and Criticism at Brooklyn College (CUNY). In this January 2019 interview, she discusses how the study of theater deepens our understanding of history and society; what happens in the classroom when students use these kinds of primary sources; and what the digitization of collections like Nineteenth-Century America Drama has meant to her.

 

 

Prof. Hughes’ first book, Spectacles of Reform: Theater and Activism in Nineteenth-Century America, received the 2013 Barnard Hewitt Award from the American Society for Theatre Research. Her latest book is A Player and a Gentleman: The Diary of Harry Watkins, Nineteenth-Century U.S. American Actor (2018), a critical and digital edition of the pre-Civil War diary of actor-playwright Harry Watkins, coedited with Naomi J. Stubbs.


For more information about Nineteenth-Century American Drama, please contact Readex Marketing.

Illuminating Our Own Moment (Nineteenth-Century American Drama): A Conversation with Professor Amy E. Hughes

Rhyming Verse Reveal, Wielded Women, and a Fraught Freedom: Readex Report (March 2019)

In this issue: Ferreting out forgotten verses of a gifted female poet; using women’s reputations as weapons in Jacksonian Era politics; and Caribbean slaves take faltering steps toward freedom.


The Value of Digitized Newspaper Collections in Researching Neglected Women’s Writing: Two Newly Recovered Works by Ella Rhoads Higginson, First Poet Laureate of Washington State

Laura Laffrado, Professor of English, Western Washington University

RR March 2019 1.jpgIn recent years, my scholarly efforts have been devoted to the recovery of Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862?-1940), the first prominent literary author from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Internationally celebrated for her writing, Higginson put the Pacific Northwest on the literary map. People across the nation and around the world were first introduced to the Pacific Northwest and the people who lived there when they read Higginson’s award-winning… > Full Story


The Role of Women in Early American Presidential Campaigns: Using Newspapers to Explore the Informal Politics of the Jacksonian Era

Rhyming Verse Reveal, Wielded Women, and a Fraught Freedom: Readex Report (March 2019)

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