Say Cheese! Photographs of Printers at Work, Redux

Back in 2014, I prepared a post for Past is Present that featured four photographs of newspaper print shops, two from the collection and two recently acquired. In the three years since that post, AAS has added several more occupational images featuring print shops of all shapes and sizes. These images add to our knowledge of the appearance of nineteenth-century printing businesses, the people who worked there, and the machinery and spaces required for success. When looked at more broadly, the photographs also tell us something about the history of photography and its use to document work.

The carte-de-visite photograph format was invented in Europe around 1854 and was popular in the United States from that date to the late 1870s. Cartes-de-visites were usually albumen photographs mounted on 2 x 4” cards, making them perfect for slipping into albums, using as calling cards, or swapping with friends. We recently bought this circa 1875 carte-de-visite of unidentified typesetters standing in a studio with their type cases in a posed arrangement. The young men, shown in their shirt sleeves, would have carried the cases (which we suspect are empty of type for easy transport) to the photo studio to set up this shot. Occupational photographs like this are not unusual in America—sitters with shovels, machinery, tools, and other props are common enough—although this is the first we have seen with type cases! Mind your p’s and q’s, gentlemen, and be careful getting that rig back to the print shop!

An image of the Boston Globe composing room, taken in 1887, turned up recently during a shift of the Society’s Boston photographs from one drawer to another. It was tucked inside a folder with unrelated material donated by AAS member Charles Henry Taylor Jr. (1867-1941, elected 1912), who worked for over forty years at the Globe as a journalist, editor, treasurer, and publisher. Here, the entire crew has stopped work to pose for the photographer who has brought his camera to the newspaper office to make the shot. This shows an important difference from the carte-de-visite image above, the success of which depended on the controlled environment of a photo studio. The decade between 1875 and 1885 saw many advancements in camera technologies and lens development which allowed cameras to finally move outside of the studio.

Taken around the same time as the Globe image, these two stereo views, taken about 1888, show the composing room of the Boston Transcript when it was located on Washington Street. The paper moved to that location after the 1872 Boston fire. The Transcript divided their composers into three teams, one for news, one for editorial, and a third for advertising. They also employed female composers and a few are visible in these group shots. Stereo photography became popular in the United States starting in the 1850s and the hand-held devices that allowed three-dimensional viewing continued to be used as entertainment in middle-class parlors well into the early twentieth century. Occupational images like this were often sold or given away by companies (like textile mills, manufacturers, and Sears & Roebuck) to promote their brand, to showcase new technologies, or to advertise their services.

The Globe and the Transcript were big city papers with hundreds of employees. AAS is also very interested in smaller papers like the Österns Weckoblad (Eastern Weekly), whose Worcester, Massachusetts, office is shown in this circa 1896 photograph. Österns Weckoblad was a Swedish-language newspaper that was founded in New York in 1890, moved to Worcester in 1896, and then on to New Britain, Connecticut, before closing down in 1926. The type cases and composition area is at center and the wheel of a printing press can be seen at the far right. Sunlight pours in the large front window, which is emblazoned with the paper’s name. This photograph is larger than any of the others discussed so far, measuring 7 x 9”. It could have been made from a negative of that size, or it could have been printed using a solar enlarger. By the 1890s, enlargers were becoming more commonly available to photographers and were used to create large-format prints of factories, machinery, and shop fronts that were then prominently displayed in business offices or sent to prospective customers or investors.

In March of 1893, D. B. Waggoner, the editor of the Eight O’clock Club column at the Philadelphia Times, had this photograph taken of himself in his office at the paper. The Eight O’clock Club was designed to engage young readers with the news and featured a variety of writing for children, from essays on natural phenomena to jokes, poetry, and fictional moral tales. Waggoner gestures to the club’s mascot, Semper the cat, who is ignoring him while trotting towards the photographer. The paper sent the photo out to club members—this one is inscribed by the editor to “Estelle, Hortense and Mary English” of Philadelphia. A label on the back explains that the image was “taken instantaneously by means of ‘flash light.’” Flash powder was used in fireworks and theatrical productions after the Civil War, but it was not until 1887 that two German inventors created BlitzLicht—a dangerous but effective blend of magnesium powder and potassium chlorate that could be ignited to create enough light to fill a room like Waggoner’s office and also allow the movement of Semper to be captured on film.

Finally, a 1912 photograph of staff at the Ruemely Press and Print Shop in Manchester, New Hampshire, is one of a set of six images that show a small print shop owned by Albert Ruemely. Founded around 1883, the shop did job work, specialized in Masonic printing, held contracts with the city clerk of Manchester, and offered German-language printing. In 1887, Ruemely added the printing of novelty advertising to his repertoire. This photograph is a silver gelatin print, rather than the albumen-based collodion wet plate technique used on many of the earlier images. Silver gelatin, which was a more stable photo printing process, was perfected around 1880 and became the dominant photographic printing process after 1900.

I continue to look for images of printers in America and hope to add photographs of shops large and small. They turn up on eBay, at paper fairs, in our own stacks, and from generous donors. My interest in these small reminders of past printers has rubbed off on the other curators here at AAS. Recently our curator of books picked up a small photographic print of a group of unknown printers, including four women, while hunting for books to add to the Society’s collection. From the washed out faces we can say flash powder was definitely used, so the photo is likely post-1890. We are still doing research on this image as it has only just arrived in Worcester. Maybe we’ll end up with enough images for another post in a year or two! 

Past is Present podcast with Ezra Greenspan

Ezra Greenspan delivering a talk at AAS on March 16, 2017

The Past is Present podcast returns with an interview with Ezra Greenspan. Ezra is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Chair in Humanities at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and author of George Palmer Putnam: Representative American Publisher (2000) and William Wells Brown: An African American Life (2014). During the past year, he’s been working on a new book titled The Lives and Times of Frederick Douglass and His Family: A Composite Biography. Ezra is a member of the American Antiquarian Society (elected 2003), was AAS Distinguished Scholar in Residence from 2009 to 2010, and is  an AAS-National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow for the 2016-17 academic year.

In this episode, Ezra discusses the research and writing of his latest book on Frederick Douglass’s family; his work as editor of Book History, the annual journal from SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing); and his lifelong relationship with the printed word.

You can listen to this podcast at the top of this post or subscribe to it through iTunes. Stay tuned for much more from the Past is Present podcast!

Spring Issue of Almanac Now Available

The spring issue of the AAS newsletter, Almanac, is fresh off the press and ready for your perusal. Here are some highlights from this issue:

  • The first part of a three-part series about the expansion and renovation of Antiquarian Hall focusing on the HVAC upgrades
  • An “AAS Heritage” piece about the various HVAC issues the Society has experienced since the very first Antiquarian Hall
  • A feature story on our beautiful and illuminating bookplate collection
  • Descriptions of our newest digital projects and exhibitions
  • A new acquisition from a multi-generational donor family

All that and more is packed into this issue. Happy reading!

Tribute to a Great Friend and Book Dealer

One of the duties of a curator at the American Antiquarian Society is to interact with dealers of antiquarian books, manuscripts, and paper ephemera. Over time we develop professional relationships with them as we get to know what type of materials they have, and they get to know our wants.

Bob and Wendy Mooers

In 2003 I was using eBay to find newspapers and periodicals that were not in our collection. Over time I noticed I was bidding on a number of lots from the same seller. After winning a few lots, I found out the seller was Bob Mooers of Gateway Books in Hebron, Maryland. He and his wife, Wendy, had a small antique business and they had piles of newspapers in their warehouse.  Over time it became apparent to us that they had amazing newspapers in their stock. Often I would bid on a few issues, ask if they had any more, and they would quote a long run of the title to us.

In August 2004 I accepted an invitation to visit them and spend some time going through their shelves of newspapers. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I spent three hot days working my way through stacks of newspapers, noting the titles and years and checking our online catalog. It was obvious to me that there were many rare titles and that much of the inventory could have a major impact on our newspaper holdings.

The newspapers in the Gateway Books warehouse.

The truck full of newspapers back at AAS.

After much deliberation and many meetings and negotiations, a deal was made between AAS and Gateway Books. In 2006 AAS purchased Part A, a large block of newspapers, with the option of first refusal in subsequent years to buy Parts B and C.  Once the paperwork was prepared and a check cut for the first payment, I flew down south, rented a twenty-six-foot truck, and drove to Hebron to complete the agreement. As it happened, a few days before I flew down, Mr. Mooers had a major heart attack and was in the hospital, where he had undergone major bypass surgery. He still insisted I come down. We ended up completing the deal on his hospital bed and I handed the check over to him and his wife. Arrangements were made and a crew was waiting at the warehouse to help load the truck.

Part A had a major impact in our holdings for Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Part B was purchased the next year and fit in a cargo van. This contained more Florida, Maine, South Carolina, and Tennessee newspapers. In 2008, due to the economy, AAS decided not to exercise its option on Part C of the newspapers.

During these years, I spoke with Bob and Wendy over the phone many times, dropped by when my travels took me near Hebron, exchanged Christmas cards, and got to know each other. Bob would tell me tales of his time in the merchant marines, how he got started in his business, and experiences dealing with libraries, other dealers, and collectors.

Even though we didn’t buy Part C at the time, Bob knew those newspapers were rare and wanted to see them come to AAS. Over time as my budget would allow, I would buy individual lots. He could have easily sold them off to other collectors and dealers, yet he held onto them for years, giving me a chance to buy what I could. One summer I stopped by and he offered me the newspapers from Clarksville and Shelbyville, Tennessee, from 1818 to 1820, at a large discount. These were the only known copies of the titles. Bob was relieved to see them come to AAS. He said they really belonged here.

Last summer I made another stop to visit Bob and Wendy. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was not in the best of health. Bob wanted to finish off the last of the lots and suggested a price that enabled me to buy the last of the newspapers. He said he didn’t want them hanging around and complicating things down the road if they got tied up in his estate. In September 2016 the last of the newspapers arrived here in Worcester, already paid for. As it happened, the next month Wendy let me know that Bob had cancer and shortly before Thanksgiving he died.

I had known Bob for twelve years, but in that time we got to know each other, enjoyed sharing company and meals, and developed a friendship. That is not part of the job description, but in the fifteen years I’ve been curator of newspapers and periodicals I’ve gotten to know many dealers. I enjoy talking with them and getting to know them. It is true that I want them to remember me and my wants, but for several of them, it is more than a professional relationship. I enjoy their quirkiness and find them interesting.

So long, Bob. I’m glad I knew you.

Tenth Annual Adopt-a-Book – Now Launched!

Disorderly Girl. Young America Series. Electrotyped by Vincent Dill. New York: McLoughlin Brothers, ca. 1867.

Springtime means it is time for the AAS Adopt-a-Book fundraiser! A hearty thank you to all who have participated in this popular event in the past. We have raised over $125,000 for acquisitions over the last nine years. Today, Tuesday, April 4th, we launch our tenth annual online catalog of “orphans” to be adopted.

This year, to mark the tenth anniversary, we have changed the focus of the event from the usual support of acquisitions to support for an upcoming exhibition. In December 2017 the Society will be sending over 150 books, games, prints, and watercolors to the Grolier Club in New York for our exhibition Radiant with Color & Art. Co-curated by AAS Children’s Literature Curator Laura Wasowicz and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts Lauren Hewes, this show will examine the work of the McLoughlin Brothers, well-known publishers of children’s picture books. “This will be a groundbreaking show,” says Wasowicz. “It will celebrate the production methods and marketing used by McLoughlin over four decades and will include original never-before seen artwork and printing blocks used by the firm.” We have posted on this blog previously about the curatorial process of selecting material for the show. We are in the home stretch and will be busy this summer preparing a printed catalog and building exhibition mounts and labels.

Sarah Noble Ives. “At the Ball.” From Cinderella. Watercolor, pen and ink, ca. 1912.

Raising funds for the exhibition has occupied AAS staff for the last two years. Donations from many generous AAS members and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation are already in hand. Using the tenth annual Adopt-a-Book event as a way to crowdsource additional funding for Radiant with Color & Art engages additional constituents with our collections. All of the material in this year’s Adopt-a-Book online catalog is traveling to New York and will be on display in the exhibition. As in past years, participants may donate in honor of someone (friends, family, colleagues), but this year supporters will be recognized on a special acknowledgement page in the printed catalog for the exhibition, as well as on the Adopt-a-Book page on the AAS website.

Josephine Pollard. The History of the United States Told in Words of One Syllable. New York: McLoughlin Brothers, ca. 1887.

“Adopt-a-Book is always a popular event with our former fellows, scholars, staff, and friends,” says Hewes, who is organizing the event this year. “This year’s online catalog selection is especially attractive, with lots of gorgeous watercolors, picture books, and even paper dolls.” Due to our impending construction project, there is no evening event in Antiquarian Hall scheduled this year for Adopt-a-Book, so the only way to participate is via the online catalog of “orphans.” We appreciate all and any support of this initiative! Thank you!

Isaiah’s Back In the Worcester Public Schools

Do you know what year it is? Well, Isaiah Thomas thinks it is 1812. That is, the reincarnated Isaiah who is currently going into fifth-grade classrooms and sharing some of his favorite books and broadsides with students. This Isaiah also brainstorms with these students what he should do with these materials. He is particularly concerned because we are once again at war with the British and marauding Royal marines could threaten his new national learned society if it were in a port city such as Boston or the new Washington city. Thomas, as portrayed by professional actor Neil Gustafson, thinks it would be best to locate his new Antiquarian Society here in his hometown of Worcester.

This is all part of our popular educational program entitled Isaiah Thomas –Patriot Printer, which is touring to every fifth-grade classroom in Worcester through the generosity of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Approximately 1,800 students in 33 different schools will experience this live theatrical presentation and will also explore the documents with an interactive online curriculum guide developed by classroom teachers. The program, which closely adheres to local, state, and national curricula standards, has proved very popular since it was first conceived in 2000. Since that time, over 11,000 people have experienced it. And while the majority have been students—this is the fourth year we have brought this to every fifth -grade class in Worcester—it has also been enjoyed by many adult groups as well.

The Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer program is part of an initiative known as Culture LEAP (Learning through Education and Arts Partnerships) that seeks to offer intensive curriculum-based cultural experiences to all students in a given grade. Culture LEAPS are collaborative efforts by the Worcester Public Schools, a working group of the Worcester Cultural Coalition composed of twenty-two education directors from the region’s cultural organizations, and the Worcester Education Development Foundation Inc. (WEDF). Currently there are eight LEAPs impacting students in seven grades.

The Isaiah Thomas- Patriot Printer LEAP is funded completely by the Telegram & Gazette. In speaking of their sponsorship, Paul M. Provost, publisher of the Telegram & Gazette, said, “Journalism begins in Worcester with Isaiah Thomas and as such he is an important part of the heritage of both the AAS and the T&G. We are proud to be a part of this excellent educational program that not only illuminates the life of Thomas but also teaches students the importance of literacy and critical thinking.” Some of the letters we have already received from students this year emphasize these themes (you can see a sampling here).

We are also turning this popular live educational program into a digital one by creating an interactive website, which you can learn more about through previous blog posts and explore on your own.

Editor’s Note: The author, James David Moran, conceived of and wrote the script for Isaiah Thomas Patriot Printer.

Unique Jacksoniana: Poetry from a Short Man Who Fell Off a Tall Roof

Earlier blog posts have promoted a soon-to-debut online resource that will feature highlights from the William C. Cook Jacksonian Era Collection. Here’s another of those one-of-a-kind items. Today we feature an unrecorded elegy written after the death of Jackson by a poet previously unknown to the literary world (perhaps for good reason).

The Sept. 13, 1845, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics article as found in America’s Historical Newspapers (Readex).

Ode, Elegy, &c. on the Late Lamented Gen. Andrew Jackson was acquired in 2016 with partial funding from William C. Cook as part of his commitment to support ongoing additions to the Jacksonian Era Collection that bears his name. The caption title of this piece modestly ascribes authorship only to “E.N.A.,” but imagine our joy when we were able to find a reference to this previously unknown publication and its author while searching in AAS’s digitized newspaper collections. An article in the September 13, 1845, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics reveals the author’s last name at least: Adamson. Mr. E. N. Adamson is described as “a short man who has to perch himself upon a bench to be seen.” The article goes on to explain how Mr. E.N. Adamson had recently broken a limb after falling twenty feet from the top of a building while he was helping the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, clean up after a fire. The article’s author urges the public to support this man, who had helped the city, by purchasing his poetry pamphlet. He does admit, though, that the quality of Adamson’s verse may be as unsteady as his feet were on the roof. “The first verse is truly grand – it is the poet when he is above on the ladder. The next verse, however, is rather like the poet when he unfortunately slipped a twenty feet from the ground.” The sample of “grand” verse including in the article concludes: “Ye cannon mouths, with thunder crowned, / Shake the earth with woe!” The sample of not-so-grand verse concludes: “Ducks, curlews, gulls, in startled squads, / Your clamours scream!”

As far as we can tell no other copy of this Ode, Elegy, &c. exists, and since it’s relatively short, we have provided a digitized copy of the whole pamphlet for you here so you can judge the quality of the poetry for yourself. Enjoy!

(N.B.: All the volumes in the William C. Cook Jacksonian Era Collection are available to researchers now in person at AAS and can be identified using the collection name when searching the general catalog.)

Calling Sherlock Holmes…

My latest volunteer project, to quote Winston Churchill, was “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I was handed twenty-eight legal depositions, tucked in a manila folder, with a notation that simply said: “The depositions were part of a suit by multiple claimants for the $500 reward.”

Several of the Scott depositions

First, the riddle:  Who offered the $500 reward?  And what for?

I started reading the depositions, which were given between April 1855 and May 1857 before County Commissioner Peter C. Bacon of the Worcester Court, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Not a single deposition mentioned the reward, but they told twenty-eight versions of a story.  I thought I was inside the set of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon!

The City of Providence charged that Charles B. Scott, an African American of that city, got into an altercation with John H. Springer, store keeper, over the cost of a pair of pantaloons, robbed the store, and seriously wounded Springer.  Scott fled.

Several days later, on December 29, 1854, an African American man was found in Royal Thayer’s barn in Uxbridge by Captain Scott Seagrave. Believing the man to be the escaped Scott, Seagrave instructed two men, Colonel Horatio Cogswell, an inn keeper and officer of the law, and Josiah T. Bliss, a carriage maker, to take charge of Scott and transport him to the hotel in Uxbridge.

There, under questioning, Scott claimed to be John Hewins, a fugitive slave, escaped from his master Richmond Taylor of Wilmington, Delaware. Many people in town believed his story because his feet were badly blistered and he was inadequately dressed for New England December weather. Dr. Robbins treated his sore feet and gave him a shirt and warm stockings. Captain Charles Wing provided a coat.

So far, I still had found no clear explanation of who had offered the $500 reward.

The mystery:  Who was this man – a criminal running from the law? Or a runaway slave headed for Canada?

Scott’s origins were contentious and divided the town, even to the point that bets were made about his true identity. Lucien C. Boynton, an attorney who had lived for nine months in Wilmington, was consulted and thought the slave story was plausible. Local abolitionists raised money and planned for Messrs. Cogswell and Bliss to take Scott by train to Worcester, where he would be interrogated by Henry Chapin[s], a magistrate. If the justice believed Scott to be a fugitive of the law, he would be returned to Providence to stand trial; if he was deemed to be a fugitive from slavery, he would continue his journey to Canada.

Tensions were high. When Cogswell, Bliss, and Scott were boarding the train for Worcester, a “scuffle” broke out. Cogswell and Bliss were roughly prevented from boarding the train, but Scott managed to slip on board.  However, as the result of a telegraph, when the train reached the Whiten/Linwood Station, Scott was taken into custody by Thomas Aldrich, deputy sheriff of Uxbridge, and returned to Providence.

After reading the depositions, I still didn’t know who offered the reward. Was it the state of Rhode Island for the return of the alleged criminal Charles B. Scott?  Was it Richmond Taylor of Wilmington, Delaware, for the return of his purported runaway slave John Hewins?

The enigma: Who was awarded the reward?  Was justice served?

I still don’t know. This is what I do know: Scott was finally identified by an African American barber from Providence.  Some of the brakemen on the train said they knew Scott and that the man they saw was not him. Regardless, Scott was returned to Providence, tried as Charles B. Scott, and sent to state prison on April 7, 1855, for four years.

I learned from newspaper accounts that the reward was offered by the City Council of Providence. Captain Scott Seagrave[s] and Thomas Aldrich both claimed the reward for apprehending Scott.

The National Aegis reported the case on January 10, 1855, saying, “The $500 reward has occasioned a good many versions of the story and it is difficult to get the exact facts.”  I was unable to find further reporting about the outcome of the case nor was I able, at the Worcester County Courthouse, to retrieve the case.  It has been stored offsite.  So, I still don’t know who got the reward, or maybe the two men split it….

Nor am I sure justice was served.  A number of people claimed to know Charles Scott and said this was not him. So, if you happen to see Sherlock Holmes lurking, tell him the AAS has a good mystery for him.

Running the Numbers on Early American Literature

In 1956, Edward Connery Lathem (1926-2009), who would later distinguish himself as a Robert Frost scholar, took leave from his position as director of the Division of Special Collections at Dartmouth College  to pursue an advanced degree under renowned Jonathan Swift scholar Herbert Davis at Oxford University. There, Lathem completed his bibliography of “English Verse and Literary Prose in America before 1776,” and for almost fifty years this work reached very few U.S. scholars as it existed only on deposit at the Bodleian and British Libraries. At the urging of former AAS President Marcus McCorison, Lathem agreed in 2002 to allow the Society to publish this bibliography as a CD-Rom, with an introduction by McCorison, who had known Lathem since their days together at Dartmouth. Though McCorison makes much reference to the fifty-page introduction Lathem wrote, it is omitted from the 2002 publication. Recently, AAS catalogers have added citations of Lathem numbers to the North American Imprints Program (NAIP) catalog records. These citations had me returning to Lathem with a fresh set of questions. Thanks to our friends across the Atlantic,* AAS now has a copy of Lathem’s introduction on file, and I consulted it in the hopes of better understanding how Letham defined “literary prose” as such genre terms are always vexed.

Unfortunately, Lathem offers no clear-cut definition of “literature” and seems to assume that, like pornography, it might be hard to define, but readers will know when they see it. Lathem does assert that contrary to conceived notions, the colonists were not only interested in religious texts. “[I]t is clear,” Lathem writes, “that, in addition to their other book purchases, the colonists bought and read works of literature—literature good, bad, and indifferent—and quite apparently they did so in substantial quantity” (7). After briefly recounting the details of the importation of English literature and verse, Lathem turns to book production—both the limitations on it in distant colonies like America and the resulting “cheap reprint editions.” Though unauthorized reprinting so far away could never catch the opprobrium that Irish, and to some extent Scottish, publishers were plagued with, Lathem’s work here is especially illuminating in that, whenever possible, he traces the copy texts on which the American editions were based. A number of these were Irish and Scottish editions. And even if they were not, the colonial markets were arguably as culpable as the Irish of reproducing unauthorized English editions. Lathem explains, “Mention has been made of piracies, and in extension of this it must be frankly affirmed that the American literary editions of the colonial era were themselves of that sort, with but few possible exceptions” (37). “Even a political Loyalist,” Lathem continues, “like the New York printer James Rivington quite evidently felt no qualms of ethical or legal restraint about producing such editions or trafficing [sic] in Irish piracies” (38-39). Lathem offers three reasons why  neither ethical scruples or legal restrictions thwarted this practice: Irish and Scottish reprint editions were cheaper; the American colonies were increasingly boycotting English goods post 1765; and finally, many of the printers themselves were immigrants. These transatlantic networks can be further traced in the Printers’ File digital project underway here at AAS. But, for now, let’s focus on the books and their descriptions, first in Lathem’s bibliography and then in our union catalog.

As I have written about in more general terms previously, the North American Imprints Program (NAIP), a comprehensive catalog of books, pamphlets, and broadsides before 1820, offers us a chance to turn Lathem’s bibliography into data that we can analyze. As mentioned above, AAS catalogers have recently added Lathem numbers to NAIP, and we can now pull out records that have Lathem citations. This is not to suggest, however, that there is a direct relationship between NAIP and Lathem. In fact, there are 218 entries in Lathem, and 122 of these could be matched with a NAIP record. The remainder—96 of the Lathem entries—could not be matched with a record because, as he notes throughout his bibliography, “no copy is known.” Many of these are what bibliographers refer to as “ghosts”; that is, they are books that never actually existed, but for which bibliographers have made erroneous entries. Lathem frankly describes the possibility of such unknowns as “One of the most annoying of the bibliographer’s problems” (40) given how difficult it is to take a “conclusive stand” (41). Some of Lathem’s ghosts have been laid to rest, so that if he were doing this work fifty years later, he would not have included them in his bibliography. Other entries describe books that may in fact have existed, but for which there is no known extant copy; NAIP creates entries only for titles for which at least one copy is known to exist. On the other hand, there were seven imprints that Lathem could not identify that since 1961, have been identified and are in NAIP. These include: Richard Cumberland’s plays, The Fashionable Lover (1773) and The West Indian (1772); Robert Dodsley’s The Art of Preaching (1762); Robert Hitchcock’s  The Macaroni (1774); George Alexander Stevens’s The Celebrated Lecture on Heads (not after 1775); John Taylor’s Verbum Sempiternum (ca. 1774); and Isaac Watt’s A Wonderful Dream (1785?), about which I’ll say more in a moment. The other discrepancy that occurs when Lathem numbers are entered in the NAIP records is one of de-duplication: a single record might cite more than one Lathem number because Lathem erroneously identifies two different editions we now know to be a single edition and therefore are described in a single NAIP record.

From the Lathem bibliography then, 114 NAIP records have been changed. By extracting the Machine Readable Catalog Records (MARC) from NAIP and converting them into a spreadsheet, we can begin to analyze Lathem’s data, and perhaps the production of early American literature, in new ways. Here, for example is a look at the progression of publication in these decades:

Figure 1. Publication Decades of “English Verse & Literary Prose in America before 1776”

The rate of publication increases with time, as we might expect, but note the outlier: there appears to be a publication from the 1780s, at least four years after Lathem’s end date of 1776. The imprint in question is the aforementioned A Wonderful Dream by Isaac Watts. The NAIP record tells us that according to Hazel Johnson’s Checklist of New London, Connecticut, Imprints, 1709-1800the book was most likely printed in 1785, not in 1766 as Lathem supposes in entry 211, or in 1770 as he supposes in entry 214. Johnson’s Checklist was published sixteen years after Lathem completed his work, and so the discrepancy between Lathem and NAIP, or put another way, between Lathem and the data, reveals an important bibliographic revision that has taken place since Lathem completed his work. It is worth noting that Roger P. Bristol’s Evans’ American Bibliography: Supplement would not be completed until a year after Lathem’s dissertation, and so Bristol’s updates are also missing.

The places of publication of early American verse and literary prose have no such outliers, but they do invite a new set of questions:

Figure 2. Publication Places of “English Verse & Literary Prose in America before 1776”

Why, for example, does Philadelphia so significantly outweigh the other cities? Sure, it was a publishing hub in its day, but so were Boston and New York. What was going on in Philadelphia that made it such a comparative hotbed of literary production? The answer, when one looks into the NAIP records and/or Lathem’s bibliography, is quite simple: Robert Bell, Scottish emigre by way of Dublin, who reproduced and sold literary works with a frequency, if not to say fervor, as yet unknown in the colonial markets. Bell was also unique in that his reprinting focused, though was not entirely limited to, plays. Most other reprints were of poetry, as this breakdown of genre illustrates.

Figure 3. Genres of “English Verse & Literary Prose in America before 1776”

Of the 114 records, NAIP identifies 64 poems or collections of poems, 9 novels, 19 plays, and 22 “other.” These others include multiple editions of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Isaac Watts’s Hymnal, and satires including George Alexander Stevens’s Lecture on Heads (1767).

Please find the  spreadsheet of NAIP records with Lathem numbers here. You can download it to see how I came up with these charts and to ask different questions of the data.** It is also worth noting that NAIP contains references to over one hundred other bibliographies, which can be found by searching “Bibliography Citation Keyword” in the General Catalog keyword search.


*I would like to thank Giles Bergel in particular for his help securing a copy of the Lathem Introduction.

**Genres are not included in the spreadsheet because, as I have presented elsewhere, extracting genre from catalog records is not a straightforward matter. The basic genre terms I use for figure 3 were added after the catalog record data pull.

Put on your hard hats (and thinking caps)!

The Rijksmuseum’s construction version of Rembrandt’s oil on canvas, “The Night Watch.” Rembrandt, Harmenszoon van Rijn. 1642. Night watch. (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Recreated image by Boomerang Create, creative-community agency.

When the Rijksmuseum was being renovated over a decade ago, I received a postcard featuring a spirited version of Rembrandt’s oil on canvas, “The Night Watch.” I found the playfulness of the image, an icon for the famous museum in Amsterdam jazzed up with construction equipment, so compelling that I kept it. An article appearing in the Boston Globe just before this year’s Superbowl also demonstrates that this experimentation with collection items doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to construction projects. Throwing shade (or highlights, drop shadow, whatever image-effect you prefer) is a fitting response for any number of special occasions!

In the September 2016 issue of the Society’s newsletter the Almanac, we announced our building expansion and renovation project. The new “face” of AAS will include a three-story, 7,000-square-foot addition to Antiquarian Hall, as well as a multipurpose room (for workshops, seminars, and class visits), expanded and renovated infrastructure (including climate-controlled storage in the older stacks) and a new conservation lab. When the Society announced the groundbreaking event (taking place on April 27) for this upcoming work to Antiquarian Hall, and we were in the market for an image for the “Save the Date” email, I pulled out the Rijksmuseum postcard and we brainstormed some distinctively AAS images.

We here at AAS can be, on the whole, a group of purists. Rarely will you find any of us cranking up Photoshop to retouch/enhance/alter any of our collection items digitally. Having spent a decade working with digital surrogates and permissions, for instance, I would be the first to tut-tut suggestions of post-processing. We felt in this case, however, it was in good fun and has received the blessing of the curator of graphic arts, Lauren Hewes, whose curatorial collection was unabashedly ransacked for this project.

Can I park my Caterpillar on Regent Street?

Former AAS President Waldo Lincoln’s photographs, currently stored scrapbook-style in the Society’s archives, provide an unparalleled opportunity to look at visual documentation of the construction of the third AAS building in 1909 and 1910. Here presented with tractors and backhoes (and an odd tool or two), is an early view of Antiquarian Hall from Park Avenue.

This site under construction 

The dome also proves to be an easily recognized visual of Society-structure, so we experimented with another Waldo Lincoln photograph, this time in the reading room with the early twentieth-century assembly of the tapered columns of marble that flank the alcoves and some workers (one of whom now dons a cross-over safety harness).

Nothing to see here

My personal choice is the remake of the “Laying of the cornerstone, 1909” by Wohlbruck Studio with Charles Francis Adams (right front in photograph) delivering his address with President Waldo Lincoln (of photojournalist-glory, see above two images) leaning beside him. However, I am retitling it, “Laying of the new state-of-the-art-infrastructure, 2017.”

Remember the ladies

The third building was easily the one most-documented during its construction, but the second building boasts an impressive archive of photographs as well. This image of AAS cataloger Mary Robinson Reynolds and an unknown assistant cataloger was possibly photographed by Society treasurer (and master scrapbook-assembler himself) Nathaniel Paine. Pinned to the wall is the construction update report prepared by Pinck & Co., the company acting as owner’s representative for our current expansion. We imagine the pair here is discussing the plan for shifting many linear-feet of collection material for the forthcoming work.

Can you hear me now?

John Foster’s second state of the woodcut of Richard Mather (ca. 1670), which is considered the first portrait print produced in America, is another emblematic and oft-reproduced AAS image. We’ve replaced the small eye-glasses in his right hand with a pair of safety glasses and included a set of cap mount ear muffs (heavyweight, of course).

All work and no play makes John a dull governor

Another top choice was the anonymous oil on canvas (ca. 1630/1691) portrait of John Winthrop, an early Massachusetts Bay governor, which has surveyed AAS researchers since it was bequested to the Society in 1830. The painting is often the subject of comment by art historians for its skillfully painted hands. During construction we’ll be sure to keep them covered with a pair of Dewalt gloves.

The Man and his plans

Hands-down (gloved or not) the image most associated with AAS is the Ethan Allen Greenwood oil on panel portrait of founder Isaiah Thomas done in June 1818, which currently hangs near the Society’s entrance (overlooking the reception desk); Thomas sat six times for this painting. We may revisit this lively portrait over the course of construction, but for this first iteration, in addition to his safety hat, caution tape, and scaffolding, we’ve swapped his published History of Printing (1810) with the prospective exterior façade rendering done by Samuel Anderson Architects in June of 2016.

Now primed with all these improvement-inspired-images, we hope you will consider joining us for the groundbreaking (and celebration!) of the expansion and renovation of Antiquarian Hall, which will be on Thursday, April 27, at 4:00 p.m. We will continue to post details on social media and on our website!

Now in Print from the AAS Community

Every quarter at AAS we release a list of publications by those who have researched at the library as fellows, members, or readers. To see the full list, 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!

Dillon, Elizabeth Maddock and Michael J. Drexler, editors. The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. (Dillon: AAS-NEH Fellow, 2010-11; AAS member)

Dun, James Alexander. Dangerous Neighbors: Making the Haitian Revolution in Early America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. (Tracy Fellow, 2014-15)

Howell, William Huntting and Megan Walsh, editors. The Garies and Their Friends. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2016. (NeMLA Fellows, 2013.)

O’Connell, James C. Dining Out in Boston: A Culinary History. Hanover, University Press of New England, 2017.

Branson, Susan. “Phrenology and the Science of Race in Antebellum America.” Early American Studies 15 (2017): 164-193. (Peterson Fellow, 2011-12)

Bruchac, Margaret. “Hill Town Touchstone: Reconsidering William Apess and Colrain, Massachusetts.” Early American Studies 14 (2016): 712-748. (AAS member)

Fielder, Brigitte. “‘Those people must have loved her very dearly’: Interracial Adoption and Radical Love in Antislavery Children’s Literature.” Early American Studies 14.4 (2016): 749-780. (CHAViC Fellow, 2011-12)

Martinko, Whitney. “Byles versus Boston: Historic Houses, Urban Development, and the Public Good in an Improving City.” Massachusetts Historical Review 19 (2016): 119-152. (CHAViC Fellow, 2009-10; Hench Fellow, 2015-16)

Reed, Peter P. “The Life and Death of Anna Gardie: American Theater, Refugee Dramas, and the Specter of Haitian Revolution.” Early American Literature 51 (2016): 623-652. (NeMLA Fellow, 2007-08 and 2010-11)

Weyler, Karen A. and Michelle Burnham. “Reanimating Ghost Editions, Reorienting the Early American Novel.” Early American Literature 51 (2016): 655-664. (Weyler: Botein Fellow, 1995-96; Burnham: ASECS Fellow, 2011-12)

Unique Jacksoniana: An Extra-Illustrated Life

An earlier blog post mentioned that work was underway on an online resource about the Jacksonian Era at AAS featuring highlights from the William C. Cook Jacksonian Era collection. To whet your appetite in the weeks leading up to its debut we will be telling you about a few one-of-a-kind items from that collection. Today we feature an extra-illustrated copy of A Brief and Impartial History of the Life and Actions of Andrew Jackson.

Title page of the extra-illustrated volume.

Now, you may well be wondering just what makes a book extra-illustrated (also sometimes referred to as Grangerized, named for the Brit who popularized the practice in the eighteenth century). Imagine you hold in your hands a copy of the 1831 campaign biography, A Brief and Impartial History of the Life and Actions of Andrew Jackson. Now imagine yourself carefully razoring out each individual leaf of the entire text—all 210 pages, i.e. 105 two-sided leaves. Why on earth would anyone do such a thing? Well, an unknown nineteenth-century individual did so in order to create his or her own personalized book crafted around the skeleton of the original biography’s printed text. This person carefully inlayed the cut-out printed pages from the original book’s octavo volume (roughly the size of a small paperback today) into folio sheets of paper (roughly the size of a current coffee-table book). The effect is such that the text appears as a window centered within wide margins on the oversized page. If you’re curious just how this was done, the Huntington Library did an excellent time-lapsed one-minute video showing the process as part of their 2013 exhibition, Illuminated Palaces: Extra-Illustrated Books from the Huntington Library.

One of the interleaved illustrations in the volume.

But our compiler (or book-destroyer, depending on how you look at it) was not satisfied with first cutting apart and then beefing up the size of A Brief and Impartial History of the Life and Actions of Andrew Jackson. Interspersed between every few leaves of text we also find extra illustrations. Plates, or separately printed sheets of illustrations, have been taken from other publications and bound into our new folio-sized volume, interleaved between the pages of cut-out text in a beautifully tooled and gilt binding with blue silk paste-downs. Among the images are Rachel Jackson, Cherokee and Choctaw chiefs, Nashville and Washington, D.C., just about every portrait of Jackson you can think of, and more. Most relate to, or comment on, the pages of text they now neighbor.

The gilt cover of the volume.

A few words might be in order here about the printed text this book is built around. A Brief and Impartial History of the Life and Actions of Andrew Jackson is only described on the title page as written “by a free man” but has been attributed to William Joseph Snelling. Despite its title claim to be “impartial,” the text is decidedly anti-Jacksonian (though not as vitriolic as others) as evidenced in the book’s penultimate paragraph, which concludes: “The rest of Mr. Jackson’s statement does not agree with the record.” Though many people would have had access to Snelling’s original publication, this particular volume now at AAS is a print mash-up that has essentially become a unique item of exponentially more value to researchers.

(N.B.: All the volumes in the William C. Cook Jacksonian Era Collection are available to researchers now in person at AAS and can be identified using the collection name when searching the general catalog.)

The 2015-16 Annual Report is now available!

This year is shaping up to be a big one for the Society, heading into the groundbreaking for the renovation and new addition to Antiquarian Hall in April. As part of that forward-looking process, we’ve also begun to refine how we share the mission and work of the Society. One of the first steps we’ve undertaken is to rethink our annual report to ensure that it reflects the full range of work accomplished and the vibrancy of the programs presented by AAS. This year’s report, covering September 1, 2015, to August 31, 2016, provides an update about every department, from cataloging to conservation to programming to readers’ services, touching on the myriad ways that the Society continues grow, preserve, and share its collections with an ever-widening audience. Take a moment to see what we’ve been up to and read the full issue here!

Reading into Valentines

“True Love” with Piper. Worcester: Esther Howland, ca. 1860. Stamped “H/15”

This semester, AAS is partnering with a class from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, as students there learn about the production and popularity of valentines in America. In an upper level colloquium, Professor Laura Kalba and her students are exploring the connections between nineteenth-century print ephemera and the ephemerality of images in the digital era. “Be My Valentine. Ephemera, Ephemerality, and Affect from the Victorian Era to Today” includes two visits to the Antiquarian Society—I will lead one, and the second will be taught by Nan Wolverton, our director of CHAViC—and a classroom visit by AAS Digital Humanities Curator Molly O’Hagan Hardy. The final product will be a student-produced Omeka exhibition on the AAS website.

Trade card for George Whitney, Fine Valentines, Worcester, ca. 1875.

In my role as curator of graphic arts, I was asked to lead the first Worcester session, which is intended to immerse the students in original material.  Since we are fast approaching Valentine’s Day, it seemed appropriate to share with a broader audience some of the material I pulled to use with the class. Professor Kalba asked AAS to expose the students to multiple types of ephemera to give them a broader perspective.  They will see trade cards for valentine manufacturers and invitations for winter balls and parties. I pulled out examples of flirtation, or escort, cards—small-format ephemeral pieces that skirted social norms of the era by allowing strangers to connect. Broadsides for Valentine’s Day events and activities, like the notice for an 1850 fundraiser (which included oysters and hot coffee) in New Hampshire, combined with illustrations from periodicals like Harper’s Weekly, will help the students build context for the main attraction of the session: the historic valentines themselves.

Escort cards, ca. 1880-1900

Valentine Festival, Lebanon, New Hampshire, 1850.

“St. Valentine’s Day 1864,” Harpers Weekly, February 20, 1864.

Elizabeth R. Comstock to her sister Martha W. Comstock Chapin, Smithfield, Rhode Island, ca. 1840. It includes a lock of Elizabeth’s hair.

AAS has a collection of three thousand American and European valentines sold in America. The students will have remote access to several subgroups of the collections, which have been cataloged on a collection level and fully digitized, including 139 manuscript valentines, several three-dimensional boxed valentines, and over 150 nineteenth-century comic valentines. This digital access is ideal for long-distance learning and will be integral to the development of the Omeka exhibition, but during their visit to the Society the students will be able to view the actual cards and notes. This includes a handwritten missive with a lock of the sender’s hair; a fancy 1860s boxed valentine that retailed for $1 and was made in Worcester by Esther Howland, the Mother of the American Valentine; and a comic, or vinegar, valentine published in New York. By comparing and contrasting the themes, printing methods, physicality, and sentiments of each of these objects, the students will begin to form themes and conclusions to use in their online exhibition.

Three-dimensional boxed paper valentine. Worcester: Esther Howland, ca. 1860s.

Lady Killer. New York: Alfred J. Fisher, ca. 1875.

This collaborative project will take place over the next several months and we hope to report our progress here on Past is Present, so stay tuned for updates.  Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day from the American Antiquarian Society!

The Acquisitions Table: Sermons by Joseph Avery, 1773-1777

Joseph Avery, Sermons, 1773-1777

The Society already had several collections relating to Joseph Avery, a minister in Holden from 1774 until his death in 1824, before acquiring these fifty-seven sermons. In addition to our Holden, Massachusetts, records, which contain some Avery correspondence, we have a collection of records from Holden’s First Congregational Church, where Avery was pastor. We also have the diaries of Avery’s daughter, Mary Avery White, and granddaughter, Caroline Barrett White. One of the sermons in this collection, which were all delivered during Revolutionary activity between 1773 and 1777, stands out for its revolutionary rhetoric. Referring to recent acts of Parliament, Avery writes: “After the last war was over, the greatest harmony + peace subsisted between Brittain + her colonies till those at helm in Britain began the fatal business of taxation upon the colonies.” If American soldiers did not continue to take up arms against the tyrannous Britains, he said, “farewell the sweets of Liberty…, farewell to domestic happiness, a dreary train of evils will then overtake us.” Recognizing the reality of battle, he wrote, “some of you may be cut off by Death, & never return more…but that you may be excited to prepare for it. You may indeed live all of you to return, + you might have dyed if you had remain’d at home.”