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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
Anyone seeking to better understand the milieu of the 1820s and 30s, during which the first populist American president emerged, would do well to start at AAS. After all, we have been collecting historical material since before the Jacksonian Era began. Recently, though, our collections have become even stronger thanks to the continuing work and generosity of William C. Cook. (An article in the fall 2015 AAS newsletter, the Almanac, described this gift of material about the Jacksonian Era.) Thanks to funding from Mr. Cook to support cataloging the donation, over five hundred recently donated items have all been added to the AAS online catalog and can be found by searching for the phrase “William C. Cook Jacksonian Era Collection.” Mr. Cook is also continuing to fund additions to the collection. Many of the titles are entirely new to AAS and some are known in no other copies. Also included are variant states or different editions of titles already at AAS and secondary works on the Jacksonian Era.
Of particular interest in the context of presidential politics is a significant cache of Jackson biographies. These volumes elucidate the publication history of some of the earliest (and most salacious) American campaign biographies. It is here scholars may turn to find more information about how presidential politics and publication history intersect. Comparing what is omitted, rewritten, and highlighted between various editions can reveal slight but meaningful changes, as is the case with the Jackson biography commenced by John Reid (Jackson’s aide-de-camp) and completed by John Henry Eaton after Reid’s death. First published in 1817, the text was later republished largely line-for-line except for a new preface in 1824 and 1828, not coincidentally election years when Jackson was running. In the first edition, chapter one begins: “The parents of Andrew Jackson were Irish.” In the later editions from the 1820s, the first line was changed to: “Andrew Jackson was born on the 15th day of March, 1767.” Simple enough, but one could argue the first form emphasizes a passively received traditional heritage while the later revision moves Andrew Jackson himself to the fore as the subject actively being born. Perhaps an early example of brand messaging?
And one more thing to note — a president is always important, but it’s the people that make the American story. AAS collections support the study not just of Andrew Jackson himself, but also of the entire Jacksonian Era (and beyond). Subjects that can be studied using the William C. Cook Jacksonian Era Collection and other AAS collection material include slaveholding and race relations, Native Americans’ legal relationship to the American land, the United States banking system, geographic political divisions of the United States, and more. To promote these sources now available at AAS, the Society will soon debut an online resource on the Jacksonian Era at AAS, featuring highlights from the William C. Cook Jacksonian Era Collection. Stay tuned for more!
In 1858, John Woodhouse Audubon, son of John James Audubon, set out to recreate the success of his father’s work Birds of America, published in 1838 with four hundred large, hand-colored engravings. John Woodhouse partnered with lithographer Julius Bien and the publishing firm of Roe, Lockwood & Company to create a less-expensive set than the Lizars/Havell edition. (The story of how AAS missed out on the 1838 plates was told in a previous blog post.) John Woodhouse Audubon solicited subscribers for the $500 set, costing half the price of the 1838 set. Since the Audubon family still owned the copper plates used in 1838, they were given to Bien to transfer to lithographic stone. Each plate still required at least six color stones, making the project expensive and cumbersome. The timing of the project was unfortunate as well. America was on the brink of the Civil War, and by the time the first volume came out in 1860, subscribers had started to back out of the project, and others, especially in the South, were unreachable. Only 15 parts of the anticipated 45 were produced, and most were bound in a large, one-volume set, containing 150 images on 105 sheets. Because of the small number produced (an estimated 75–100), this “Bien edition” of Birds of America is considered rarer than the 1838 edition. It is estimated that today, only seventeen bound sets still exist.
In 2012, AAS was given a copy of this extremely rare bound edition of Bien’s Birds of America. Longtime lithograph collector Jay T. Last generously donated his copy to the library in honor of the retirement of curator emerita Georgia B. Barnhill. The large, heavy volume requires a custom-built cradle to be viewed and two people to transport it. Because of this, the entire volume was digitized and described, and is now available to view as an illustrated inventory using the Omeka platform. The site is keyword-searchable, and tags make it easy to find like birds, as well as other documented items in the plates such as nests and landscapes. The resources page links to other related items in the AAS collections, including a salesman’s sample for the 1870 octavo volumes that accompany the plates. Enjoy!
Last year on Past is Present we featured a series of interviews with AAS fellows in order to showcase their thoughts about writing history and work with the AAS collections. This year we’ve decided that, instead of transcribing those interviews, we will make them available as podcasts. This will let our readers (and now listeners) hear all the nuances that are present only in the spoken word. Anyone looking for a new history podcast will want to subscribe to these half-hour interviews.
For our first interview of the new year, we’re featuring Denise Miller, who has just completed a Charlotte and Robert Baron fellowship at the Society. Denise is a teacher, poet, activist, and chef who’s based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and also the American Book Award. Denise’s current project is called Travelogos: African Americans and the Struggle for Safe Passage. In addition to the podcast, we’ve also included a few bonus poems from Denise, which you can find below. Both are Pushcart-nominated poems, the first, “Libations,” from her first book CORE and the second, “Dear Spectators,” from her newest book Ligatures.
You can listen to this podcast on at the top of this post or subscribe to it through iTunes. Stay tuned for much more from the Past is Present podcast!
“Libations” from CORE
“Dear Spectators” from Ligatures
‘Tis the season for holiday traditions and rituals – and for social media posts like this one that try to give some historical perspective to why we celebrate the way we do. So many holidays cluster around the winter solstice, such as Christmas and Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve (or Saturnalia or your basic pagan winter solstice festival of lights). For many of us, these are closely tied to personal identity, family history, and religious belief and trying to suss out the historical details of how these holidays were first celebrated and how they have changed over the years can leave us as twisted up and frustrated as trying to straighten out tangled strings of lights. Whether lighting menorahs or hanging stockings, it’s interesting to stop and ask ourselves: Why am I doing this? Who was the first person to do this? What have these traditions meant in the past and why were they passed down to me?
If you’re looking for the origins of how Hanukkah is celebrated in the U.S. you’ll want to head to the mid-nineteenth century. The holiday itself, of course, has been celebrated for centuries; it commemorates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C. (Syrian-Greek oppressors had desecrated the temple in an attempt to encourage assimilation but the Maccabean Revolt restored Jewish access to the temple). Jewish families had been established in North America for centuries as well, but the Jewish population in what became the U.S. was clustered in small pockets scattered throughout the country and the Hanukkah celebration was a relatively minor holiday (it is not mandated in Scripture). In a wave of migration starting in the 1840s, German Jews in particular brought with them a European tradition of celebrating a secularized Christmas. As Christmas grew in cultural (and commercial) importance in America through the mid-nineteenth century, the close chronological proximity of Hanukkah to Christmas — and the fact that both holidays have been referred to at various points in history as the “Feast of Lights” — proved a flashpoint for questions about distinctiveness, assimilation, and reform. (Keep in mind, the intermingling of holiday symbols could go both ways. The day after Christmas in 1876, The Sun described Baltimore’s local German churches’ celebrations as a mixture of holiday traditions: “Illuminated Christmas trees were conspicuous in all” the churches, and one “exhibited a stand used by the Hebrews at the celebration of the Chanukaw [sic], or Feast of Lights.”) The transitional period of the mid-nineteenth was significant not just for how American Jews celebrated Hanukkah; it is a less well-known but nonetheless key pivot point in the American Jewish experience in general.
American Judaica, 1841-1876 is a new online resource focusing on the middle years of the nineteenth century in the American Jewish experience, using items printed during those years in fresh new ways. Featured selections include about sixty written and visual examples, a geographic mapping of some of the Jewish institutional publications held at AAS, and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Judaica materials that the Society’s curators have been adding recently. The project is an outcome of the work on AAS’s later Judaica holdings done by intern Claire Jones in the summer of 2016 as part of the Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) program with funding generously provided by AAS chairman, Sid Lapidus. (You can read more about her research process and discoveries in a series of entertaining blog posts posted earlier here in Past is Present.)
Why focus on the middle of the nineteenth century? Rather than an origin story of the first Jewish this or that, or being understood only as a precursor for the present day, focusing on the mid-nineteenth century can expose a distinct perspective all its own.
For instance, searching AAS’s newspapers for mid-nineteenth century Hanukkah celebrations reveals rather unexpected geographic centers for American Judaism, such as Ohio. In the popular imagination, Jewish American life is often tied to New York City — after all, that is where the first Jews settled in the 1650s and where great waves of immigrants arrived starting in the 1880s. However, it was in Cincinnati in 1860 that Isaac Wise published a romanticized story based on the Maccabean Revolt in his national Jewish magazine, The Israelite. Also, in a quick search of digitized non-Jewish newspapers, the earliest reference to specific celebrations of the holiday in their local Jewish community was from Cleveland, Ohio: a notice of the beginning of Hanukkah in the December 8, 1860 issue of Plain Dealer. Other early mentions of the holiday appeared in 1868 in Jackson, Michigan, in 1869 in Boston, Massachusetts, and in 1874 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Besides rearranging our mental map of American Judaism, focusing on mid-nineteenth century American celebrations of Hanukkah highlight different aspects besides the trappings of dreidel, gelt, and latke. Hanukkah celebrations provided an opportunity for Jewish Americans to publicly proclaim their identity with lighted menorahs to be displayed in each household’s front window, and in the mid-nineteenth century one first begins to find mentions of the holiday being celebrated in non-Jewish newspapers. Among the characteristics emphasized in these accounts were the “hilarity” of the holiday, its focus on charity and civic mindedness, and the perseverance of Jewish identity.
In its November 30, 1869 edition, The New York Herald described the Hanukkah festivities in that city and explained the significance to their non-Jewish readers: “The synagogues last evening were splendidly lighted and adorned with wreaths and garlands. On the reading pulpit were placed candlesticks with candles… Thanks were said, hymns psalms and praises were sung, and the occasion generally celebrated with great hilarity publicly in the synagogues as also privately within the family circle.” The importance of the holiday to “our Hebrew fellow-citizens” was emphasized in an article in The Critic (Washington, DC) on December 12, 1871, as well as the charitable giving associated with the holiday: “This feast is one of sacrifice and love, and one on which the more fortunate members of the Hebrew Church make contributions for the relief of their less fortunate brethren.” The Galveston Tri-Weekly News (Galveston, Texas) for December 8, 1871, provided a lengthy description of the historical events commemorated and how Hanukkah was celebrated, adding “such it has been kept through dispersion, during persecution, and alive yet on the present day.”
For more interesting developments in Hanukkah celebrations in the U.S. after 1876 — one of the most striking being Maccabean pageant the “The Grand Revival of the National Holiday of Chance” by Young Men’s Hebrew Association in 1879 — see Dianne Ashton’s Hanukkah in America: A History [catalog record]. We hope you will also enjoy American Judaica, 1841-1876.
Online searching has undoubtedly revolutionized information gathering. Census rolls, vital records, family trees, and genealogies are among the familiar, much-used digital resources at our fingertips free of charge in the Society’s reading room. A lesser utilized treasure trove of information is held in the Society’s collection of printed college and school catalogs. These “catalogs” were issued annually and often listed the names and city of origin of its students and faculty. Many of these names—nearly three quarters of a million of them—have been indexed in the Student, Teacher and Trustee Database Project, 1800-1900, freely accessible on the AAS website.
AAS member Richard P. Morgan saw the research value in indexing student and faculty names and has made this database his mission. Always striving to improve the online presentation and functionality of the database, Rich will periodically call upon me to tweak the search or results interface pages. Recently, in the midst of testing an update, I searched for a name that popped into my head—“Aaron Scott.” It’s the name of my great-grandfather, a Connecticut Valley tobacco farmer born in the 1860s. I was surprised when four results from the 1850s for an Aaron Scott of North Hadley, Massachusetts, appeared. I was well aware of this Aaron Scott—the uncle after whom my own great-grandfather was named. Stories of this beloved uncle and the circumstance of his death as a Civil War soldier have long loomed large in our family lore. I had no idea, however, that this son of a farming family had the opportunity to attend Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, from 1850 to 1851, and Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, from 1854 to 1857, as the database now showed me.
During the Atlanta campaign on August 2, 1864, Aaron Scott, having suffered a serious wound to his face, was lying on his bunk reading his Bible when he was struck by a bullet. An account of the event, recorded in a history of his regiment, describes Scott’s refusal of whiskey; he preferred to sip cold water. His dramatic passing was recorded as having a profound effect on the other soldiers. This tragic end is really all that our family had remembered about Uncle Aaron, but his educational background does help explain how, at the time of his enlistment, he was a teacher in charge of the agricultural department of the Reform School at Chicago. Without the indexing provided by the Student, Teacher and Trustee Database Project, the knowledge of Aaron Scott’s education and experience as a student would have most likely have remained a missing piece of his story.
 History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment: Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Edited by Charles A. Partridge. Chicago: Brown, Pettibone, printers, 1887.
One year from now AAS will be opening the exhibition Radiant with Color and Light: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858-1920 at the Grolier Club in New York. The show will feature nearly two hundred books, games, watercolors, toys, and ephemera, all produced by the McLoughlin Bros. firm and their contemporaries. The Society’s curators and conservators have been hard at work planning the show since 2013 and, in recent weeks, have begun to lay out the installation in preparation for the construction of book cradles, mattes, frames, and other display elements, as well as the writing of exhibition labels, all work that is slated for early 2017.
This month, appropriately, we decided to focus on a section of the show devoted to Christmas. McLoughlin Bros. are well known for hiring American illustrator Thomas Nast to create images for the popular poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas), which was issued in multiple editions starting around 1869. After 1870, the firm was very invested in the holiday, issuing numerous books and toys focused on Christmas, Santa, and winter activities, all intended to tempt children and parents into purchasing McLoughlin products for Christmas and New Year’s gift giving. During the object selection process last year, Children’s Literature Curator Laura Wasowicz and I pulled dozens of examples of holiday books offered by the firm, with titles ranging in date from 1863 to 1927.
We were looking for outstanding examples to feature at the Grolier Club, a society of bibliophiles passionate about fine bindings, rare books, book history, and book production. We laid all the volumes out on our work table and both of us were struck by a unifying characteristic shared by the holiday titles. They had been, in the words of the curator, “very nearly read to death.” Heavily dog-eared, creased, soiled, stained, and torn, the books were often actually limp from overuse. One tattered copy of the 1869 title Santa Claus and His Works, for example, had been sewn, taped, and glued by previous owners in an attempt to keep the pages together (fortunately, we also have a pristine copy). Overall though, the holiday books showed more wear and tear than any of the other 150 titles that we had examined for other sections of the show. What to do? Could they travel? Would we be embarrassed to show them in the august halls of the Grolier Club?
As with many problems, this one was solved with a compromise. Any title too damaged to travel or be displayed was rejected out of hand (although some will be photographed for the catalog that will accompany the exhibition). Then we met with our head conservator and explained that we wanted to show the wear on these books in order to allow them to represent the popularity of the titles with their young readers. She agreed and we worked together to isolate those well-loved titles with the most structural integrity. In the end, we selected fourteen books and games for the Christmas section and feel confident that they will reflect well on both the McLoughlin Bros. and on AAS, while also providing indisputable evidence of repeated and enthusiastic readings by excited children. We’ll have more updates about the progress of the McLoughlin exhibition as we move forward in the months ahead.
Every year during the rush of holiday shopping, laments can be heard about the commercialization of Christmas and the overt consumerism visible everywhere. But as we’ve posted before, this trend is not really as new as many people might think. The second half of the nineteenth century was bursting with ads, images, and even games and music about consumption.
A favorite example that we’ve pulled out for programs on several occasions is this piece of 1870 sheet music titled “Father Will Settle the Bill.” In it, the singer takes a jaunt through a store, first buying a dress, then a bonnet, followed by a ring and gaiters. The lace and fan she sees on her way out she prudently puts off until tomorrow. She puts each purchase on her father’s tab, insisting that he will settle the bill. A spry waltz in a major key, the tune is meant to be light and funny, a satirical take on an everyday middle-class occurrence. Flip through the music to read all of the lyrics:
Music in the nineteenth century was a very popular entertainment in the home, performed most commonly on a piano accompanied by vocals. A song such as this—the nineteenth-century version of pop music—would have been mixed in among more classical and operatic selections and would have provided an element of fun and humor.
But lest we think that the topic was only a stereotype without any basis in fact, other items in our collections intimate that there was a level of truth behind it. An 1827 daybook from Ainsworth and Smith, a general store in East Westminster, Vermont, includes several entries of girls buying articles for themselves and placing it on their fathers’ tabs. Among the entries for June 11, for example, is one for Robert Ladd that includes side combs, calico, and tea “for daughter.” Beneath that entry is another for Moses Bailey, whose daughter purchased a skein of blue thread. Today it may be a credit card belonging to either parent, rather than the father’s store account, but the story remains a familiar one.
Nor is the choice of topic for the song unrelated to modern pop music. Madonna’s “Material Girl” follows a similar track to “Father Will Settle the Bill,” except that she expects her lover to pay, rather than her father. On the flip side, Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” is still about buying all of the clothes, shoes, and jewelry they want, but now being able to do so on their own account, without the help of a man footing the bill. From the male perspective, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” takes a different approach, humorously bragging about how stylish they can be while spending as little money as possible. And those are just to name a few examples.
The constant bargain-hunting, jostling of crowds, and expense of holiday shopping can be demoralizing, but crank up (or try playing) one of these tunes, and your last-minute shopping experience will suddenly seem more cheerful.
Kathleen Major has been volunteering in the Manuscripts Department at AAS for several years and just recently processed the diaries of nineteenth-century serviceman, adventurer, and housekeeper Frank Nash. Kathy worked at AAS from 1976 to 1984 and was Keeper of Manuscripts for a portion of that time. After leaving the Society to care for her children, Kathy worked at the Gale Free Library in Holden, most recently as head of technical services, until her retirement in 2014.
Francis Alvarez Hartley Nash (1834-1898), the son of a farmer in Abington, Massachusetts, was determined to seek a life of adventure—and he did exactly that—before settling down to help his wife keep house.
In fourteen volumes of diaries, kept from 1852-1867, Nash tells us that he joined the United States Navy at age eighteen and was assigned to the store ship Supply, which was part of Commodore Matthew Perry’s famous Black Ships Cruise to Japan, a type of gunboat diplomacy to open trade—forcibly if necessary—with Japan.
The experience proved to be insufficient adventure for Frank Nash. Although he had a wife and three children, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard when the Civil War began. Because he deemed the pay insufficient, he quickly decided to rejoin the Navy and participate in the blockade of Southern ports. Nash later joined the 38th Massachusetts Infantry, but, due to a gap in the diaries, we don’t know why Nash decided to fight in the land war instead of the Navy. He also participated in the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. Finally, in July 1865, he was sent home to his family and life as a bookkeeper in Abington, Massachusetts.
The fourteen volumes of Nash’s diaries contain wonderful descriptions of life at sea during the Black Ships cruise, life in China and Japan (where Nash hired a courtesan), and Perry’s success with the Japanese. While home in Abington he wrote of his devotion to Unitarian Universalism, his family, and abolitionism and the Union (at one point contributing money to help a father free his son from slavery). He was also a progressive who helped his wife with housekeeping and child care and “had no doubt that woman’s sphere will be greatly changed in 20 years from now , and without their losing their feminine traits of character, of mildness, gentleness, and loveliness.”
Nash’s diaries are a remarkably descriptive account of both family life in the mid-nineteenth century and a life of adventure during a turbulent time. Molly McCarthy says in The Accidental Diarist that keeping a diary became so popular and so common as to be a “national pursuit” for Americans in the nineteenth century, and it is true that diaries from this period abound (AAS has over 240 in its collection). But the record of each unique life details an individual world that can never be reduced to generalizations.
A few weeks ago, a post shared the final cut of a short film depicting a young Isaiah Thomas learning about the legal indenture that bound him to his apprenticeship. As explained in the post, that film is part of a larger project that aims to create an interactive educational website inspired by AAS’s one-man theater performance Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer. We now have a fully working prototype of the segment of the site that explores Isaiah’s indenture, designed by Digital Gizmo, and we’re excited to share it here!
This segment, or module, called “Becoming a Printer,” features all of the components that will comprise each of the six modules of the full site. After viewing the film, the user is able to explore the indenture document interactively through zooming features, transcriptions, and clickable hotspots that provide information about the physical document and its textual content. The indenture is further contextualized through related primary sources, links, and lesson plans. We are also in the early development stages of creating a game centered on setting type. Once the site is completed, each module will use this format to examine a different primary source document of significance to Isaiah and the nation.
Please take a moment to do your own exploration of this first module, and let us know what you think!
John L. Magee. The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champion’s Belt. New York, 1851.
This lithographed cartoon depicts two women in bloomer costume preparing for a fight. One stands at center, ready to box, while the second sits on a man’s knee and hides her face. The
cartoon was drawn by John Magee of New York and references several 1851 trends. Dress
reform in America was gaining ground at this time after Amelia Bloomer supported the style in
her periodical The Lily. Many leaders in the woman’s suffrage movement were wearing the
loose-fitting pantaloons and tunicsshown in the cartoon and were being lambasted in the press
for doing so. In the caption the standing figure calls out “Where’s Tommy Hyer,” a reference to
the famous bare-knuckle boxer Tom Hyer who retired, much to the disappointment of his fans,
after winning a $10,000 purse in Maryland in 1851. The empty bottles of beer and the jeering
crowd waiting for the fight to start create a very masculine space and it is likely this cartoon, like
many by Magee, was intended for a male audience. The sheet joins the Society’s collection of a
dozen cartoons issued by Magee between 1844 and 1865.
Last week, Dan Boudreau posted about a sword held in the AAS collections that belonged to Fitz-John Winthrop, an early governor of Connecticut and the grandson of the famous John Winthrop—the influential Puritan leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This week, Dan continues the story, focusing on Winthrop’s participation in King William’s War and his connections to the controversial Edmund Andros.
The much-reviled Edmund Andros has an important presence in the events of Fitz-John Winthrop’s life and links Winthrop’s efforts during King William’s war to other critical occurrences that were shaping the course of the war. Born in 1637, Andros had a strongly aristocratic and royalist upbringing that made him the perfect colonial administrator for the Stuart monarchy. By the end of his career, he had served as the governor-general of New England, New York, and Virginia. Like Winthrop, Andros was a military man through and through, and this shared background likely contributed to their friendship. Unlike Winthrop, though, he had no connections to Puritanism, and in fact hated the anti-Stuart sentiment and Calvinist republicanism that New England’s Puritans cultivated in the late seventeenth century.
While twentieth-century biographers make the case that Winthrop was only being dutiful and lawful in supporting Andros and his government, the fact that he was not just compliant but friendly with a man who held such royalist convictions undercuts these types of claims. There is no doubt that Andros and Winthrop had a friendly relationship. When the governments of New York and Connecticut were disputing jurisdiction over the Winthrop family’s Fisher’s Island, Winthrop, despite his affiliation with Connecticut, chose to remain neutral in the affair, and Andros (governor of New York at the time) by all accounts seemed willing to show him some favor. Winthrop was not unhappy when New York won the dispute. On another occasion, Andros gladly confirmed a Winthrop claim to land on Long Island; Winthrop told his brother that “Sr. Edmd. has giuen me a confirmation of ye Indian guift of land on Long Island, & tells me he is ready to doe any thing elce within his power.”
Andros’s notable presence in Winthrop’s life not only complicates Winthrop’s legacy as a proto-Patriot and Puritan, but also helps to contextualize the failed 1690 expedition into Canada. Winthrop’s mission was intended as a response to French and Indian threats in the north, and it was in part modeled upon previous expeditions into the north that were organized by Andros. During King Philip’s War, while governor of New York, Andros sent a force into Maine where they successfully established a critical fort. In 1688, during the early stages of King William’s War, Andros (now governor of the Dominion of New England) led another mission into Maine, this time in response to Abenaki attempts at halting the steady advance of English settlers. Here he would cross paths with Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin, a French military officer who lived among the Abenaki and was tasked with defending the southern border of French Acadia. (Oddly enough, I was recently surprised to learn that I am a descendant of St. Castin: he is my ninth great-grandfather!)
St. Castin was known to the English as a troublemaker, supplying arms to and aiding the attacks of his Abenaki allies—even as he traded furs with Boston’s merchants. Andros, during his 1688 expedition, ransacked St. Castin’s home and took much of his property, including weapons, ammunition, and wine. Oddly, it was what Andros did not touch at the St. Castin property that proved most important: he chose to preserve the Catholic Frenchman’s chapel, and his New England soldiers took notice. When word reached the Puritans of Massachusetts, Andros’s actions were seized upon as further proof of the Catholic leanings so typical of a supporter of the Stuarts. It is not surprising, then, that New Englanders ousted Andros at the first opportunity, provided in April 1689 when news of the Glorious Revolution and the end of the Stuarts reached America. Edmund Andros’s administrative career was not over, however, and he later served as governor of Virginia. He died in London in 1714.
St. Castin’s father-in-law Madockawando, a Penobscot chief, also had dealings with Edmund Andros, and he was not left with a good impression of the English. Despite having made an agreement with the English in 1678, the Abenaki in Maine were finding their crops destroyed by settlers’ livestock, their property rights disregarded, and their complaints ignored. Andros refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of Abenaki grievances and attempted to silence them. Madockawando was furious. With the help of his son-in-law, he began to raid English settlements in the Casco Bay area. Clearly, Andros’s “diplomacy” had failed. It would be misleading, though, to place this failure solely on Edmund’s shoulders: this type of negotiation (or lack thereof) was part and parcel of the English method of dealing with native communities. Typically, representatives of the English colonies showed little regard for native sovereignty and almost no respect for native custom. Instead, they stubbornly insisted on adherence to the colony’s dictates.
In the affiliation between Madockawando and Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin, we see a different type of relationship between colonist and native, one indicative of the French approach. St. Castin was born to nobility in France, but when he relocated to America he was willing to integrate to a degree with native society: he lived among them, respected their customs, and even married a native woman. This was not unusual for French settlers in North America. In large part because of necessity, they were willing to accept native sovereignty and customs. Because of this, the French were able to maintain critical alliances with northern tribes during King William’s War, much to their strategic benefit. Working together, St. Castin and Madockawando launched numerous successful raids on English forts and settlements; Fitz-John Winthrop, perhaps wielding his Ferrara blade, was sent northward in response to these types of attacks.
Clearly, there is a lot to be learned from the stories revealed by this old sword. King William’s War is not often remembered by the wider public, but perhaps it should be: the conflict can tell us a lot about the struggle for power in colonial America that would eventually give way to the birth of this country. In these early conflicts, as with Winthrop and his contemporaries, we see complicated legacies that beg to be scrutinized.
 Winthrop, “Letters of Fitz-John Winthrop,” 286.
You never know what you’ll find while browsing the stacks at AAS. A few years back, when I had just started working at the Society, I stumbled across something unusual in the library basement: a pair of ornate swords, one from the early nineteenth century and the other from the seventeenth century. It was this second, older sword that really intrigued me. I soon learned it was carried by Fitz-John Winthrop, an early governor of Connecticut and the grandson of the famous John Winthrop—the influential Puritan leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Recently, I looked deeper into the history of the sword and its owner and found a remarkable story, one that even involved one of my ancestors (much to my surprise). In fact, the life of Fitz-John Winthrop reveals a web of connected historical figures and their stories, which, taken as a whole, have a lot to say about the struggle for power that took place in the northeast during the late seventeenth century. Taking a closer look at these linked people and events, we can learn a lot about the Native American, French, and English forces that fought for control and survival during King William’s War.
The sword by itself, as an object, can tell us a great deal of Fitz-John Winthrop’s history. The sword has a Scottish Highland basket-hilt and bears the renowned “Andrea Ferrara” name on its blade. While the blade likely dates from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, the hilt was probably added in the early eighteenth century. The age of the blade makes it nearly certain that Winthrop carried the sword as a young man, while serving overseas in the English Civil War. And while the famed Ferrara blades were falling out of favor by the end of the seventeenth century, the early eighteenth-century addition of the hilt indicates that he may have continued to use the sword well past the turn of the century. For this reason, it is very possible that Winthrop was still carrying this sword when he led a failed expedition into Canada during King William’s War in 1690.
While largely forgotten by modern historians, Fitz-John Winthrop was involved in several key moments of seventeenth-century New England history and interacted with powerful figures who shaped the development of the English colonies. Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1638, young Winthrop quickly showed himself to be more of a soldier than a scholar. At age sixteen, he was denied entry into Harvard and left America to fight in the English Civil War shortly thereafter. He served in George Monck’s army and was present in 1660 when Monck used his forces to support the restoration of Charles II. (In an 1888 AAS Proceedings article, it is speculated that his sword “may have been drawn from its scabbard to salute Charles the Second.”) The fact that young Winthrop aided in the restoration of a Stuart monarch is not insignificant, as his later support for the Stuart-appointed New England government under Edmund Andros became a point of controversy.
After his service in the English military, Winthrop eventually returned to America, where he was involved in both the conflict with the Dutch in New York and then King Philip’s War. In 1686, he became a member of the council of the Dominion of New England—the Andros-led government that quickly proved unpopular with the region’s Puritans, who felt it was tainted by the Stuarts’ Catholic leanings. Despite backlash against this government, and despite Winthrop’s strong Puritan heritage, he maintained support for the Dominion and a friendship with Andros. Winthrop cautiously acknowledged the legitimacy of the 1689 revolt that overthrew Andros, but his prior support for the regime casts doubt on later depictions that portray him as a proto-Patriot and Puritan populist. (The 1888 Proceedings article even claims that he “rendered a great service in advance to the cause of the American Revolution.”)
Regardless, Winthrop was not judged too harshly by the people of New England in 1689, and he was given a position in the new Connecticut government. He soon became involved with the growing King William’s War, which pitted the English settlers and their Iroquois allies against the Wabanaki Confederacy and the French. In 1690, New England authorities, in response to threats along the northern border, decided to organize two military expeditions into the heart of enemy territory in Canada. One of these expeditions was to attack Quebec by sea, and the other, led by Winthrop, was to strike at Montreal via Lake Champlain. Both were failures. French forces defeated the English at Quebec, and Winthrop never even made it to Montreal. Overwhelmed by disease and logistical issues, Winthrop was forced to call off the mission near the shores of Lake Champlain. Writing to the Connecticut governor and council, he declared the “designe against Canada poorely contrived & little prosecuted.”
While the New England authorities ultimately agreed that Winthrop could not have succeeded given the circumstances, others were not so forgiving. On his trip back to Connecticut, Winthrop was briefly imprisoned by New York authorities for his conduct during the expedition; he had to be freed by some nearby Mohawk allies. One contemporary commentator declared that Winthrop and William Phips, leader of the Quebec mission, each deserved “a wooden sword” for their failures rather than the credit that New England authorities were granting them. (If Fitz ever did receive this wooden sword, it failed to make its way to the AAS collections!) After the war, Winthrop would continue to serve the Connecticut government, until his death in 1707.
Check back in next week to read Part II, where we will learn more about some of the historical figures connected to Fitz-John Winthrop and King William’s War.
 AAS, April 1888 Proceedings, 155.
 AAS, April 1888 Proceedings, 154.
 Winthrop, “Letters of Fitz-John Winthrop,” 308.
 Quoted in Baker and Reid, The New England Knight, 239.