The Acquisitions Table: The Game Fowl; for the Pit, or the Spit

Burnham, Geo. P. The Game Fowl; for the Pit, or the Spit. Melrose, Mass.: [s.n.], 1877.

509740_0002The frontispiece portrait of the “Earl of Derby” game cock provides a striking starting point to this thorough, and early, survey of American game fowl and their culinary and pugilistic applications. The poultry advice book was copyrighted by George P. Burnham in 1876 as part of his books for poultrymen, a series for which AAS already has the first and second titles. This third title promises to elucidate “how to mate, feed, breed, handle and match them; with practical suggestions as to cures for their peculiar ills and ails.” Included is a directory of suppliers of various breeds of game fowl.

The missing wrapper; or, The unknown dime novel. A tale of cataloging at AAS.

In a post last January about the difficulty of cataloging dime novels, I discussed how much valuable information is lost when a novel no longer has its wrapper (paper cover).  One of the most important kinds of information lost is series information.  Knowing that a novel was in a specific series is one of the best places to start if the novel is missing useful information, like a publication date.  But without wrappers, you’re left with what you can find on the title page and in the text.

Most of the novels I’m cataloging have no wrappers.  They’ve been rebound in volumes containing anywhere from five to seven novels.  The novels aren’t always in any useful order, and sometimes they have novels from multiple publishers in one volume.  In the cataloging office, we joke that the research needed to do the kind of deep cataloging to which we are committed is “forensic cataloging,” and dime novels without wrappers frequently call for my forensic skills.


In one of the volumes I cataloged, I came across a novel called Ida, The Sewing Girl; or, The Convict’s Daughter by Miss Amelia Montague, which was published by G. H. Williams and copyrighted in 1866.  This is enough information to do basic cataloging, but I thought it would be worth a little extra work to see if it was originally published as part of a series.  There were no records in other libraries, and no mention of the novel in a quick Internet search.  Now, I was 95% sure I’d seen G. H. Williams’s name somewhere, but I couldn’t for the life of me think where.  He didn’t appear in any of my dime novel bibliographies, and I couldn’t find anything useful online.  I went to check our collection of loose dime novels, those that aren’t bound together.  Williams was mentioned on the label for the last box as the publisher of Chaney’s Union novels.  The one novel we had in the series had been moved to C for Chaney, and when I looked at it, I saw that it was indeed also published by G. H. Williams.  Now that I had a series, one I knew I’d read about, I went back to my bibliographies.  Of course, I only looked at the front wrapper and didn’t bother looking at any of the advertisements.

Luella_wrapperThe series was in my reference sources, and they pretty much all said that there were only four issues.  The entire description of this series was based only on issue no. 3, which had a list of the previous two novels, and an advertisement for no. 4, Luella; or, The Magic Kiss.  What I had in the bound volume was not one of these four.  But the one we had in wrappers in the stacks, it turned out, was a copy of no. 4, which no one had seen, and I trekked back out into the stacks to look at it again, and finally looked at the advertisement on the back of the wrapper, where it advertised no. 5 in the series (see right).  I almost did a happy dance in the stacks when I saw that it was advertising Ida, the poor, wrapperless novel sitting on my desk.

Since none of the bibliographers had had access to our copy of no. 4 (and we seem to be the only library that has it), they had no reason to think a fifth issue had been published.  I also realized that the reason G. H. Williams wasn’t listed in any of the bibliographies as a publisher is that the publisher on no. 3 (the only one seen) was Chaney and Williams, and that’s the firm described in the reference sources.  Williams took over as sole publisher with no. 4.  In the end, solving the mystery of Ida would have been impossible if our copy of Luella also hadn’t had wrappers.

Cataloging novels in the more famous series, like Beadle’s dime novels, is much easier, because they are well-documented.  More copies of those novels existed, and survived for researchers to write about.  But the work of cataloging novels like Ida is ultimately more fun and satisfying.

If you’ve enjoyed these posts about dime novels, check out our online exhibition Women and the World of Dime Novels!

Game On: AAS’s Game Collection

"The Improved and Illustrated Game of Dr. Busby." Salem, Mass.: Published by W. and S. B. Ives., [1843?].

The Improved and Illustrated Game of Dr. Busby. Salem, Mass.: Published by W. and S. B. Ives., [1843?].

This past summer we completed work to make the Society’s collection of over four hundred games more accessible to our readers and the scholarly community. Christine Graham Ward, the Society’s Visual Materials Cataloger, created detailed records for each game in our General Catalog. These records include a brief description of each game, a tally of all of the pieces (including whether the directions were included), and information on the date and publisher. Prior to this work, the games had been roughly organized by category and were accessed through a finding aide which had unfortunately fallen out of date and was of limited use. The collection includes card games, puzzles, paper dolls, and board games ranging in date from the eighteenth century to the 1920s. It also contains objects used by school-aged children, including slates, quills, nibs, and even a pencil made by Thoreau & Co. in Concord, Massachusetts.

Chiromagica. New York: McLoughlin Bro's. N.Y., [between 1869 and 1877].

Chiromagica. New York: McLoughlin Bro’s. N.Y., [between 1869 and 1877].

The Society’s collection is particularly strong in holdings of games related to texts or produced by book publishers. For example, fifteen games by W. & S. B. Ives, a book publisher in Salem, Massachusetts, are preserved in the collection, and many are associated with books produced for children under the Ives imprint. The first boxed paper doll issued in the United States, Fanny Gray, was based on a popular children’s book The History of Little Fanny—both were published by Crosby, Nichols & Co. of Boston. (You can find a full print-friendly version of Fanny here!) Nearly one quarter of the games in the collection, including the fortune telling game Chiromagica (the precursor to the Magic 8 Ball), were published by McLoughlin Brothers of New York between 1858 and 1920. AAS holds a major repository of McLoughlin material, including books, illustration designs, printing blocks, manuscripts and puzzles. Other children’s book publishers, including F. R. Lockwood in New York and Peter G. Thomson of Cincinnati, are represented in the game collection as well. These connections between books and games are of great interest to book historians and to students studying child life. Now that the games are cataloged, we are hopeful that they will be used as evidentiary resources by scholars across many genres.

Flora McFlimsy. Cincinnati: Peter G. Thomson, [between 1877 and 1889].

Flora McFlimsy. Cincinnati: Peter G. Thomson, [between 1877 and 1889].

After each game was cataloged, it made the journey to our in-house photographer where it was recorded visually through digital imaging. Each puzzle was put together and photographed, and each paper doll and all his or her outfits were recorded, back and front. Board games were unfolded and those all-important directions booklets were photographed from start to finish. These photographs are linked to our catalog records and are available freely via the Society’s digital asset management system. Once photography was complete, the games returned to the Graphic Arts Department, where they were rehoused in acid-free materials and placed in our climate controlled stacks, awaiting paging by readers. Indeed, since the cataloging project was completed, we have seen an uptick in use of the games by readers. Over the summer, we posted several highlights from the collection on the Society’s social media outlets, including Facebook and Instagram, and had enthusiastic response from our followers and friends. Our outreach coordinator even inaugurated a video series, The Gamebrarians, to showcase one card game in the collection.

The Checkered Game of Life. Springfield, Mass.: Published by Milton Bradley & Co., 1866.

The Checkered Game of Life. Springfield, Mass.: Published by Milton Bradley & Co., 1866.

Access is always at the heart of what we do here at AAS, but what, you might ask, is the big deal about historic games? Are they as important as the Bay Psalm Book, or The Massachusetts Spy? Aren’t they just for kids? When the Society was preparing for our bicentennial in 2012, we brought a number of eminent historians into the library and asked them to select an item to discuss. Professor of American history at Harvard University and AAS member Jill Lapore selected the 1860 Milton Bradley board game The Checkered Game of Life, calling it one of her “favorite objects in all of American history.” The game brings players through the stages of life, with pitfalls like intemperance and bonuses like achieving education along the way, to the final square of “Happy Old Age—50.” Lepore went on to state that the game “reveals to you a whole different world of how people in the nineteenth century thought about the course of life—where we begin and where we end—what our journey is all about. You can read in this simple object that story.” That is the power of toys and games. The stories we tell our children as we read or use paper dolls or play board games are the stories of our culture, our beliefs, and our very position in time. We are delighted to make this collection more accessible.

The work to catalog and digitize the games was made possible by generous support from Jay and Deborah Last and an anonymous donor.

Moving Pictures: Images Across Media in American Visual and Material Culture

Revere's "The Boston Massacre"

Revere’s “The Boston Massacre”

When a singular image is reused in various publications or shows up in more than one medium, it’s indicative of the breadth of its impact. Take, for example, perhaps the most iconic image of the American Revolution, “The Boston Massacre” by Paul Revere, which was not only first copied by Revere from someone else’s design, but his own version was then copied by others. This was a scene that got a lot of traction and helped fuel the Revolution, which was the original intent!

Copying another’s work—not an uncommon practice in the eighteenth century—might be considered the sincerest form of flattery, but this was not the sentiment of Henry Pelham (1749-1806) when he discovered that Revere had copied his rendering of “The Bloody Massacre” (also known as “The Boston Massacre”) in March of 1770. Pelham was livid about Revere’s preempting his work, as revealed in a letter from Pelham to Revere on  March 29, 1770: “When I heard that you were cutting a plate of the late Murder, I thought it impossible as I knew you was [sic] not capable of doing it unless you coppied [sic] it from mine and as I thought I had entrusted it in the hands of a person who had more regard to the dictates of Honour and Justice than to take the undue advantage you have done of the confidence and Trust I reposed in you.”[1] It is unclear whether Pelham ever sent the letter but certainly he was not happy about Revere copying his print and advertising it for sale first.

Pelham's "The Bloody Massacre"

Pelham’s “The Bloody Massacre”

Muliken's version of the image

Muliken’s version of the image

Certainly others followed suit in printing this propagandistic scene. Clockmaker Jonathan Muliken of Newburyport made use of his experience in engraving clock faces to also engrave the popular print in 1770. His version was based quite directly on Revere’s print.  We have no record of how Revere responded to Muliken’s print, but suspect that he saw it as business as usual.

What is even more fun to consider is that the image likely traveled right onto the Revolutionary battlefield in the 1770s on a powder horn owned by one Hamilton Davidson, probably from New Hampshire. The Davidson powder horn in the collections of Historic Deerfield was made by Jacob Gay in 1772 and depicts the historic Boston Massacre scene in reverse. The horn is one of Gay’s finest (he was a prolific carver of horns) and its detail suggests how this inciting image may have inspired a soldier in battle. Gay has reversed the scene, with the British soldiers shooting from the left, and depicts the men in his cartoon-like style. Whether he adapted the scene from a print by Revere or Pelham or Muliken, Gay’s rendering is impressive, especially when you recognize that he was engraving the scene on a curved horn surface rather than on a copper plate!

Hamilton Davidson horn by Jacob Gay, 1772. Courtesy of Historic Deerfield, Inc., Deerfield, Mass.

Hamilton Davidson horn by Jacob Gay, 1772. Courtesy of Historic Deerfield, Inc., Deerfield, Mass.

Detail of Hamilton Davidson horn, 1772. Courtesy of Historic Deerfield, Inc., Deerfield, Mass.

Detail of Hamilton Davidson horn, 1772. Courtesy of Historic Deerfield, Inc., Deerfield, Mass.

To hear the latest cutting edge research on how and why imagery moved from one medium to another, come to the CHAViC conference Moving Pictures: Images Across Media in American Visual and Material Culture to 1900 at the American Antiquarian Society on November 20 and 21, 2015. More information and registration can be found on the AAS website.


[1] The original of the Pelham letter is in the British Public Record Office, Colonial Office Record. A photostat of the original is available at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Writing American Music: The American Vernacular Music Manuscripts Project

Manuscript Music Book Belonging to Mrs. Eliza Everett. This page comes from a calf-bound octavo volume inscribed "Presented to Mrs Eliza Everett Boston Janry 17th 1811" and "Samuel W. Everett. Jany. 24th 1838." The volume contains manuscript copies of 130 English, Scottish, and Irish jigs, reels, and music associated with the theater from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Manuscript music book belonging to Mrs. Elizabeth Everett. This page comes from a calf-bound octavo volume inscribed “Presented to Mrs Eliza Everett Boston Janry 17th 1811” and “Samuel W. Everett. Jany. 24th 1838.” The volume contains manuscript copies of 130 English, Scottish, and Irish jigs, reels, and music associated with the theater from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

By the mid-eighteenth century, a common rite of passage for many young people in Colonial America was to attend a local singing school conducted by some itinerant music-master. There they learned the names of the notes, time signatures, rudimentary music theory, and how to sing harmony in four parts. For the young, singing schools were fun!—Singing itself was a joy and achieving some mastery over the notes deeply satisfying. And it didn’t hurt that for the tenors and basses at the school there would generally be an equal number of sopranos and altos (and vice versa)! Indeed, one wan Yalie from that time wrote a friend that: “At present, I have no Inclination for anything, for I am almost sick of the World & were it not for the Hopes of going to singing-meeting tonight & indulging myself a little in some of the carnal Delights of the Flesh, such as kissing, squeezing &c. &c. I should willingly leave it now.” Whatever the reasons—musical, intellectual, or carnal—singing schools flourished well into the twentieth century.

Teach a person to read and they will want to write, a maxim as true for notes as it is for words. And sure enough, whereas only a bare fistful of compositions by Americans existed in 1730, by 1810 there were more than 5,000[1], and by 1900 millions. One result of learning to read music and then to write it was that ordinary people soon bought or fashioned copybooks and inscribed in them the songs, hymns, and tunes that mattered to them, music they had composed, performed, heard, or wanted to learn. Hundreds of such books survive today in collections that range from the solitary manuscript held in some local historical society to the 223 in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society. These manuscripts contain prima facie evidence of musical taste and usage during a particular time and in a particular place, and serve a scholarly function quite distinct from printed music, which typically documents only accessibility.

vernacular music screenshotIn 2012, the National Endowment for the Humanities, under the provisions of the “Humanities Collections and Reference Resources” program, awarded a major grant to the Center for Popular Music (CPM) at Middle Tennessee State University to develop a collaborative project with AAS that would: a) catalog their collective music manuscripts at the song-title level; b) digitize all materials to archival standards; c) build the “American Vernacular Music Manuscripts, ca. 1730-1910” website, d) provide full and free web-based public access to the results; and e) develop guidelines that would allow other archival institutions to make their manuscripts available and accessible. The CPM and the AAS were natural partners in this enterprise, for the AAS collections were strong in the earlier period and in sacred music, while the CPM collections better documented secular music and the period to 1910 (about when the act of writing music succumbed to the inexpensive ubiquity of printed music). Furthermore, while AAS had more manuscripts, the Center had the cataloging expertise to deal with the myriad and manifold questions on detailed music matters.

The Farmer's Song. This single sheet from around 1835 includes music and lyrics for six verses of "The Farmer's Song" in four-part harmony. Inscriptions on the verso of the leaf read, "Betsy A. Stickney, George Stickney" and "West Drummerson, Vermont."

The Farmer’s Song. This single sheet from around 1835 includes music and lyrics for six verses of “The Farmer’s Song” in four-part harmony. Inscriptions on the verso of the leaf read, “Betsy A. Stickney, George Stickney” and “West Drummerson, Vermont.”

The project took more than two years to complete, but the end results warranted the work. Staff from both institutions processed and digitized 351 manuscripts, which resulted in 17,230 images of inscribed pages found in commonplace books, copybooks, and on single and double leaves. Approximately 17,000 tunes, hymns, songs, ballads, and other musical pieces were indexed. Everything is now searchable at the project’s website and in many different and Boolean ways (names, first lines, towns, states, and more). A click on any search result takes the user to the appropriate image, stored on the Internet Archive, which can then be studied in detail or in context (by “flipping” through the virtual manuscript).

Music now made freely accessible has long been difficult to find and study. It has never been fully cataloged and certainly not at the song-title level. As a result of the project, a whole new field of research on the writing and treasuring of American music has opened up. For the student of American music the excitement generated by these manuscripts is palpable, for to see, play from, or study one of these old scrawled pages brings us as close to that person’s musical life as history allows.

— Dale Cockrell (Project Co-Director and AAS Member, ’95) and Thomas G. Knoles (Project Co-Director and AAS Librarian)

[1] Richard Crawford, “A Historian’s Introduction to Early American Music,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 89/2 (1979), 289.

The Many Faces of the Headless Horseman: Illustrations of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

Portrait of Washington Irving in The Drawing-Room Scrap Book (Philadelphia, 1850), engraved by J. Sartain after a painting by Gilbert Stuart Newton.

Portrait of Washington Irving in The Drawing-Room Scrap Book (Philadelphia, 1850), engraved by J. Sartain after a painting by Gilbert Stuart Newton.

What comes to mind when you hear “Sleepy Hollow”? A dark, windy night, a mysterious horseman who just happens to have no head, a terrified Ichabod Crane fleeing for his life—no matter in what form you first come to know “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” there are certain dramatic elements the story always seems to have in common.

Two recent screen adaptations take very different approaches (neither even close to the original material), but retain these basic features. The 1999 horror-thriller-mystery Sleepy Hollow, which pairs the gothic vision of Tim Burton with the talents of Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, takes place in roughly the same time period as the original tale, but makes Ichabod (Depp) a constable rather than a schoolmaster, the Headless Horseman murders half a dozen people, and Ichabod marries Katrina (Ricci). FOX’s current TV show by the same name grafts the gothic onto a pseudo-historical/biblical frame, reimagining Ichabod as an English-born Revolutionary War patriot who, put into a magical sleep by Katrina (now a witch, of course), awakes in modern times to find out that he must stop the Headless Horseman, who is both Abraham (Brom Bones) and the Horseman of Death from the Book of Revelation. (Interestingly, for all the differences between how the two adaptations depart from the source material, both associate Ichabod with law enforcement and test his crime-solving skills in a procedural drama format.)

Mulling over these two recent interpretations of the classic tale while working at AAS inevitably raises the question, what did early depictions of the story look like? Were they also gothic and horror-inspired? Did they focus on the terrifying imagery of the Headless Horseman? Was Ichabod as attractive as Johnny Depp or Tom Mison?

Washington Irving first published the story as part of a compendium of short stories and essays called The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. Published in seven serial parts over the course of 1819 and 1820 in both the U.S. and England, The Sketch Book is widely considered to be one of the first pieces of American literature read extensively abroad. The publishing history of the many ensuing editions of The Sketch Book is long and complex, but suffice it to say that by 1848, when famed New York publisher George Putnam published the first illustrated edition of The Sketch Book, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was indeed already that—a legend.

143301_0001This first illustrated edition featured the work of Felix O. C. Darley, a self-taught artist and book illustrator who had already done work for Edgar Allan Poe and Harper’s Weekly, among others, by the time he was tapped to take on some of Irving’s most famous stories. Ultimately, he would become one of the most prolific and renowned book illustrators of his day, creating accompaniments for works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and James Fenimore Cooper. (We recently launched an online exhibition about J. F. Cooper material at AAS, including an entire section with digital copies of Darley’s illustrations!)

Despite the success of this first illustrated 143301_0002edition of The Sketch Book, from a modern perspective the images for “Sleepy Hollow” are almost a bit disappointing. Since Darley illustrated the entire volume, “Sleepy Hollow” gets just two illustrations, neither of which include the Horseman. The first shows Ichabod giving singing lessons to Katrina (above), and the second depicts Ichabod at his schoolmaster’s desk (accompanied by a few origami cranes embodying his name). Although the subject matter of the illustrations is less than thrilling, Darley’s depictions of Ichabod and Katrina closely follow Irving’s descriptions. Ichabod, who is described as “tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together,” is gaunt, lanky, and grotesque—certainly lacking the refinement of Depp or Mison’s modern Ichabods. Meanwhile, Katrina, that “blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father’s peaches,” is all buxom femininity.

But these were not the only illustrations Darley made for “Sleepy Hollow” around this time. In 1850, the American Art-Union released a folio edition of the story for its members, which featured six beautiful outline lithographs by Darley, none of which were the same illustrations as the two in The Sketch Book. And although these depictions are more illustrative of the actual story—here we see Ichabod with his pupils and at the Van Tassel party and being chased by the Horseman—Ichabod, though still a bit ragged and ungainly, has become somewhat less ludicrous-looking, and thanks to the busily peopled scenes and slightly less exaggerated faces, the overall feel is more storybook than gothic.

This is also where a depiction of the Headless Horseman first appears. In fact, there are two (see below): In the first, when Ichabod initially sees him, the Horseman clearly has a head covered by a hood, but a round shape (the pumpkin) also sits in front of him on the horse. In the second, as he’s chasing Ichabod, he appears to be indeed headless, and the pumpkin is still nestled in front of him. Perhaps this was Darley’s way of demonstrating the power of fear and darkness to turn the illusion into a reality.

Art Union Sleepy Hollow plate 5 Art Union Sleepy Hollow plate 6

In 1864, Putnam issued a new illustrated edition
of the full Sketch Book, featuring the work of several different artists, including William Hart and John Frederick Kensett of the Hudson River School and Emanuel Leutze, most famous for Washington Crossing the Delaware. In order to get as much mileage as possible out of this new edition, Putnam also released Hudson Legends as a separate volume, which included only “Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.”


The first page of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in Hudson Legends (1864).

143275_0008Two of the illustrations in this new version of “Sleepy Hollow” were by Darley, both of Katrina, looking very similar to his version of her in the lithographs for the
1850 Art Union book
. One of them places her at spinning wheel, emphasizing her female usefulness, as well as her beauty (right). The other illustrations included several landscapes, such as the Tappan Zee and the Sleepy Hollow Church (the latter done by Hart), a scene of Katrina and Ichabod together, and of course the Horseman’s chase.

"Sleepy Hollow Church" by William Hart in Hudson Legends.

“Sleepy Hollow Church” by William Hart in Hudson Legends.

143275_0011This last image (left), done by Leutze and titled “Ichabod and Brom Bones,” eliminates the implication from Irving’s telling by outright naming the Horseman. Like Darley’s depiction of the scene, a clumsy Ichabod flees the Horseman, but in this version the Horseman wields a giant pumpkin with a carved face. The added depth of shading and the framing of the trees in this version, as well as the visible pumpkin face, emphasize the spooky atmosphere. We know Leutze is good at setting tone given the iconic Washington Crossing the Delaware, but it feels a bit strange to see that same skill applied to illustrating a gothic folktale, albeit one that was an icon in itself.

143283_0007From this point on, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” saw innumerable reprints and new illustrated editions, each generation putting its own stamp on the story’s imagery. One 1906 edition in our collections, for example, relies heavily on shades of orange, brown, and black to set an eerie atmosphere—reminiscent of colors associated with dime novels—and its depiction of the chase is truly terrifying (see right and below). The horseman carries not a pumpkin, but instead swings an actual head by its ponytail. Clearly the publisher cared less about accurately illustrating the story and more about provoking fear and horror in its audience.

1906 Sleepy Hollow

Once film adaptations were possible, the imagery of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” changed continuously and departed even further from the story, whether through a silent film, or cartoon dogs and frogs, or live-action movies, all spanning over ninety years. In 1974, the story was even immortalized on a postal stamp. For my part, I don’t much mind what form the legend takes, as long as it lives on.

Fall 2015 Almanac now available!

Cook Jacksonian collection

Spines of some of the volumes in the new William C. Cook Jacksonian Era Collection.

The fall issue of our twice annual newsletter, the Almanac, is now available electronically! In addition to all of the usual items—upcoming public programs and conferences, book reviews, and other Society news—this issue has some great features:

  • updates about the future of digital humanity projects at the Society
  • reports about the acquisition of a unique set of daguerreotypes and a large collection of Jacksonian era material
  • notes about the newly designed Common-place
  • improvements to the AAS campus

Find out more in the viewer below, or download the PDF.

New AAS Online Exhibition Launched: James Fenimore Cooper, Shadow and Substance


Cooper’s manuscript, The Bravo

It seems as though many studies of James Fenimore Cooper begin on the defense. Mark Twain’s severe treatment of Cooper in the 120-year-old essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” leaves many a poor Cooper critic to battle with Twain before easing into the comforts of Cooper. Never mind that Melville called him “our national novelist” or that Balzac declared Cooper’s writing “the despair of every novelist who has tried to follow in [his] footsteps.” Some people will insist that Cooper’s novels are insignificant, boring, tired. Echoing Truman Capote’s description of Jack Kerouac’s work (“It isn’t writing at all—it’s typing”), one might say of Cooper, “It isn’t writing at all—it’s scribbling.”


Volumes from the Cooper Edition with their nineteenth-century counterparts

The newest AAS online exhibition, James Fenimore Cooper: Shadow and Substance, does not work very hard to defend Cooper. Instead it presents a variety of AAS materials that showcase the variety and significance of Cooper’s work. There are three sections of the website: one on the Society’s manuscript holdings, one on F.O.C. Darley’s and Alfred and Tony Johannot’s illustrations of Cooper’s novels, and one on the Cooper Edition. For those unfamiliar, the Cooper Edition, officially known as The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, is the series of scholarly editions that has been in production for over forty years and has received the support of the Society for nearly as long. Librarians at the Society have built the Cooper collection of works published in any language up to the year 1877 to aid in the production of the series.


Cooper’s home

Interested readers will find new comments and reflections by those who have worked on the Cooper Edition, a gallery of Darley’s illustrations, brief descriptions of Cooper’s editorial practice, and the author’s comments on his own work and publishers.

Thanks to the help of Ken Albers and Omeka, this web exhibition is here for you to enjoy!

The Acquisitions Table: Barker Burnell School Exercise Book

Burnell, Barker. School Exercise Book, 1813.

Barker BurnellBarker Burnell (1798-1843) lived in Nantucket, Massachusetts.  He served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1821-1822, and as a member of the Massachusetts Senate in 1823, 1825-1833, and 1838.  This schoolbook was kept by Burnell in 1813 when he was fifteen years old.  The book opens with “Mercators Sailing” problems – “A Ship in lat. 49˚57’ and lon. 5˚14W Sail S Westward until her departure from the meridian…”  He also practices ship log entries, such as a hypothetical “Journal of a Voyage from London to Madeira & Teneriffe.”  The remainder of the volume contains more familiar math lessons, including algebra, fractions, involution, evolution, and simple equations.  Burnell’s work certainly is interesting, but living on an island, it is no surprise that Burnell incorporated sailing lessons into his schoolwork.

It’s Time for the Fall 2015 Public Programs

The Poets Vision-croppedIt’s public program time again, beginning tomorrow! This season we have a wonderful variety of programs, including a book launch, a panel presentation of former Creative Artists and Writers Fellows to celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary, and reflections on the Revolutionary War era.

As always, public programs are open to the public and free of charge. Full descriptions of the programs and biographies of the speakers are also available.

We hope to see you at one or all of this fall’s lineup!

Thursday, October 8, at 7 p.m.
“Bancroft Heights: Catching the Spirit of the Place”
In collaboration with Preservation Worcester and the Worcester Historical Museum

bancroftheightsJoin us as we launch the newly published book Living at the City’s Green Edge: Bancroft Heights, A Planned Neighborhood in Worcester, Massachusetts by Susan McDaniel Ceccacci. This book tells the story of the turn-of-the-twentieth-century neighborhood surrounding Antiquarian Hall, how it developed, its architecture, and the influential families who have lived here over the past century. Those who first planted the seed for this lively neighborhood history and those who finally made it a reality tell what it took to put together this book.

Thursday, October 22, at 7 p.m.
The eleventh annual Robert C. Baron Lecture
kerber_women (2)“Looking Back at Women of the Republic”
By Linda K. Kerber

Each year the Baron Lecture brings a distinguished AAS member who has written a seminal work of history to Antiquarian Hall to reflect on the book’s impact on scholarship and society in the years since its first appearance. This year, Linda Kerber will discuss her 1980 book, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America, which is a landmark study of American political thought and has transformed our understanding of the Revolutionary period.

Friday, October 23, 3:30-5:00 p.m.
woman at easel“Twenty Years of Creative Artists in the Collections”
A panel presentation featuring Honorée Jeffers, Ann Lovett, and Stephen O’Connor

For twenty years AAS has offered fellowships to creative and performing artists and writers. Since 1995, 91 people working in all kinds of artistic disciplines from throughout the United States have come to the AAS library and conducted research for historical works designed for the general public. Join us for a panel presentation by a poet, a visual artist, and a fiction writer, who will describe their experiences as fellows, share samples of their works, and reflect on how history has shaped their artistic visions and their careers as professional artists.

Friday, October 23, at 5:30 p.m.
“Dispatches from the Front Lines: Maps and Views of the American Revolutionary Era”
By Richard H. Brown 

mappingrevolutionIn this illustrated lecture Richard Brown will examine rare and beautiful full color maps and images created on the scenes of battles from the French and Indian War through the American Revolution. This lecture is based upon the recently published book Revolution: Mapping the Road to American Independence, 1755-1788 by Richard H. Brown and Paul E. Cohen. Many of these maps have never been published before, some document decisive battles, and all provide visual energy and clarity to the Revolutionary Era.

Thursday, November 5, at 7 p.m.
“The Birth of the Liberty Tree”
By Robert J. Allison

Obelisk under Liberty TreeWhat were the long-term consequences of Boston’s resistance to the Stamp Act?  A broad mobilization of Bostonians demolished property and forced Crown officials to resign; the British government rescinded the law; and both sides felt they had averted a bigger crisis. But had they?  We will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act with this lecture that examines the importance of the Stamp Act Crisis, both for those who lived through it and for future generations.

Tuesday, November 17, at 7 p.m.
“Creating Salem Lessons
By Nicole Cooley and Maureen Cummins
In collaboration with ArtsWorcester

MCummins-1Two former AAS Creative and Performing Artist and Writers Fellows will return to discuss their collaborative project, Salem Lessons, a limited-edition artist book. Salem Lessons provides multiple perspectives on the experience of the Salem Witch trials of the 1690s. It features a “chorus of voices” of both accusers and executed that tell the story not only of what happened during that terrible time, but also—through images of copy-book pages kept by a Salem boy a century later—of the psychic reverberations that lasted long after the trials ended.

Friday, November 20, at 7 p.m.
“Representing Iconoclasm: Paint, Print, Performance”
By Wendy Bellion

Pulling Down the Statue of George IIIThis talk will explore nineteenth-century representations of colonial iconoclasm—such as the 1776 destruction of a statue of King George III in New York—and the re-performance of that action in civic pageants and parades, which often included ephemeral reproductions of the destroyed statue. This lecture is also serving as the keynote address for the CHAViC fall conference.

A Wonderful Gift to AAS and Other Worcester Cultural Institutions

In addition to the $1 million dollar gift to the Society from Jean McDonough last spring, we have this wonderful news to share about the extraordinary generosity of the McDonough family. We have shared the press release below.

McDonough party group image

The McDonough family, on behalf of the Myles & C. Jean McDonough Foundation, is pleased to announce $15.25 million in commitments to seven leading cultural institutions in Worcester and central Massachusetts. Pictured are (from left to right) Joseph Cox, president of the EcoTarium; Ellen S. Dunlap, president of the American Antiquarian Society; Matthias Waschek, director of the Worcester Art Museum; Jean McDonough; William Wallace, executive director of the Worcester Historical Museum; Katherine F. Abbott, chief executive officer of Tower Hill Botanic Garden; and Neil and Lisa McDonough.

John F. Hill, Communications Specialist
Office of City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., 508-799-1175


October 2, 2015

Myles & C. Jean McDonough Foundation Announces More than $15 Million in Commitments to Seven Leading Cultural Institutions in Worcester and Central Massachusetts

WORCESTER, MASS. — The McDonough family, on behalf of the Myles & C. Jean McDonough Foundation, is pleased to announce $15.25 million in commitments to seven leading cultural institutions in Worcester and central Massachusetts. In a sweeping philanthropic act that will have profound and lasting benefits to Worcester and surrounding communities, the commitment will be used to support initiatives at the American Antiquarian Society, EcoTarium, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, Music Worcester, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Worcester Art Museum, and Worcester Historical Museum.

C. Jean McDonough and her late husband Myles, founder of Spencer, Mass. manufacturer FLEXcon, have shown their passion for these seven institutions for decades, through philanthropic generosity and direct involvement. “These extraordinary institutions have long been a part of the cultural heart of central Massachusetts. We felt the time was right to present each with a gift to show our continued adoration of the role each plays in our community, with the desire to support their initiatives for years to come,” said C. Jean McDonough.

“Worcester takes great pride in our cultural institutions and in the city’s support of all things creative and historic. These organizations are the lifeblood of the heart of the Commonwealth,” said City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. “This gift is perhaps the biggest to the Worcester cultural community this century, if not of all time. I’m so grateful to the McDonough family for its overwhelming support of these vital pillars of our community.”

Representing some of the oldest and largest cultural organizations in central Massachusetts, the seven institutions combined represent more than 850 years of serving the Worcester community and attract nearly 580,000 visitors each year. The impact of this gift to central Massachusetts in providing communities the opportunity to engage with culture in science, nature, art, music, performing arts and history, will be far reaching for decades to come.

The Myles & C. Jean McDonough Foundation gifts were committed as follows:

  • $4 million to the American Antiquarian Society (AAS). Founded in 1812 by Revolutionary War patriot and printer Isaiah Thomas, the American Antiquarian Society is both a learned society and a major independent research library. The AAS library today houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music, and graphic arts material printed through 1876 in what is now the United States, as well as manuscripts and a substantial collection of secondary texts, bibliographies, and digital resources and reference works related to all aspects of American history and culture before the twentieth century. AAS was presented with the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House, the only research library to ever receive such an award.
  • $4 million to the Worcester Art Museum (WAM). Founded in 1896, the Worcester Art Museum’s encyclopedic 38,000 piece collection covers fifty one centuries of art. Highlights include the Medieval Chapter House, Renaissance Court, and Worcester Hunt Mosaic, as well as the recently acquired John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection of arms and armor. Internationally known for its collection of European and American art, WAM was the first art museum in America to acquire paintings by Monet and Gauguin, one of the first to collect photography, and one of the first to collaborate with local schools.
  • $2.5 million to Tower Hill Botanic Garden. The Worcester County Horticultural Society, incorporated in 1842, is the third oldest active horticultural society in the United States. The society is a nonprofit educational organization for the purpose of advancing the science, and encouraging and improving the practice of, horticulture. Its public garden, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, showcases carefully planned gardens and trails that enhance the natural features of this beautiful 132-acre property and is the first and only comprehensive botanic garden in New England.
  • $2 million to EcoTarium. Founded as the Worcester Lyceum of Natural History in 1825 and incorporated as the Worcester Natural History Society in 1884, the EcoTarium is well rooted in the Worcester community as an organization dedicated to the study of science and nature, and is the second oldest natural history society in the United States. With a three floor museum, historic collections, wildlife, educational programs and 55 acres of grounds, EcoTarium offer hands-on exploration of natural and physical sciences and the New England environment.
  • $1.5 million to the Worcester Historical Museum (WHM). The Worcester Society of Antiquity was founded in 1875 with the purpose to increase an interest in archaeological science, and to rescue from oblivion such historical matter as would otherwise be lost. WHM is the only institution devoted to local history. It includes a research library of over 7,000 titles, an archive that houses thousands of documents, and a collection of artifacts, all vital to the study of Worcester history.
  • $750K to Music Worcester. Music Worcester, Inc., formerly called the Worcester Music Festival, was founded in 1858 to bring live music and cultural events to the greater Central Massachusetts region. Music Worcester presents world-renowned musicians and artists from across all performing arts disciplines in addition to serving its community through far-reaching educational and outreach activities. Music Worcester programs include international orchestras, Grammy-award winning headliners, and celebrated soloists and chamber ensembles to inspire tens of thousands of audience members each season. The Worcester Music Festival was recognized by the Library of Congress as one of the oldest performing arts organizations in the country and the oldest music festival in continuous operation.
  • $500K to The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. The Hanover Theatre opened in March of 2008 following a $32 million historic renovation. Over the last seven seasons, the theatre has established its place as a world-class performing arts venue, acting as a catalyst for the economic development of downtown Worcester and gaining recognition by Pollstar as one of the top theatres in the world. Serving the youth, education and accessibility are some of the values behind the theatre’s mission to foster a love and appreciation of the performing arts in audiences of today and tomorrow.

These commitments provide renewed vigor for the cultural institutions, which will use these gifts for current capital campaigns or endowments.

On behalf of all seven institutions, Joseph P. Cox, president of the EcoTarium and chair of the Worcester Cultural Coalition, said, “Words cannot express nor encompass the generosity and passion for culture that remains the legacy of Myles McDonough, and that has been the continuing mission of one of Worcester’s most gracious ladies, Jean McDonough.” He added, “Jean’s energetic enthusiasm and nurturing support for central Massachusetts remains unparalleled, enabling all of us to successfully fulfill our missions and inspire future generations of children and families to develop a passion for science, nature, art, music, performing arts and history. As we have inspired others, so she continues to inspire us.”

For more information about each of the cultural institutions, visit their websites: American Antiquarian Society at, EcoTarium at, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts at, Music Worcester, Inc. at, Tower Hill Botanic Garden at, Worcester Art Museum at, and Worcester Historical Museum at


The Acquisitions Table: Daisy’s Death

Aunt Fanny (Frances Barrow). Daisy’s Death. Buffalo: Breed & Lent, ca. 1866-1872.

514937_0001Frances Barrow (1822-1894) authored some thirty books in the “Aunt Laura” and “Aunt Fanny” series, published in miniature format by Breed, Butler & Co. and its successor, Breed & Lent. Daisy’s Death is about Daisy, an older cat who has kittens, although she is struggling through a serious sickness. Her mistress is a girl named Fanny, who helps to find homes for Daisy’s kittens before Daisy is put out of her misery by being drowned in a sack by a hired man. Although death is a prevalent topic in nineteenth-century children’s books, this is a rare example of pet euthanasia.

Unusual Titles: The Answers

Last week we posted ten nineteenth-century newspaper titles, which included three fake ones. Here are the real titles from that list with images of the mastheads as proof.

1. Sucker and Farmer’s Record (Pittsfield, IL).  March 30, 1843.


At that time people of that region were sometimes known as suckers.  See the reply in this previous blog with one theory about the name “sucker.”

3. Horseneck Truth Teller and Gossip Journal (Greenwich, CT).  August 9, 1830.


This is the first issue of a paper where the intent of the editor was to expose the moral failings of the community.   It appeared in an earlier blog posting here.

4. Criminal Life of Albany (NY).  April 20, 1865.


Another unrecorded paper with the purpose of exposing the seamier side of politics and life in the state capitol.

6. Estabrook’s Great Public Chowder (Boston, MA).  May 8, 1847.


The subtitle is “A Journal of Entertainment for the People.”  As the name implies, they have included all sorts of items (stories, gift cards, jokes, etc.) to make up a chowder of a newspaper.

7. Stephen H. Branch’s Alligator (New York, NY).  July 17, 1858.

Stephen Branch's Alligator

Here is another newspaper aimed at exposing the corruption of a city, this time New York City.  It lasted just twenty-five issues and Branch edited some of them while in jail on charges of libel.

8. Mud Turtle (Alligator Bayou, TX).  February 8, 1864


This is a very rare humor paper out of Texas.   Based on surviving issues, it is surmised that Alligator Bayou was some place near Houston.

9. Striped Pig (Boston, MA).  [1838?]


The striped pig of the title and accompanying woodcut referred to a tale of someone being banned from selling alcohol at a fair in Dedham, Massachusetts, and instead took a pig, painted stripes on it, and charged admission to see it while offering attendees a glass of rum as refreshment.  It was supposedly a popular exhibit.  A striped pig indicates opposition to temperance movements.

The fake titles are:

2. Widow’s Bite and Lincoln Advocate  (Cleveland, OH)
5. Honest Politician (Washington, D.C.)
10. Pitch Fork of Righteousness (Philadelphia, PA)

It isn’t easy coming up with fake titles that sound like they could have been issued in the 1800s, but how did we do in tricking you?

Unusual Titles: The Challenge

husband always reading newspaper

“Portrait of the husband who is always reading the newspaper,” New York , 1864.

When you look at the names of current newspapers you see much sameness in the titles.  How often do you see Times, Post, Globe, Union, Herald, Sun, Independent, or Tribune as part of the title? Once in a while you might run across a paper still published today, such as the Quincy Herald-Whig (IL), which continues to hold onto a term that is now considered old-fashioned or obsolete, but generally there is little variety left in the names of papers.

Such was not the case in the nineteenth-century. Below is a list of ten titles of nineteenth-century newspapers or periodicals, but three of them are not real publications.  Can you pick out the three fake titles (without using online resources)?

Share your answers in the comments section below.  The answers will be posted next week with photos of the mastheads to prove they are real.

  1.  Sucker and Farmer’s Record  (Pittsfield, IL)
  2.  Widow’s Bite and Lincoln Advocate  (Cleveland, OH)
  3.  Horseneck Truth-Teller and Gossip Journal (Greenwich, CT)
  4.  Criminal Life of Albany  (NY)
  5.  Honest Politician  (Washington, D.C.)
  6.  Estabrook’s Great Public Chowder  (Boston, MA)
  7.  Stephen H. Branch’s Alligator  (New York, NY)
  8.  Mud Turtle  (Alligator Bayou, TX)
  9.  Striped Pig  (Boston, MA)
  10.  Pitch Fork of Righteousness  (Philadelphia, PA)


Meet AAS Fellow Linford Fisher

Linford1a - Version 2Linford Fisher is associate professor of history at Brown University, where he studies and teaches the religious history of colonial America and the history of Indian and African slavery and servitude. His first book, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America, was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. While he was an AAS-NEH fellow at the AAS during the 2014-2015 academic year, he worked on his new book, Land of the Unfree: Indians, Africans, and the World of Colonial Slavery, and took a few minutes to talk about his work with Past is Present.

Past is Present: Describe your current project, its geographical and chronological scope.

Linford Fisher: My current project is a comparative study of New England and a few select English Caribbean islands, primarily Barbados, Bermuda, and Jamaica. It’s really centered on the question of Native American and African slavery from the beginning of colonization up through emancipation in 1834 in the English Caribbean. And in that time frame, I’m interested in the intersection of Indian and African slavery as well as regional difference and different kinds of slave regimes in these various locations. Like others in the field, I’m also trying to understand slavery not in terms of binaries (not just slave and free) but the way that people think about the experience of slavery in different ways at different times on a broader spectrum of unfreedom. People’s conditions change over time, their circumstances change over time. For a vast majority of slaves in the Caribbean, they were either born into slavery and died in slavery or else were enslaved and died a slave. But for others there was a diversity of experiences over time. The project is really an attempt to understand the dynamism, movement, migration of people in unfree conditions. One portion of the book focuses on the way that Native Americans were the subject of an Indian slave trade, whether from New England on the east coast of North America down to the Caribbean or from South America to the Caribbean or in other countless ways being forcibly moved around. So the Caribbean becomes this sort of crossroads of a wide variety of people. I’d like to bring at least some of these different pieces together, primarily with regard to the English Atlantic. I taught a class on Indian and African slavery a year ago, and the number of books and articles that I could have assigned that dealt with both Native American and African slavery in any of these contexts, well, you could list them on one hand. There’s a very small (but growing) literature. And so I’m trying to contribute this emerging literature in a positive way to that.


Past is Present: Who inspires you to do this work?

LF: I am personally drawn to two kinds of works that might seem like opposite intellectual currents. The first are works that tackle the big sweeping questions and huge issues about human life more generally. People like Jared Diamond and Guns, Germs, and Steel and Charles Mann and 1491 and 1493. Mann’s first book, 1491, is a hemispheric history and 1493 contains a global awareness. Guns, Germs, and Steel is asking really important questions about how cultures change over time and the origins of certain differences. I might not agree with his conclusions, but he’s asking really interesting questions. The second kind of works I am drawn to are super micro-historical studies. I think they remain powerful because they’re stories about people and their interior worlds and we can identify with them. So Carlo Ginzburg The Cheese and the Worms is a classic that I think every historian has read and has either mimicked or channeled at some point. But also Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale are other books that do really tight micro-historical work. In my own work I try to move back and forth between the two, to keep a larger context in mind but also to tell stories and to get inside, maybe not people’s minds, but at least their worlds. Other inspiring works are Walter Johnson’s Soul By Soul and Richard Dunn’s recent book A Tale of Two Plantations about a plantation in Jamaica and a plantation in Virginia. He takes plantation slave inventories and brings them to life. He puts flesh and bones on names that are in the register and is able to tell stories and create family lineages and describe in intimate detail plantation life. Another book that came out recently that exemplifies the kind of writing and the kinds of big questions that I’m drawn to is (and everyone’s talking about it) Ed Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told. Also Adam Rothman’s Beyond Freedom’s Reach. It’s a super micro-history, but it also tells a larger story. So these and many other books inspire me. I hope all of that comes together in this book. I want my readers to get both an intimate portrait of people’s lives and get a firm sense of what it all means, of the larger picture.


Past is Present: What keeps you dedicated to the work? What keeps you going?

LF: A little bit of craziness perhaps. I’m not really sure. In some ways it’s become a real passion and I’m not sure I have a rational explanation for it. Some people have a job and have to go to work. I’ve felt for a very long time that I’m fortunate because what I want to do most days and what I have to do are pretty much the same thing. I really enjoy the archival process, I really enjoy teaching, I really enjoy going out and talking to wider audiences and giving lectures. I really enjoy the writing process, even though it’s difficult sometimes. But it is not always easy to churn out pages of text. I came across a quote recently about this: “Writing is hard for every last one of us. . . . Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig. You need to do the same.” It’s the same with writing. You just have to do it. I enjoy the whole package of academia, perhaps because of the diversity of things that is required of me each day. I find it inspiring to talk through issues in the field with graduate students and seeing undergraduates who come from such different backgrounds who have fresh ideas and so forth. But the core of it is the belief that the past has something to offer us in the present. I’m not trying to be presentist, but I do believe that we are doomed to repeat a history that we don’t understand. I want my students not just to think about the relevance of the past (that word has become kind of fashionable) but get them to think critically about the present. And if history is one tool for them for them to think critically about the present, then that’s great. I’m not just sitting in an ivory tower, thinking deep thoughts and writing about some obscure topic. I’m writing about race and power relations and colonialism and conquest and human violence and that’s all in the world we live in today, and I hope they see that.

You can read the whole interview here!

New Online Exhibition Launched: Women and the World of Dime Novels

Julie Le Roy is one of the more sensational dime novels, full of death and tragedy. Julie is seduced by a young man who promises marriage. When she realizes that he has no intention to marry her, she threatens to stab herself rather than continue as his mistress. She attempts to flee from him, but trips and falls onto her knife. She is one of many women in dime novels to come to a tragic fate as a result of premarital sex.

Julie Le Roy is one of the more sensational dime novels, full of death and tragedy. Julie is seduced by a young man who promises marriage. When she realizes that he has no intention to marry her, she threatens to stab herself rather than continue as his mistress. She attempts to flee from him, but trips and falls onto her knife. She is one of many women in dime novels to come to a tragic fate as a result of premarital sex.

I’ve written previously about my experiences cataloging the AAS dime novel collection.  I was still fairly early in the process when I discussed the relative quality of three publishing houses: Beadle and Adams, George Munro, and Elliott, Thomes & Talbot. As I have continued working with the collection since, I have had a chance not only to explore more novels by these firms, but also novels from even lesser known firms, in series that only lasted for a couple dozen, or even only five or six numbers.  As I’ve had the chance to delve into the truly wide array of dime novel publishing, I couldn’t help but notice how many tropes were common to the genre as a whole.  I found it absolutely mind-boggling how many novels included the following general plot device: a woman is in love with Man A, but Man B wants to marry her.  When the woman turns down Man B, he has her kidnapped in an effort to coerce her into marriage.  The woman is eventually freed to marry Man A and Man B’s villainy is revealed to the world.  It was then that I realized just how many of these tropes I’d been seeing, and how many centered around the women in the novels.

The AAS dime novel collection includes a wide array of publishers, from Beadle and Company to lesser known publishers like Hilton & Co. and Richmond & Company. Whatever the popularity or quality of a given publisher, many tropes are shared across the entire spectrum of dime novels.

The AAS dime novel collection includes a wide array of publishers, from Beadle and Company to lesser known publishers like Hilton & Co. and Richmond & Company. Whatever the popularity or quality of a given publisher, many tropes are shared across the entire spectrum of dime novels.

I have some wonderful college and graduate school professors to thank for fostering my passion for women’s history, and my imagination was fired by the world of dime novel women. The novels certainly contained some of the stereotypical characters I expected, but they also included many strong, fiery, independent woman.  When Molly O’Hagan Hardy, our digital humanities curator, brought Ken Albers to AAS to train us in using Omeka, providing us with the opportunity to curate our own online exhibitions, it didn’t take much thinking to know I wanted to work with the women in dime novels.  Their stories were so funny and tragic and just unexpectedly sensational or delightful that I wanted to be able to share a glimpse of this world.

Dime novel exhibit screenshotThe exhibition, called Women and the World of Dime Novels, is divided into two main sections: the Tropes and the Women. The Tropes section provides an overview of six of the more common character tropes I have found in dime novels, such as the Brokenhearted Wife or the Ruined Woman.  The Women section explores specific characters from the dime novels, providing summaries of their stories, highlighting how they exemplify certain tropes.  These summaries include quotations from the novels, both to highlight key scenes and to provide a flavor of the writing styles present in dime novels. The Trope pages link to the relevant characters who exemplify them and the Women pages link both to the tropes and to pages providing information about the novels themselves, all of which come from the AAS collections.  These links and connections are provided to encourage readers to follow their own path through the exhibition, so please explore and enjoy!

The Acquisitions Table: The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

Martin ChuzzlewitDickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. New York: Harper & Brothers, [1844].

The first authorized American edition of Martin Chuzzlewit was issued by Harper & Brothers in seven serial parts, all of which are present here in their wrappers. As such they are exceptionally rare; as the story goes they were hawked on the New York streets by newsboys who crowded into the store just before a part was issued to attend a speech of exhortation by Mr. James Harper. Martin Chuzzlewit is a novel of particular American interest, as in it Dickens satirically presented American characters he had envisioned after his 1842 tour of the United States.

The Girl Behind the Red Cloak

Sloane Perron graduated from Anna Maria College in May and is currently finishing her position as a summer page for AAS. As an English major, the prospect of working hands-on with archives and first editions excited the bookworm inside her. She has greatly enjoyed her experiences at AAS and liked learning more about the collections as well as the behind the scenes aspects of a research library.

Readers will immediately recognize images of a young girl in a red cloak, a wolf dressed in a grandmother’s night dress, and a mysterious forest as being part of the story Little Red Riding Hood. Over the centuries, there have been countless adaptations and retellings of the well-known fairy tale. A quick search of the AAS catalog alone will reveal over a hundred items relating to Little Red Riding Hood. Each new version of the text brings to light different symbols and emphasizes different societal values. While paging in the Children’s Literature Collection at AAS, however, I came across three adaptations of the tale which exemplify just how individualistic and different the stories can be despite the fact that they are all based on the same fairy tale. These contrasts are particularly apparent in the endings of the stories.

Cover of John McLoughlin's version.

Cover of John McLoughlin’s version.

One version of the tale, Little Red-Riding Hood published by John McLoughlin between 1854 and 1858, introduces the new characters of a wasp, a bird, an old woman, and a green huntsman. During her journey to “granddam’s” house, Red Riding Hood comes in contact with new characters and helps them. She saves the wasp, feeds the bird, cares for the old woman, and delivers a message to the huntsman. All of Red Riding Hood’s good deeds have delayed her visit to her grandmother’s where the wolf has already eaten her grandmother and now waits for the little girl. Just as the Wolf is about to eat Little Red Riding Hood, all of the creatures that she helped in the past repay her kindness by saving her life and killing the Wolf. It is later revealed that the old woman is actually a fairy and that the green huntsman is a mystical figure that only appears to those who are worthy. The story reveals that by respecting all of God’s creatures equally, Little Red Riding Hood was worthy of being saved herself.

The sweet and harmonic mood that I found in the first adaptation quickly turned macabre in the second story I read.

A page from the J.L. Marks version of the story.

A page from the J.L. Marks version of the story.

Published by J.L. Marks in London in the second half of the nineteenth century, The History of Little Red Riding Hood starts out as a sing-songy description of Red Riding Hood trekking through the woods on her way to grandma’s house. The trouble begins when she disobeys her mother’s orders not to loiter. Instead the little girl becomes distracted with playing in the woods and picking flowers when she runs into a Wolf. The naïve Red then makes matters worse by telling the creature that she is headed to her grandma’s house. The Wolf beats Red Riding Hood to the house where he eats grandma. Little Red Riding Hood pays the ultimate price for her disobedience when the Wolf gobbles her up as well. (The violence that was described in children’s literature during the 1800s was shocking!)

Last but certainly not least, is an adaptation of the fairy tale known as Little Red Riding Hood, published by Saxton & Kelt between 1845 and 1848. In this story, Red Riding Hood embodies perfection. She is beautiful, loved by all, industrious, creative, and compassionate. Her only flaw seems to be trusting the wolf and saving him. Predictably, the wolf races to the house and eats grandma and then proceeds to eat Little Red Riding Hood.

The wolf from the Saxton & Kelt edition.

The wolf from the Saxton & Kelt edition.

218542_0001 (2)However, my favorite moment occurs when the author hilariously inserts his own “voice” in order to create an alternate ending. Just when the end seems near for Little Red Riding Hood as she is consumed, the author adds, “This is the traditional ending of the Tale – but it is a grievous one, which most children dislike. – And as I heard a version related in which poetical justice is done to the wolf, I insert it for those who prefer it.” Instead of being the wolf’s dinner, this version of the story ends with Red Riding Hood being saved by a group of men working nearby while the wolf is killed.

In all three stories, Little Red Riding Hood is the epitome of stereotypical womanly beauty and virtue. Despite the vastly different ways in which the stories end, the Red Riding Hood tales all begin by describing this fairy-tale character in similar ways. She is used as a symbol to show what little girls should strive to be during this point in history. The stories demonstrate the limited behaviors that were socially acceptable for young girls. As a result, obedience seems central to the plot. The only time that the Red Riding Hood actually ends tragically is in “The History of Little Red Riding Hood” when the little girl blatantly disobeys her mother’s warning. As a consequence of not following the demands of her mother (and by extension the confines of socially acceptable behavior for women), Little Red Riding Hood is eaten by the Wolf.

The warning becomes horrifyingly clear for any child reading this version of the tale. Listen to your mother or bad things will happen! Can you imagine reading this right before bedtime?

Throughout the stories there is also a clear focus on Little Red Riding Hood’s physical features.  In each of these three instances, she is referred to as beautiful, but her attractiveness is depicted as wholesome and natural. When I was a child reading fairy-tales, I remember the pictures of Red Riding Hood being sweet, rosy-cheeked girls or glamorous figures traipsing about in the woods. However, in these three particular pamphlets the illustrations were not what I was expecting. Instead of glamorous, the illustrations of Little Red Riding Hood were somewhat plain. Even the usual image of a vivid red cape was changed due to the fact that many of the pictures were black and white. In the version published by Saxton & Kelt, the girl does not even wear a red hood, but rather wears a bonnet in every scene. By making the physical descriptions and scenes realistic rather than larger than life, children reading the story would be able to relate to the character. As a result, they would have been better able to absorb the tales’ underlying lessons.

My interest in Gothic literature and fairy-tales led to my quest for Little Red Riding Hood stories in order to see how the main character evolves. After reading them, I realized that the red cloak may remain a constant image but the actual character of Little Red Riding Hood changes with each story because of societal influences. As a result, the girl behind the red cloak will always remain a mystery because there are so many interpretations of her. But I’ll have fun reading some of the other Little Red Riding Hood stories in the AAS collection as I try to compare endings and embedded lessons in the text. Maybe one day I’ll be able to understand the girl behind the red cloak!

Now In Print from the AAS Community

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


Ceccacci, Susan. Living at the City’s Green Edge. Bancroft Heights: A Planned Neighborhood in Worcester, Massachusetts. Cambridge: TidePool Press, 2015. (AAS member)

Child, Deborah. Soldier, Engraver, Forger: Richard Brunton’s Life on the Fringe in America’s New Republic. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.

McCaskill, Barbara. Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015.

Malanson, Jeffrey. Addressing America: George Washington’s Farewell and the Making of National Culture, Politics, and Diplomacy, 1796-1852. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2015. (Peterson Fellow, 2009-2010)

Michals, Teresa. Books for Children, Books for Adults: Age and the Novel from Defoe to James. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Ronson, Jon.  So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. New York: Riverhead Books, 2015.

Thompson, Todd Nathan. National Joker: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Satire. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2015.

Welburn, Ron. Hartford’s Ann Plato and the Native Borders of Identity. Albany: SUNY Press, 2015.



Altschuler, Sari. “ ‘Picture it all, Darley’: Race Politics and the Media History of George Lippard’s The Quaker City.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 70.1 (2015): 65-101.(Legacy Fellow, 2011-2012; Hench Post-Dissertation Fellow, 2013-2014)

Coleman, Dawn. “Mahomet’s Gospel and Other Revelations: Discovering Melville’s Hand in The Works of William E. Channing.” Leviathan 17.2 (2015): 74-88. (NeMLA Fellow, 2006-2007)

Crane, Jacob. “Barbary(an) Invasions: The North African Figure in Republican Print Culture.” Early American Literature 50.2 (2015): 331-358. (Schiller Fellow, 2013-2014)

Looby, Christopher. “Lippard in Part(s): Seriality and Secrecy in The Quaker City.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 70.1 (2015): 1-35. (AAS member)

Pender, Patricia. “Constructing a Canonical Colonial Poet: Abram E. Cutter’s Bradstreetiana and the 1867 Works.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 109.2 (2015): 223-246. (Reese Fellow, 2013-2014)

Pritchard, Janet. “More Than Scenery: Yellowstone, an American Love Story.” Fraction Magazine 76 (2015). (Last Fellow, 2008)

Rebhorn, Matthew. “Ontological Drift: Medical Discourse and Racial Embodiment in Robert Montgomery Bird’s Sheppard Lee.” ESQ 61.2 (2015): 262-296.

Reynolds, David S. “Deformance, Performativity, Posthumanism: The Subversive Style and Radical Politics of George Lippard’s The Quaker City.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 70.1 (2015): 36-64. (AAS member; AAS-NEH Fellow, 1982-1983)

Roy, Michaël. “Cheap Editions, Little Books, and Handsome Duodecimos: A Book History Approach to Antebellum Slave Narratives.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 40.3 (2015): 69-93. (d’Héricourt Fellow, 2013-2014)

Winship, Michael B. “In Search of Monk Hall: A Publishing History of George Lippard’s The Quaker City.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 70.1 (2015): 132-149. (AAS member; Peterson Fellow, 1989-1990; AAS-NEH Fellow, 1993-1994; AAS-NEH Fellow, 2009-2010)

Wirzbicki, Peter. “ ‘The light of knowledge follows the impulse of revolutions’: Prince Saunders, Baron de Vastey and the Haitian Influence on Antebellum Black Ideas of Elevation and Education.” Slavery and Abolition 36.2 (2015): 275-297. (Packer Fellow, 2014-2015)


1775 Breaking News: The First Published Map of the Revolutionary War

Guest author Allison K. Lange is an assistant professor of history at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, was an AAS AHPCS Fellow in 2011-2012, and helped curate the Leventhal Map Center’s “We Are One” exhibition. Lange received her PhD in American history from Brandeis University. Currently she is completing a manuscript on the visual culture of the woman’s rights and woman suffrage movements in the United States. Her work has appeared in Imprint and The Atlantic. She also works with the National Women’s History Museum. Learn more about her research at

We see wars unfold on live video alongside satellite maps, but our eighteenth-century counterparts had to wait. Maps had to be drawn, engraved, and printed before they were sold to those who could afford them. The American Antiquarian Society houses the first battle map of the Revolutionary War, which gives us a glimpse into the way people learned about the war from afar. I. De Costa’s A Plan of the Town and Harbour of Boston depicts the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. De Costa’s map is the only one to feature the marches of the British forces and battle sites.

I. De Costa A Plan of the Town and Harbour of Boston, and the Country Adjacent with the Road from Boston to Concord Shewing the Place of the Late Engagement between the King’s Troops & the Provincials. London, 1775. Engraving, hand colored 15 x 19.5 inches, on sheet 19 x 23.5 inches. American Antiquarian Society.

I. De Costa
“A Plan of the Town and Harbour of Boston, and the Country Adjacent with the Road from Boston to Concord Shewing the Place of the Late Engagement between the King’s Troops & the Provincials.”
London, 1775. Engraving, hand colored 15 x 19.5 inches, on sheet 19 x 23.5 inches.
American Antiquarian Society.

A Plan of the Town and Harbour of Boston was published in London on July 29, 1775, three months after the battles. Little is known about the mapmaker. He may have witnessed the skirmishes and sent his manuscript across the Atlantic to London engraver C. Hall. Or, De Costa could have drawn the original map in London using information from the battle and an existing survey of the area. He dedicated his plan to Richard Whitworth, a Member of Parliament from 1768 to 1780, who was likely his patron.

Detail of the De Costa map showing the placement and movement of troops.

Detail of the De Costa map showing the placement and movement of troops.

Unlike most of the era’s battle maps, De Costa’s is a pictorial map. He illustrated the progression of troops using human figures rather than rectilinear blocks. Small groups of soldiers represent the British troops’ march to Concord and back. They fire at their opponents, and the wounded figures fall to the ground. De Costa represented encampments with tents and cannons and showed specific British ships, labeled in his key, in the Boston harbor.

De Costa’s pictorial map was unusual, but not unprecedented. In 1756, Massachusetts mapmaker Samuel Blodget created a pictorial map of a battle in the French and Indian War entitled A Prospective View of the Battle Fought near Lake George. The left section situates Lake George on the Lake Champlain corridor, while the other two show the battle’s progression. The numbers correspond to an accompanying pamphlet with detailed explanations for each point of interest.

Samuel Blodget (1724-1807) A Prospective View of the Battle Fought near Lake George. London, 1756. Engraving, hand colored, 10.5 x 20.5 inches. Courtesy of Richard H. Brown.

Samuel Blodget (1724-1807)
“A Prospective View of the Battle Fought near Lake George.”
London, 1756. Engraving, hand colored, 10.5 x 20.5 inches.
Courtesy of Richard H. Brown.

Thomas Hyde Page (1746-1821) A Plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill, on the 17th of June 1775. London, 1778. Engraving, hand colored, 19.75 x 17.25 inches. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.

Thomas Hyde Page (1746-1821)
“A Plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill, on the 17th of June 1775.”
London, 1778. Engraving, hand colored, 19.75 x 17.25 inches.
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.

These pictorial maps differ from battle maps like this 1778 map of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Thomas Hyde Page used thin rectilinear blocks to represent troops and lines to show their movement. In De Costa’s map, everything occurs at the same time: the British troops march west, fire, and return to Boston. Page, in contrast, conveyed time’s passage by adding a leaf that can be lifted to show later troop positions.

De Costa’s map offered Londoners the earliest glimpse of the rebellion across the Atlantic. A map like this would have helped politicians, like Richard Whitworth, and military strategists make better understanding of the uprising in the colonies.

You can see the American Antiquarian Society’s copy of De Costa’s map on display in the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center’s exhibition at the Boston Public Library. The exhibition, We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence, uses maps to explore the tumultuous events that led thirteen colonies to forge a new nation. We Are One demonstrates that maps, from De Costa’s plan to early maps of the new nation, were central to the revolutionary process. The exhibition features maps as well as prints, paintings, and objects from the Leventhal Map Center’s own collection and those of twenty partners, including the British Library and Library of Congress. Visit to explore geo-referenced maps from the exhibition.

The exhibition will be on display at the Boston Public Library through November 29, 2015. We Are One then travels to Colonial Williamsburg from February 2016 through January 2017 and to the New-York Historical Society from November 2017 through March 2018.

The Leventhal Map Center also hosts the NEH-funded American Revolution Portal database. Researchers can access maps from the American Antiquarian Society, British Library, Library of Congress, and other institutions in one search. Users can download images for research and classroom use.

Access these resources and learn more about We Are One at

A Unique Thank-You from Our NEH Summer Institute

We recently hosted twenty-five educators who came to the Society from across the country to participate in a two-week Summer Institute funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Titled The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865, the program examined—through twenty-one seminar sessions and eighteen library workshops—how news was defined, reported, and disseminated from the Colonial period through the end of the Civil War. While participants examined the Society’s extensive collections of newspapers and periodicals, they also explored private letters and journals, pamphlets, books, and a wide variety of graphic materials to gain a greater understanding of the media milieu of each time period, the impact of technology on communications, and how social and political movements shaped and defined news and how it was communicated.

The program was co-directed by me and David Paul Nord, who is professor emeritus of history and journalism from Indiana University. Additionally, AAS staff members Lauren Hewes, Kayla Hopper, Marie Lamoureux, and Vincent Golden led workshops, and guests Joshua Brown, David Henkin, and Megan Kate Nelson conducted individual seminars and workshop sessions.

Jim call slipThe participating teachers came from ten different states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont. They taught a variety of subjects, including history, English Language Arts, journalism, and graphic arts. They included seventeen high school, five middle school, and three elementary level instructors who taught in public, private, and charter schools.

One of these teachers, Philip Crossman, is also an accomplished artist. Throughout the Institute he quietly created caricatures of the staff and faculty and then solicited thank you notes from all of the participants. On the last day of the program he presented these to us. These thank you notes and caricatures also included mock library call slips (right) as a further tribute to the inspiration these folks found in the AAS collections.  One teacher echoed the sentiments of many when she wrote, “Thank you for this amazing opportunity to learn about this nation through the news media.  It has been eye-opening and a great pleasure.” We couldn’t think of a better way for them to say thank you!

David Nord and Jim Moran

David Nord and Jim Moran


Kayla Hopper and Marie Lamoureaux

Kayla Hopper and Marie Lamoureaux

Lauren Hewes

Lauren Hewes