AAS Awarded a 2013 National Humanities Medal!

NEH MedalAAS is extremely humbled and honored to be a recipient of a 2013 National Humanities Medal. President Barack Obama will present the medal to Ellen S. Dunlap, AAS president, Sid Lapidus, AAS Council Chair, and William S. Reese, AAS Councilor at the White House on Monday, July 28, 2014, at 3 p.m. The citation for our award that will be read at Monday’s event says:

To the “American Antiquarian Society … for safeguarding the American story. Through more than two centuries, the Society has amassed an unparalleled collection of historic American documents, served as a research center to scholars and students alike, and connected generations of Americans to their cultural heritage.”

At Monday’s award ceremony, which will be broadcast live at www.WhiteHouse.gov/live, the President will award both the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal to a total of 20 organizations and individuals. Since its inauguration in 1997, only ten other organizations have received the medal, AAS being the first independent research library among those. A total of 40 AAS members have been recipients:

David Brion Davis
Anne Firor Scott
Edward L. Ayers
Jill Ker Conway
Natalie Zemon Davis
Robert Darnton
Andrew Delbanco
Daniel Aaron *
Bernard Bailyn
Stanley N. Katz
Gordon S. Wood
Annette Gordon-Reed
Albert H. Small
Richard Brookheiser
Harold Holzer
Rogert Hertog
Kevin Starr
Richard Gilder
Lewis Lehrman
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
Edmund S. Morgan
Patricia M. Battin *
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Vartan Gregorian
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
Garry Wills
Martin E. Marty
Paul Mellon
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Bill Moyers *
William R. Ferris
David McCullough
Dorothy Porter Wesley
John Hope Franklin
Laurel T. Ulrich
Harold K. Skramstad, Jr.
Ken Burns
John Tchen
Daniel Boorstin
Clay S. Jenkinson

(asterisks indicate resigned members)

Vimmin and politics!

Penny Yankee Doodle  (New York, NY).  November 2, 1850.

465696_0001This is one of a number of illustrated humor newspapers and periodicals that appeared in the 1840s and 1850s.  The editor says they are not an imitation of Punch from England, but, “I am myself alone – the original Genius of American Humor.”  There are the usual advertisements for various cures and comic publications.  There are a variety of humorous articles, including a poem on “Vimmins Right” that makes fun of Abby Kelley Foster.  One of the best pieces is a note to political candidates that they can be bought:

For a Forged Document                               $100.00
For a Lie circumstantial or direct                $25.00
For a Libel, well seasoned,                           $50.00
For a Speech, you never made,                  $75.00
For my interest with my party, the Laughing Philosophers, a very numerous and powerful body, my charge is                             $1000.00

Catalog Camper or Archive Detective? My Summer at the AAS

Samantha Cook is a senior at the University of Wyoming where she is majoring in History and Museum Studies. She spent last summer on an archeological dig in Italy, and this summer, she has been with us at AAS as a catalog camper, doing a completely different kind of digging.

The author at work in the reading room.

The author at work in the reading room.

When I made the bold decision to move from small town Wyoming to the second largest city in New England for a summer of catalog camp at the AAS, I did not know what to expect, being that there were so many unknowns: how would I like my job? The people? The institution? The city? I am fortunate that I have been handed a wonderful project, friendly co-workers, and the ability to learn about numerous topics so that my brain is happy and full. My time here learning the ins and outs of being a research detective and figuring out mysteries left behind by a brilliant cataloger has been one of the best experiences in my life.

The Printers’ File is well known to many people who come to visit the reading room, and many early Americanists and book historians eagerly await its incarnation as a relational database. The effort to create this digital resource brought me from Laramie, Wyoming, to Worcester, where I now spend my days sifting through the copious amount of information collected by Avis Clarke.

Clarke was the first trained cataloger here at AAS, and I look up to her for her dedication and the patience that she must have had while building the Printers’ File. From 1927 to 1970, Clarke spent each Wednesday looking through books, directories, letters, and newspapers as she gathered biographical information of people in the book and related trades from 1640 to 1820. Clarke searched by hand through these books, not having the technology we have today; on multiple occasions I have turned to Molly Hardy, curator of digital humanities and the project’s manager, wondering how Clarke sat there and built this amazing resource over so many years. Molly and I regularly find occasion to marvel at her perseverance as I look through these cards finding the authority or source cards where Avis listed the myriad materials she consulted. I have been transforming Clarke’s sources into an Excel spreadsheet (see below), which will then be transferred to tables in a MySQL database.

PFExcelWorking with these cards has led me to try to think like Clarke, to figure out her shorthands and abbreviations, and in some instances to re-research her sources. There have been numerous times that I have felt frustrated with Clarke for her shorthand notations that left me to deduce what she may have meant. I can sometimes see Clarke laughing at my struggles as if she were still here.

The mysteries left for me to unravel include what Clarke might have had in mind in her more enigmatic citations. At the start of my time here, I came across a source that said, ‘Letter from Elmer T. Hutchinson, New Jersey Historical Society, January 5, 1946.’ When I realized that this was a manuscript, I was still not sure how to find it because, as I learned, manuscripts in archives are rarely cataloged at item level. Members of the AAS staff were soon able to direct me to AAS archives to find the letter. In reading the letter, I eavesdropped on the friendship between Clarence Brigham and Elmer T. Hutchinson, who not only exchanged information on printers, but also shared their reading pleasures with each other making it clear they were friends as well as colleagues. Because Clarke includes this letter in her sources and because I have included it in the Excel spreadsheet, complete with a link to the AAS Records, which date back to 1812, many others will be able to not only find the source of this information, but will also bear witness to this friendship based on a shared enthusiasm for printers and books.

City directories

City directories

Part of what has amazed me so much as I retrace Clarke’s path is the staggering range of sources she consulted: letters, books, newspapers, genealogies, and archive collections. But the source that stunned me the most were the directories from different cities in the United States.

Clarke had to go through year-after-year looking for different names to find information on people in the book trade. She consulted a staggering number of directories to complete her research. Clarke would often list 15-20 consecutive years on the same cards. From those sources it has been remarkable to see the vast differences between each directory from different cities or Directories Image 2states. These directories are easily the most used source by Avis, making up a third of the total expanse of sources used, though the citations can at times be rather vague. Instead of citing “New York directories from 1801-1810,” she might only write “New York directories.” She also once cited “New York directories 1810-1815 and more.” This led to frustrations because it was impossible for me to determine the specific dates she intended as sources. But, with these as my biggest frustrations, this project has been a delight.

Having to speculate what Clarke might have meant by certain sources is something that I have learned to do over time here and my love for the Printers’ File has only grown along with that time. At the end of this summer, I will dearly miss the Printers’ File, my co-workers, and fellows at AAS, but I am proud of helping to lay the groundwork for the Database of the Early American Book Trade.

The Acquisitions Table: The Eclectic Harmony

Johnson, Andrew W. The Eclectic Harmony. Revised and improved second edition. Shelbyville, Tenn.: N.O. Wallace & Co., Printers, Shelbyville Free Press Office, 1847.

Eclectic HarmonyOnly one other copy is known of this title, and that was purchased in 2001 by the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University. Then just this past year a private individual discovered a second copy when sorting through hundreds of books in her mother-in-law’s Tennessee attic. This newly-discovered copy is in better condition than the other. It is complete, in a wallpaper wrapper, and includes an index at the end listing all the hymn tunes. The owner of this copy contacted the Center for Popular Music, but as they already had a copy, the director Dale Cockrell kindly suggested AAS might be the right home for it.

Here is how the Center for Popular Music described what was, at the time they acquired it, the only copy of a previously unknown central-Tennessee shape-note tunebook:

Eclectic Harmony represents the shape note system of music notation, which developed in the early 19th century. The system is historically associated with the Singing School Movement, a reform movement to raise standards of singing in Protestant churches in the Northeast. Between 1810 and 1820, the shaped notation as well as the style of folk hymnody it embodied fell out of favor in the North. But it continued to thrive in the rural South and West. Folk hymns in shape notation are among the earliest known music publications to carry a Tennessee imprint. Little is known of Eclectic Harmony‘s publisher, Andrew Johnson, other than he seems always to have lived in Middle Tennessee. He compiled at least two other shape note collections, The American Harmony (1839) and The Western Psalmodist (1853), both published in Nashville.

The red vegetable pill or the blue vegetable pill?

Graefenberg Gazette (New York, NY),  August 1847.

464331_0001The first thing that should grab your attention about this advertisement sheet is that it is printed in red ink.  This was a marketing trick by the Graefenberg Company that put out a wide variety of pills and elixirs.  This particular sheet promoted their vegetable pills, sarsaparilla compounds, eye lotion, Green Mountain compound, fever and ague pills, children’s panacea, and health bitters.  The promotional pieces on the back page are in English, German, French, and Spanish.  This is issue number three and on the front page is the third chapter of a story that began in the first issue.

Because it is an advertising piece, very few copies have survived.  As far as we can tell, this third issue is the latest known.  We happen to have the first issue dated September 1846.  It states under the title that it is published periodically.  Considering ours is the third issue in almost a year, periodically is an understatement.

Now back to the red ink.  When this was first printed, the text must have been a vibrant red on clean white paper.  As you can see, today the red ink has faded a bit (common with this color), and the foxing of the paper has added to the difficulty of reading the text.   Even when you enlarge the image, it is very difficult to read the faded text against the slightly browning background.  Perhaps you need their eye lotion.

From Conservation: Treatment of the Protestant Tutor


Cover of the item before treatment

Recently, I had the opportunity to treat a very special item from our Reserve collection as part of our Save America’s Treasures grant.   The Protestant Tutor for Children is attributed to Benjamin Harris and was printed by Samuel Green in Boston, 1685. Thought to be a precursor text to the New England Primer, it is the first and only known extant copy printed in New England.  AAS has been in ownership of this pamphlet since at least 1885.

Upon examination, I found this rare pamphlet to be severely mutilated, with paper tears, losses, and stains. Hand-stitched into a dear little cloth wrapper, and with every page backed with glassine tape, it was evident that someone in its almost 330-year life had cared about preserving it. A missing section of the title page had been filled in with new paper and text neatly written in pencil. I imagine they probably felt they were doing a great job of it. There was ink manuscript throughout, declaring ownership (William Giddons and Joseph Ayers, specifically). Overall, charming, but in rough shape!

002641_04_combo (2)What is required first in treating such an object is thorough documentation. A detailed description of its condition is written up and captured visually with digital photography. In this case, every page was shot both before and after treatment. The pamphlet was then disbound, and the pages were cleaned of surface grime before washing. All of that glassine had turned yellow and obscured the text. It had certainly kept the pamphlet intact, but it had to go! Fortunately, the adhesive on glassine tape is water soluble, and was easily removed in a water bath. After the tape floated off and the acids were removed from the paper, it was alkalized with a magnesium solution, and when dry, re-sized with gelatin. It was now time to reattach all the little bits that came apart when the glassine came off. Usually we mend tears and fill losses with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, but due to the extent of damage this was a better candidate for a pulpfill, which tends to be more seamless. We’d just spent the month doing pulpfills, and I’d saved this one for last.

Making fills with pulp is fun, and creative, even kind of artsy – one tears into small pieces a variety of high-quality handmade papers (old and new) in an attempt to match the hue and tone for the area you are repairing. These are whirred up in a blender with water (passersby are unable to resist the smoothie joke) until you have a suitably blended paper pulp. It can take a bit of tweaking, but is highly satisfying when you’ve gotten it right. We then fill a squeeze bottle with the pulp and apply it to the wet object on Hollytex (a synthetic material which allows water to flow through, but prevents sticking) and blotters. (To see what this process looks like, click here.) It is then dried under pressure between felts.

002641_05_combo (2)002641_06_combo (2)














After the paper repairs, the pamphlet was re-sewn into a new paper wrapper because the original wrapper was too fragile for re-use. Both the old wrapper, and the original threads that were cut to release it, have been saved with the pamphlet in an enclosure, along with some notes about the provenance that were found with it. The “after” photos were taken, and it was returned to our cool, dark, secure stacks, where it will remain safe and sound for generations to come.

Isaiah Celebrates the Fourth of July

Portrait of Isaiah Thomas by Ethan Allen Greenwood, 1818

Portrait of Isaiah Thomas by Ethan Allen Greenwood, 1818

Here at AAS, nary a holiday goes by without some reflection on how the same was celebrated in days past. On this Fourth of July we’re going to take a trip back 200 years and check in on how our founder, Isaiah Thomas, celebrated the holiday.

In July 1814 the United States was in the midst of the War of 1812 with Britain. Many of the events we have come to most closely associate with the War of 1812—including the burning of Washington, D.C. and the composition of the Star Spangled Banner at the Battle of Baltimore—had yet to happen. Though the war was in many ways entering the beginning of the end—just the next month peace negotiations would begin in Ghent and would be finalized in December—this was not clear to Americans at the time. Thus, it was a war-weary and politically fractured populace that celebrated Independence Day in 1814.

Support for the war had been split from the beginning. The two major political parties at the time, the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party, were starkly opposed on the war. The older of the two, the Federal Party, had weakened in the recent years and remained strong mainly in the northeast. It supported strong central government and closer ties with Britain. The Democratic-Republicans favored a weaker central government, expansion, and a clearer independence from Britain. When Congress voted on the declaration of war in June 1812 no Federalists voted in favor, setting up a dichotomy that was to last throughout the war.

This opposition is clear in Isaiah’s account of the Fourth of July festivities in 1814. He begins his diary entry by stating simply, “Independence Celebrated by both political Parties, separately.” He goes on to explain that the “Federalists dined in a large Booth, on my land, near the north meeting house—The other party dined at Wheeler’s Tavern—Each formed in procession, and saluted each other as they passed—each had a military escort, and a band of Musick.—The federalists had their Exercises in the south Meeting house—the other in the north meeting house.” One begins to get a sense of how politics played a part in the town, not only ideologically, but also physically.

Detail of Isaiah's devil woodcut and stamp from The Halifax Gazette. February 6 to 13, 1766.

Detail of Isaiah’s devil woodcut and stamp from The Halifax Gazette. February 6 to 13, 1766.

As this entry suggests by the mention of the Federalists dining on his land, Isaiah had never been one to keep his politics to himself. When he was just 16, he got himself into trouble with the authorities in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for printing items in the Halifax Gazette protesting the Stamp Act. First, it was a woodcut of the devil (which Isaiah made himself, of course) stabbing the official stamp with a pitchfork (see above). When he got in trouble for this he decided to get around the order not to do it again by simply reprinting copy from other newspapers, a common practice in the eighteenth century. This meant that he could print an article from the Pennsylvania Journal outlined in mourning borders and skulls announcing the death of the newspaper due to the Stamp Act and claim that he was simply sharing the news.

Mass Spy Lex-Conc

Detail from May 3, 1775 issue of Massachusetts Spy

In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, Isaiah’s newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy, transitioned from one “Open to ALL Parties, but Influenced by None,” to one that, by 1774, featured the slogan “JOIN OR DIE,” and eventually, “Americans!—Liberty or Death!—Join or Die!” The Spy became such an influential Patriot newspaper, in fact, that three days before the Battles of Lexington and Concord Isaiah smuggled his printing press out of Boston to Worcester for fear of it being impounded by the British authorities. On May 3 he printed his eyewitness account of the battles, a model of non-partisan journalism: “Americans!  forever bear in mind the BATTLE of LEXINGTON!  where British Troops, unmolested and unprovoked wantonly, and in a most inhuman manner fired upon and killed a number of our countrymen, then robbed them of their provisions, ransacked, plundered and burnt their houses!  nor could the tears of defenseless women, some of whom were in the pains of childbirth, the cries of helpless, babes, nor the prayers of old age, confined to beds of sickness, appease their thirst for blood! – or divert them from their DESIGN of MURDER and ROBBERY!”

Mass Spy BannerIsaiah’s partisanship and rabble-rousing didn’t end with the Revolution. During late 1813 and early 1814, several British officers were taken prisoner in order to leverage an exchange for American soldiers and were paroled in Worcester. Isaiah, like many Federalists, believed these “hostages [of] government” were being mistreated and spent much time visiting them and bringing them extra comforts. In reality, their imprisonment was quite comfortable and when they found they were to be transferred elsewhere they bound and gagged the under-keeper and made their escape. Several were recaptured, but four remained free. Isaiah recorded the escape in his diary and noted that he had visited them earlier that day.

With this record it comes as no surprise that the political parties celebrated Independence Day separately, nor that Isaiah was among the leaders on the Federalist side. Despite their separation, the two factions did observe some basic civilities, although whether these civilities were intended to be sincere or facetious is difficult to determine. As noted earlier, they saluted to each other as they crossed paths on their way to their respective meeting places, and later in the entry, Isaiah relates that “Two toasts were reciprocated—with a discharge of artillery—a Comee accompanied with a band of Music, waited one on the other party with the toasts.”

And lest we have any doubts about where Isaiah stood in his viewpoints (although at this point that seems unlikely), his closing statement for the entry erases them: “The federal party was the largest about 400, and really the most respectable.—dined with the Federalists.”

The Acquistions Table: Chronicles of New England

Chronicles of New England. Chap. 1000. [United States: s.n., 1826-7?]

ChroncilesTwo copies of the earlier Chapter 999 have been traced (one of which was already at AAS), but this appears to be the only copy of Chapter 1000. When it appeared at auction this fall, we had to have it. A satire written in Biblical style, Chapter 1000 of the Chronicles of New England begins: “Now it came to pass, when the men of the Boat were rejoicing and making merry in their hearts…” Both chapters describe the competition between the Hartford-based shipping merchants who plied their trade along the Connecticut River, and a rival group of New Haven investors who bypassed them with a canal to Massachusetts. The pamphlets allude to the icebound steamer Barnet, placing the date of composition in 1826.

The Acquisitions Table: Elliot Cowdin Letterpress Copy Book

Cowdin, Elliot.  Letterpress Copy Book, 1861-1869.

CowdinElliot C. Cowdin (1819-1880) was a well-known merchant in New York.  As a young man he was greatly involved with the Mercantile Library Association, where he learned much about his trade.  Later in life he became involved in politics, especially during the Civil War.  This letterpress copy book contains copies of letters he wrote primarily during his politically active time, from 1861-1869.  Included are letters addressed to Charles Sumner, Salmon P. Chase, and Abraham Lincoln.  He traveled to Europe frequently for business, especially to Paris, which is where he wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln at the outbreak of the Civil War 1861 assuring overseas Americans’ support – “Rest assured, Sir, that our citizens abroad feel deeply grateful to you for the energetic manner in which you are prosecuting the war, and will stand by you to the end.”

Filling in a Gap: Reporting Lincoln’s Assassination

9420_0001In May I picked up a large collection of newspapers from the Indiana State Library.  It took 20 book cart loads to unload the back of the 26’ truck.  There were a number of bundles of miscellaneous newspapers of single or scattered issues.

While going through one of the bundles, I came across an issue of the Daily Morning Chronicle from Washington, D.C., dated April 15, 1865.

This is an Abraham Lincoln assassination issue.  What caught my attention was it was the second edition with the headline “Death of the President” between two thick black bars.  I checked our holdings and discovered we have the first and third edition, but not second.  This issue filled in the gap and completed our set of the various editions printed that morning.


All three April 15 editions

9420_0004One thing that makes this set of papers interesting is that the newspaper was located on the same block as Ford’s Theatre.  They were getting the news directly and not by telegraph.  The first edition has the headline “Murder of President Lincoln.”  Underneath it and inside there are a series of ongoing reports as they were received with the last one at 6 a.m.: “The President is still alive, but is sinking rapidly.  He cannot survive much longer.  No change in the condition of Mr. Seward.”   Lincoln died9420_0003 the next hour.  The compositors must have stripped out the original columns of text and set the new reports as they came in.  The second edition is later that morning and other material was removed or shifted on the front page.  The third edition was at noon and has the news that Andrew Johnson has been sworn in.  The three editions differ on the front page, but pages 2 through 4 stay the same throughout. On page 3 there is also an advertisement from Ford’s Theatre announcing there will be no performance that night.

These issues gives you the feeling of immediacy that a history book can’t convey.  You can read the news as other Washingtonians did that fateful morning.

The Acquisitions Table: Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin.  New York: J. Dalton, for the New York Albion, ca. 1860.

ben franklinLarge format engravings were distributed in several ways in pre-Civil War America.  They could be ordered from a publisher by subscription, purchased directly through book and print dealers, or awarded as premiums for membership in an organization, such as the American Art Union. Many newspapers and periodicals also distributed prints to their subscribers, usually sending inexpensive lithographs as year-end thank-you’s to customers.  The weekly New York Albion eschewed lithographs completely and instead sent their subscribers an annual (and more expensive) engraving. This image of Benjamin Franklin is an example of one of the Albion’s subscription premiums.  The Albion started publishing in 1822 and began issuing engravings in 1837.  The majority of the prints are British in subject matter, which was fitting for the paper’s Anglophile audience (although printed in New York City, the paper described itself as a “British, colonial, and foreign weekly gazette”). AAS holds eleven of the twenty-five engravings distributed by this paper.

Give Pieces a Chance

Hannibal Journal, and Native American.  May 28, 1842.  Vol. 1, no. 21.

A dealer recently sent me a box with pieces of newspapers.  Some of them were either the front or back page, and many of them were just half of one page.  Still, I waded through the large mound of fragments to see what was there.

Why should I spend time going through them considering the dealer gave them to me because they had no market value?  I spent time because discoveries can be made.  This example of the Hannibal Journal, and Native American is the only known issue with this title in an institutional library.  Old references refer to the newspaper as starting out with this title, then later becoming just the Hannibal Journal.  This fragment of the top half of the front page confirms the old references and preserves the bibliographic evidence.

509236_0001Even though this is just one-eighth of the complete issue it tells us a lot.  It lists J.S. Buchanan as publisher and proprietor.  The paper is published weekly, which gives the starting date as around the beginning of January.  There are 15 different advertisers that can be found on the front side of the fragment.  On the back side are a variety of articles copied from newspapers such as the Louisville Journal, Cincinnati Chronicle, Quincy Whig (IL), St. Louis Republican, Hunt’s Merchant’s Magazine, Boston Post, and the New Orleans Picayune, showing it exchanged issues with a number of newspapers.

Part of the prospectus is also extant.  It states that the main audiences of the paper are farmers and merchants.  Old references recorded the Hannibal Journal, and Native American as the successor to the Journal and Price Current.  The prospectus also states that the Hannibal Prices Current will also be published weekly.  Even though no issues are recorded, here is evidence that a separate publication was being published from this office.

AAS added a number of fragments to the collection.  Each fragment added a little more to the sum total of information we can provide readers, and we are giving these pieces a chance to be used.

The Acquisitions Table: Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea: Rhymes for Children. New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons; London: Frederick Warne and Co., ca. 1880.

play-timeThis delicate color-printed illustration of children at play is taken from a book of children’s poetry published jointly in New York and London by the England-based houses of Thomas Nelson and Sons and Frederick Warne.  Both publishers were direct competitors of New York titan McLoughlin Brothers, whose massive press runs of brightly colored chromolithographed children’s books soundly dominated the late nineteenth-century American picture book market.  Although this illustration was designed by John G. Sowerby and H.H. Emmerson, it clearly was influenced by the quaint antique style of Kate Greenaway.  The girls are dressed in empire waist gowns from the early nineteenth century, and the grandmother is sitting at a spinning wheel, which had been largely rendered obsolete by late nineteenth-century textile factories.

Now in print

Every quarter at AAS we release a list of recent publications by those who have researched at the library as fellows, members, or readers. To see this list, as well as a list of works published from 2000-2014, please visit our recent scholarship page on the AAS website. If your book, article, or other achievement is not included, just let us know if you’d like to see it there!






March-May 2014


Barreyre, Nicolas. L’or et la liberté: Une histoire spatiale des États-Unis après la guerre de Sécession. Paris: École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2014. (Tracy Fellow, 2011-2012)

Ben-Atar, Doron S. and Richard D. Brown. Taming Lust: Crimes against Nature in the Early Republic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. (Brown: AAS-NEH Fellow, 1977-1978 and 1992-1993; AAS member)

Berkin, Carol. Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. New York: Knopf, 2014. (Daniels Fellow, 1976-1977; AAS member)

Buell, Lawrence. The Dream of the Great American Novel. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. (AAS member)

Calloway, Colin G. Pen and Ink Witchcraft: Treaties and Treaty Making in American Indian History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. (AAS member)

Davis, David Brion. The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation. New York: Knopf, 2014. (AAS member)

Dayton, Cornelia and Sharon V. Salinger. Robert Love’s Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. (AAS-ASECS Fellow, 1991-1992; Mellon Fellow, 2004-2005; AAS member)

Demos, John. The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic. New York: Knopf, 2014. (Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence, 2011-2012; AAS member)

Garrett, Matthew. Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. (NeMLA Fellow, 2011-2012)

Pacheco, Derek. Moral Enterprise: Literature and Education in Antebellum America. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2013. (Packer Fellow, 2013-2014)

Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. A Warring Nation: Honor, Race, and Humiliation in America and Abroad. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014. (AAS member)


Altschuler, Sari and Aaron M. Tobiason. “Playbill for George Lippard’s The Quaker City.” PMLA 129.2 (2014): 267-273. (Altschuler: Legacy Fellow, 2011-2012; Hench Post-Dissertation Fellow, 2013-2014)

Cohen, Patricia. “The ‘Anti-Marriage Theory’ of Thomas and Mary Gove Nichols: A Radical Critique of Monogamy in the 1850s.” Journal of the Early Republic 34.1 (2014): 1-20. (Daniels Fellow, 1977-1978; AAS-NEH Fellow, 1987-1988; Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence, 2001-2002; AAS member)

Coward, John M. “The Princess and the Squaw: The Construction of Native American Women in the Pictorial Press.” American Journalism 31.1 (2014): 71-99. (AHPCS Fellow, 2010-2011)

Fisher, Linford D. and Lucas Mason-Brown. “By ‘Treachery and Seduction’: Indian Baptism and Conversion in the Roger Williams Code.” William and Mary Quarterly 71.2 (2014): 175-202. (Peterson Fellow, 2007-2008; AAS-NEH Fellow, 2014-2015)

Malanson, Jeffrey. “ ‘If I Had It in His Hand-Writing I Would Burn It’: Federalists and the Authorship Controversy over George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1808-1859.” Journal of the Early Republic 34.2 (2014): 219-242. (Peterson Fellow, 2009-2010)

O’Brien. Donald. “The Engravers of Philadelphia’s Port Folio Magazine.” Printing History 15 (2014): 3-31. (AAS member)

Thompson, Catherine L. “ ‘If They Smile He Will Flourish’: Mothers, Doctors, and Nineteenth-Century Children’s Literature.” Literature and Medicine 32.1 (2014): 148-168. (Peterson Fellow, 2006-2007)


Wendy Bellion was awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art for her book Citizen Spectator. (Last Fellow, 2011-2012; AAS member)

Ansel Elkins won the Yale Younger Poets Prize for “Blue Yodel.” (Hearst Fellow, 2012)

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers was awarded a Witter Bynner fellowship from the Library of Congress. (Baron Fellow, 2009)

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy won the Washington Prize for his book The Men Who Lost America. (Peterson Fellow, 1986-1987; AAS member)


Public Program: Poet Tess Taylor on Researching at AAS

We’ve had an interesting lineup of public programs so far this spring, exploring everything from nineteenth-century theater and attitudes towards alcohol to what life was like for free and enslaved African Americans in Massachusetts during the prelude to the Revolutionary War.

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 29, at 7:00 p.m., we’ll continue our series with a talk by poet Tess Taylor called “Sifting the Uneven Archive: Researching the The Forage House.

Tess TaylorIn this program, Taylor will recount how a residency here at AAS helped her as she researched and wrote her latest book of poems, The Forage House. Her poems layer oral histories, documents, and folksongs to craft an exploration of her ancestors- a mix of New England missionaries and Southern slave owners, including Thomas Jefferson. Taylor’s poems are as much about the imperfect material of family stories as they are about the politically charged material of history. Natasha Trethewey, our current poet laureate, described The Forage House as “a brave and compelling collection that bears witness to the journey of historical discovery. Sifting through archives, artifact, and souvenir, Taylor presents dialectic of what’s recorded and what is not, unearthing the traces that give way to her own history – and a vital link to our shared American past.” Taylor researched The Forage House as a Robert and Charlotte Baron Creative Artist Fellow in 2006.

Tess Taylor’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New Yorker. She currently reviews poetry for NPR’s All Things Considered and teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley. You can listen to some of Taylor’s spots on NPR here and here.

This spring’s public programs series will conclude on Tuesday, June 10, with a talk by John Demos titled “On the Trail of the ‘Heathen School’: Local History, American History, and World History” about his new book.

AAS joins the Worcester Revolution of 1774

On September 6, 1774, 4,622 militiamen from 37 towns marched into Worcester, shiretown for  the county, closed the Royal courts, and forced each court official to resign. Forming WorcRevLogo (2)two lines, they forced each court official, hat in hand, to disavow the recent Massachusetts Government Act, which revoked the Province’s charter and disenfranchised its citizens. With this dramatic action, all British authority vanished from Worcester County, never to return. While the actual war for American independence started in Lexington and Concord, the revolution – the actual transfer of political and military authority – occurred here in Worcester nine months earlier.

Parkman diary

Page from the Ebenezer Parkman diary showing the list of militia units

Now, AAS has joined a coalition of individuals and organizations to commemorate this historic event with a series of public programs culminating in a reenactment of the event on September 7, 2014. The project, called The Worcester Revolution of 1774, is planning a region-wide celebration that will include activities across the cultural and historical organizations of Worcester and the 37 towns that participated in 1774. The project has received funding from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the Worcester Arts Council, and Mass Humanities.

The Society’s collections contain the key evidence of this historical event, including the diary entry of the Reverend Ebenezer Parkman, which recorded the event and listed each of the towns and the place their militia stood along the “gauntlet” to hear the recantations of the court officials.

The short film below (or here) promotes the project and features Timothy Bigelow, a local blacksmith and leader in the Whig movement. Bigelow assisted AAS founder Isaiah Thomas in taking his press out of Boston on the night of April 16, 1775. They set the press up in the basement of Bigelow’s home and it was here that Thomas printed his famous May 3, 1775 issue with his eyewitness accounts of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

The Society is participating in this project by sponsoring workshops and lectures and providing digital facsimiles of AAS collection materials. Additionally, I have been commissioned to write a play about this event that will be the centerpiece of the September 7, 2014, celebration. For more information see http://www.revolution1774.org/.

The Acquisitions Table: The Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin

The Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin.  Philadelphia: Davis, Porter & Coates, ca. 1866-1868.

Poor Cock RobinThis poignantly humorous image of the owl digging departed Cock Robin’s grave is taken from an “indestructible” picture book that had its pages reinforced with cloth for the hard use of young and eager hands.  This hand-colored wood engraving is characteristic of American children’s picture books of the mid-nineteenth century. When Davis, Porter & Coates issued this book New York picture book publisher McLoughlin Brothers was starting to publish picture books mechanically printed using color lithography, revolutionizing the economic production of multi-colored picture books.

Who is that Book-Clad Man? William Jenks on the Science of Early American Antiquarianism

This image, a favorite around AAS, is part of a series a lithographs that circulated in the late 1820s and early 1830s, depicting people as an amalgamation of various objects: shells, vegetables, paintings, and in this instance, relics. This graphic motif harkens back to the the antiquarianRenaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, whose portrait heads made of similar objects were popular in sixteenth-century Italy. Where Arcimboldo created a head made of books and titled it “The Librarian,” the artist here depicts “The Antiquarian,” made up of manuscript materials and of ancient relics and statutes. Engrossed in his reading, this figure turns away from the viewer, not looking to engage us in any way, but instead, perhaps encouraging us to examine the ancient artifacts that constitute him.

“The Antiquarian” begs many question, not the least of which is who is this book-clad man? What is the cultural type he represents? And more broadly, who was the early nineteenth-century American antiquarian? And what, if anything, might he (and the antiquarian in the period is always coded male) tell us about our current practices of collecting, organizing, and processing the materiality of the past? Part of the answer to this question can be found in the early documents of AAS. Founding members gave considerable weight to the term “antiquarian,” thinking and writing about the mission that they understood it to embody. They did not consider themselves historians, or even humanists really, but rather, for them, “antiquarianism” was a scientific line of inquiry, with a discrete methodology. In our present moment, their understanding of antiquarianism might help us to challenge disciplinary practices and assumptions that organize scholarly engagement with the past.

As tied to the nationalist project as these founding “American” antiquarians imagined themselves to be, they acknowledged, from AAS’s inception, the precedents for their understanding of themselves and their labor as borrowing from a longstanding British tradition. In their 1812 petition to the Legislature of Massachusetts, the six incorporating members hoped to model themselves after the College of Antiquaries in Ireland, which is, they conjecture “probably the most ancient institution, now existing in the world.” The tradition of antiquarianism is an inherited one, an imported drive to collect and to organize. That impulse, that drive, is, also true to its Enlightenment roots, understood as systematized, as a “science,” though it would take another year before AAS articulated it as such.

In the first annual address to the Society, Reverend William Jenks, who fulfilled several key roles at AAS and who would go on to be a founding member of the Asiatic Oriental Society, defined antiquarianism as part of, but not the same as, either history or poetry. Echoing Aristotle’s definition of Rhetoric as the discipline that allows all other disciplines to do their work, Jenks positions antiquities as so ubiquitous as to ”belong to almost every art and science; and they, who have cultivated art or science with attachment and diligence, may be often benefited by the history of its progress.” The progress of the antiquarian is not “the pleasing task of dwelling on individual characters,” for that is the work of history and poetry, according to Jenks. The antiquarian “aim[s] at objects less exposed to ordinary notice.” The antiquarian is then in part a detective as they “investigate their causes,” laboring in service to time rather than to scholarship or creative enterprises per se. Ten years later, Christopher Columbus Baldwin, AAS’s first fulltime librarian, would make this point in his loving description of time as “the antiquary’s best friend, his right hand man” (Letter to Reverend George Allen, October 20, 1832).

There is much more to be said here about how the work of the antiquarian morphed over the next two centuries into the work of cataloguing, archiving, and collecting, of how the “science” of antiquarianism has become the “science” of information. In the month ahead, as I look at the history of metadata creation here at AAS, I intend to trace some of the genealogy of the organization and preservation of the documentary record in the hopes of elucidating how that genealogy informs and at times disrupts some of the prevailing tenets of the digital humanities.

Preservation Week Redux: Saving a Collection

Those of you who follow the Society’s blog are aware that the last week in April was Preservation Week, a period set aside by the American Libraries Association to focus on the care and conservation of collections material.

We take preservation seriously at AAS. The word is part of our core mission, in fact. We have a conservation lab on site and the curators regularly review priorities with the head conservator in order to plan actions and treatments for the coming year. We budget for materials and supplies like archival boxes and folders, Mylar pouches, matte board, etc. Surveys and rehousing projects are scheduled at this time, as well.


Here is Wohlbruck himself, with his wife. The negative for this image was in one of the very worst boxes, at the bottom of the wet cardboard box.

All this planning and budgeting and discussion is well and good, but occasionally a collection will arrive at AAS unexpectedly. This was the case in early April of this year when I received a phone call from a Worcester County resident who had been planning for years to donate his grandfather’s glass plate negatives to AAS. We had some email correspondence back in 2013, but at that point he was not ready to place the material with us. The negatives were made by Theodor C. Wohlbruck (1879-1936), a Worcester photographer whose early professional archive was already housed at the Society, having arrived here before 1960. The Society’s collection includes over a thousand plates and prints by Wohlbruck, primarily views of towns in Worcester County and photographs of prominent Worcester buildings made between 1890 and 1910.

The donor said he had more negatives, mostly family photographs made in the studio, as well as images related to family trips. His April phone call was stimulated by the unfortunate fact that a springtime flood resulted in water in his basement and the negatives had been impacted. Could we come and get them and preserve them immediately? Without promising much (water and glass plates do not mix well), we agreed to have a look at the damage and see if there was anything we could do. Our conservation lab is a paper based lab. Serious photographic preservation would have to be handled offsite if needed.

Wohl3Upon arrival at the donor’s home we navigated the dumpster, the box fans, and the quickly laid wooden planks that often accompany a flooded basement here in New England. The negatives were all laid out on a stone wall, in their original paper board boxes. They had been stored on the floor of the basement stacked in a wooden fruit crate and had sat in the water for a couple of days before the flood was detected. It did not look good. We encouraged the donor to contact a conservation center that could handle the negatives, but he wanted them to go to AAS only.

We ended up loading the 148 negatives and their soggy boxes and the fruit crate into the car. A quick phone call to our chief conservator confirmed that the negatives needed to air dry. The negatives were removed from the sodden boxes and were spread out immediately, emulsion side up. Some were completely bonded together, and the ones at the bottom of the box looked to be a total loss. We placed fans strategically and hoped for the best. Preservation, triage style! Our conservator consulted with the regional photography expert and he agreed that air drying offered the best hope for salvation of the plates. It was a stressful 36 hours but the majority of the negatives came through the ordeal intact.

Wohl1The end of the preservation story for this group of Wohlbruck negatives has not happened yet. The plates are now safely in climate control at AAS and the transfer from the donor is complete. Supplies have been ordered and each negative will be individually foldered and placed in acid free boxes after they have been cleaned. Our photographer made a couple of test scans of the negatives and they appear to be mostly intact, although some are covered in grit and others have losses of emulsion at the edges. Twenty or so are a complete loss, but will be retained as teaching tools.


Wohlbruck’s three children

This portion of Wohlbruck’s work will be preserved alongside the rest of his archive. Making fragile glass plates accessible is another role of a library, along with preservation. The majority of the new donation will be digitized after cleaning and made available to the world through our website. We will continue to post about this fascinating collection as the preservation and digitization moves forward. And one last preservation tip: if you can help it, do not store historic photographs in your basement!

What’s AAS Preserving this Week? An Early (1709) Bay Psalm Book

To continue the celebration of the American Library Association’s 2014 Preservation Week held back in April (and mentioned in an earlier post), we’re bringing you a behind-the-scenes peek into a conservation project that started just a couple weeks ago on a recent acquisition – a Bay Psalm Book from 1709. The revitalization process for this volume will start with a photo shoot, a cleansing bath, and some re-stitching, and will end with a new back, protective clothing, and secure housing.

BPB music

Closeup of musical supplement at the end of the 1709 Bay Psalm Book

AAS was thrilled to add this early eighteenth-century edition to our already strong collection of early Bay Psalm Books, including a copy of the first edition from 1640. You can learn more about the Bay Psalm Book editions and why this particular one is of interest to us by reading the full article in the AAS newsletter, the Almanac, embedded below. (Spoiler alert: it’s the only known complete copy of this edition, it contains the earliest example of music printed in North America at AAS, and it is in complete and unsophisticated — although certainly not perfect! — condition.)

Even before the funding was secured to acquire this 1709 Bay Psalm Book (given by the Fred Harris Daniels Foundation in memory of AAS member William O. Pettit, Jr.), donations had begun flowing from eager members, scholars, and staff. Thanks especially to early donors Margery Dearborn, Jock Herron, and Meredith Neuman! Those generous early donations are now being used to conserve, house, and digitize the book in order to preserve its physical structure.

BPB cover

Binding of the 1709 Bay Psalm Book, or more precisely, The psalms hymns, and spiritual songs, of the Old and New-Testament. 14th ed. Boston: John Allen for Eleazer Phillips, 1709.

Using our newest Bay Psalm Book as it was originally intended is challenging in its current condition. Yet it is actually in remarkably good shape compared to other early psalters. Given that hymnals or psalters were meant to be flipped through and handled at least once a week rather than read through once a lifetime, those that do survive the centuries have almost invariably lost a few things along the way: their original binding, at least part of the title page, and usually some of the pages of music at the end. Remarkably, this 1709 Bay Psalm Book managed to hold on to all of its parts. Still, even just leafing through the volume in its current state puts its over-300-year-old body under undue pressure.

The goal of AAS conservation staff is to stabilize the book’s condition without losing potential information binding historians might find useful. The conservation plan, as it stands now, begins with high-quality, detailed photographs documenting the current state of the volume. The text block will then have to be removed from its period binding. The paper will be washed to deacidify or neutralize it, then alkalized in a magnesium bicarbonate solution, as it has become discolored from age and improper storage. Remarkably, little paper repair is needed apart from mending the tattered edge of the title page with Japanese paper. The signatures will be resewn and new endbands fabricated in the same style as they were originally. The text block will then be fit back into the  original binding, which will be retained, but will need to have a leather re-back as the original binding has broken over the years. End papers will be added to protect the title page. A custom box will be made to the exact dimension of the volume so it can sit on the shelf with no danger of friction. There it will safely sit in AAS’s doubly-locked and climate-controlled vault (home of our “holy of holies”) where it will remain available for scholarly examination for hopefully at least another 300 years.


Images from the conservation photoshoot are on AAS’s Instagram page. Now that you’ve seen our “before,” stay tuned for our “after”!

We think of these planned interventions as not so much a facelift as a hip replacement. Although the book will look more aesthetically pleasing in the end, the goal is to make it functional again. After all, if no one can open a book or turn its pages without breaking it or damaging it further, does it really exist as a book?

The Way to a Woman’s Heart—Or Not

map of woman's heart tifIt’s an age-old question: What is the way to a woman’s heart? (It’s also a timely question, with Mother’s Day this coming weekend.) We often hear the way to a man’s heart is food, beer, or sports. To a woman’s, it’s usually said that it’s chocolate, jewelry, clothing, or shoes. If we dig a little deeper, men may also value kindness and compassion, women sensitivity and strength. These are all stereotypes, of course, but one striking thing about working in an archive is reaffirming that there really is nothing new under the sun, including stereotypes—and the tiny bits of truth they sometimes hold.

Among the thousands of images depicting women in our collections, there is one that has continually sparked discussion whenever we share it with K-12 and Hands-On History Workshop participants: A Map of the Open Country of Woman’s Heart, Exhibiting its internal communication, and the facilities and dangers to Travellers therein. Printed between 1833 and 1842 with attribution stated as “By a Lady,” this image serves as a perfect place to begin exploring nineteenth-century ideas about and attitudes towards women. At first glance, its complex layout and soft, pretty colors lead the viewer to think they are looking at a positive and glowing depiction of women’s love and understanding. Closer viewing belies these initial signals, revealing that the Lands of Love of Admiration, Love of Display, Love of Dress, Coquetry, and Selfishness take up far more space in a woman’s heart than the Region of Sentiment, which consists of districts such as Love, Hope, Enthusiasm, Good Sense, and Patience.

While I certainly take issue with the creator’s proportions of positive versus negative traits, closer inspection of these so-called lands and regions does bring to mind some present-day assumptions about human woman's heart detail 1(and woman) nature. For example, apparently jewelry and clothing have always been seen as one way to a woman’s heart. If you look closely at the Lands of Love of Dress and Display in the top right of the heart, they include the cities of Cashmere and Belles-maisons (“Beautiful-houses”); the Satin Plains; the Pyramids of Fashion; Bonnet Ridge; and the Rivers Drain the Purse and Wilful Waste, both of which flow into the Jewelry Inlet. The creator has left no doubt about their attitudes toward a love of fashion and style, even bordering these lands with the Bays of Establishment and Old Mans Darling. By these standards, some women today—including myself, who can never pass up a good pair of shoes—are certainly guilty of a love of dress and display.

This mid-nineteenth-century engraving depicts some of the dangers of novel reading for women.

This mid-nineteenth-century engraving depicts some of the dangers of novel reading for women.

Many of the other lands include similar negative topographical names. Even the Land of Sentimentality—a concept that was very popularly applied to women in the nineteenth century—features the Plain of Susceptibility and the town of Dandy’s Rest, the idea presumably being that if you are too sentimental you are susceptible to being taken in, making you perfect prey for those vain dandies. Let’s also not forget the damaging influence of the ultimate conveyor of sentimentality, the novel. A Land of Sentimentality would not be complete without a River of Novel Reading.

woman's heart detail 2Aside from these topographical elements, however, one of the most interesting aspects of this image is the use of what was at the time either relatively or very new transportation technology to convey a sense of women’s patterns of emotion and behavior. Take, for example, the railroad, which begins in the top left corner in the Land of Love of Admiration and covers distance “with incredible speed.” It moves through this first land, past the Lake of Self Concern, the High Grounds of Matrimonial Speculations, and the Valley of Mothers Artifice, and into the Land of Coquetry. From there it speeds past the Tenting ground of Uncertainty, through Jilting Corner, briefly finds itself in the Land of Selfishness where it passes the Labarynth of Fair Hopes, and on through the Town of Lady’s Privilege in the Region of Fickleness, finally crossing the border into the Land of Oblivion. Following this path gives one the impression of a whirlwind tour of the plot of one of those nineteenth-century sentimental novels the creator finds so distasteful, or else reeks of the bitterness of someone who has fallen prey to a woman’s (and her mother’s) prospective matrimonial games one to many times. Perhaps someone had been reading a too few many of those novels themselves.

woman's heart detail 3The employment of the transportation metaphor shows up again with the steamboat on the River of Indulgence, which provides communication between the City of Moi-meme (“Myself”) in the Land of Selfishness and the Lands of Love of Dress and Display on the opposite end of the country. The metaphor of a steamboat—a form of transportation that was relatively quick and could travel lengthy distances, but was not quite as efficient as a railroad—gives one the sense that it is not a far trip from selfishness to vanity. Indeed, rather than the windswept sense of love affairs the railroad gives, the connection between selfishness and vanity is more constant and steady.

woman's heart detail 4Before we get too angry with the artist, there are a few good traits depicted—a very few. Right at the heart of the heart is the City and District of Love. As mentioned earlier, this Region of Sentiment includes qualities such as patience, prudence, and hope. Within this small region, protected (to keep people in or out?) by the Ego Mountains, reside the final, as well as the slowest and oldest, forms of transportation included on the map. The Canal and the Windin Path, which begin in the Country of Solid Worth, are the only two routes that lead into the City and District of Love. Both are short and slow methods of travel, suggesting that to enter that golden city, one needs patience, steadiness, and reliability. A woman’s love is worth taking the time and effort to acquire. (What the River of Lasciviousness, connecting the Country of Solid Worth and the Lake of Felicity, is doing in this region is less clear.)

With all this said, the question remains: Was this designed by a man or a woman? Sure, it states it’s “By a Lady,” but as with nineteenth-century authorship, that does not necessarily mean it’s so. Is the image reflecting nineteenth-century male stereotypes about women? Or was someone trying to send a message to her fellow women? In any case, I hope you’re planning a nice gift for your mother this weekend. Some jewelry or a novel would be much appreciated, I’m sure.