So you think you can bake? Nineteenth-Century Edition

Kristina Bush is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College. She majors in medieval studies and minors in public history, museums, archives, and digital humanities. Kristina is currently working at the American Antiquarian Society as a summer page in readers’ services. Being an avid book-lover and history nerd, Kristina has greatly enjoyed her time at AAS.

The Art of Confectionery title pageOne of the most surprising and exciting things I discovered in the stacks of the American Antiquarian Society was the cookbook collection. As someone who loves to bake, I was immediately interested in spending more time with this collection. Also inspired by former assistant manuscript curator Tracey Kry’s blog posts, I decided to test out a recipe. From the 1866 cookbook The Art of Confectionery, I selected a recipe for cupcakes.

The ingredients themselves did not seem too different from those in modern day recipes: flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda (which was called cake soda), and even sour cream, which I have used before in coffee cake. The two ingredients that most reflected the differences between the nineteenth-century pantry and that of a modern kitchen were rosewater and brandy. I believe that these two ingredients perform the function of vanilla in most modern recipes by flavoring the batter. My biggest challenge in making the recipe was finding rosewater, which turned out to be rather difficult to obtain. I could not find it in my local supermarket, and so I replaced it with orange blossom tea, as suggested in a trusty Google search.

Recipe for cupcakes

Mixing the batterWhen it came to baking the cake, I was pleased to find the recipe I chose had specific measurements for all the dry ingredients. Some of the other recipes I came across in my research didn’t have measurements at all or used outdated measurements such as drams. First, I combined the softened butter with sugar using my hands. Then I added flour cup by cup, stirring with a wooden spoon. I didn’t use an electric mixer in the hopes of retaining historical accuracy. When the mix began to stick or looked too dry, I alternated adding brandy or the cooled orange blossom tea. Channeling Rachael Ray, I eyeballed the measurements of the liquids as the quantities were not listed in the recipe. I ended up using almost an entire 1.7 oz bottle of brandy and about half a cup of tea. Stirring the recipe ended up being quite a workout! I was glad that paging folio volumes at AAS this summer has been building up my arm strength. After adding the sour cream and baking soda dissolved in whole milk (the modern equivalent of sweet milk), the batter came together quite thick, similar to what one would expect of a muffin batter.

The next question was of baking temperature and time. I figured that it would be best to go with the traditional 350 degrees Fahrenheit and I set the timer for twenty minutes. Of course in 1866 an oven would have looked quite different and a new one at the time would have used coal as a heat source. This would allow for the cupcakes to bake at a constant sustained temperature, meaning that the conditions of my modern oven were not too dissimilar from those of the 1866 baker’s.

The cupcakes bakingThe cupcakes took between twenty-five and thirty minutes to cook and turned out a bit paler in color than expected. Despite the disappointing lack of a golden top, they tasted great! The brandy and tea flavor really came through. The texture was closer to that of a muffin than a cupcake; it was dense, fluffy, and moist. I didn’t even think they needed frosting—and I’m an avid frosting lover! (I was initially disturbed by the lack of a frosting recipe to accompany the cupcake recipe.)

Finished cupcakesI found that other recipes often suggested pairing cakes with jam, marmalade, or a light glaze. In favor of historical accuracy (and eating lots of cupcakes) I decided to try all the options. First, I tested a bit of the cupcake with blueberry jam, which I thought overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the cupcake. The marmalade paired better with the cupcake due to the orange flavor already present. My favorite topping was a simple lemon glaze I prepared with confectioners’ sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice, and milk. The citrus flavors complemented each other but the lemon did not overwhelm the flavor of the cupcake. All in all I would call this a success story!

I have so enjoyed the opportunity to be surrounded by history on a daily basis. Working at the American Antiquarian Society has been a dream come true for me. Besides spending most of my time in the stacks, which I can now successfully navigate (an accomplishment in itself!), I Inside of cupcakehave also been able to work on a transcription project, find “lost” books, cover books in mylar, and meet amazing people. Working here has been inspirational on many levels. I am inspired to continue pursuing a library degree as I now know that I would like to work at an institution like AAS. I love being able to interact with researchers and historic material, and do something different every day. As a student, watching the AAS fellows conduct their research has inspired me to aim for their level of passion and focus in my own studies. The skills I have learned here will also translate to my academic interests at Mount Holyoke College. For example, working with the catalog and hearing about AAS’s outreach programs will inform my minor in public history and archives. I am looking forward to returning to school for my senior year and applying the knowledge and drive I have acquired this summer to my course work. I leave AAS feeling affirmed in my future and grateful for the opportunity I have been given.

From the Mixed Up Files of Avis Clarke

Dylan McDonough, an AAS summer staffer working on the Printers’ File, attends Harvard College, where he is a rising junior with a concentration in history. A native of Worcester, he graduated from Bancroft School in 2014 and has returned to the area each of the last two summers. Here, he shares a glimpse of his work on the Printers’ File.

Antiquarian Hall - side viewBack in high school, I had a Monday morning tradition. At the start of every week I grabbed a Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwich on my way to school, and, on that short drive, I invariably got stuck at the intersection of Salisbury Street and Park Avenue. Waiting for the light to turn green, I often glanced at the grand brick building to my right. What happened in this beautiful landmark of red bricks and white columns, this “American Antiquarian Society”?

Until I took a summer position at AAS a few months ago, that same question still lingered in my mind. I had been assigned to something I had never heard of: the Printers’ File. The Printers’ File, I found, consists of a collection of more than 16,000 notecards containing information on some 6,000 people involved in the early American book trade and was compiled almost exclusively by longtime AAS cataloguer Avis Clarke over forty years. My task: input the cards into a digital form that standardizes the data, rendering it interoperable and linked to a larger data universe. (For a more in-depth look at how the information is being inputted, please see my Printers’ File predecessor Emily Wells’s informative post on her own early work digitizing the cards.)

Currently, researchers must come to Antiquarian Hall to use the cards and sort through them by hand to find those that fall under a certain category. With digitization, though, researchers will be able to access the resulting resource remotely. More importantly, they will be able to search the data by race, gender, location, and more. Even with only about a third of the project done, I can already use a simple search tool to dig through the forms and find any man or woman who was affiliated with the book trade in a certain location. Naturally, as a Wormtown native, I searched for “Worcester,” and found eight early printers.

Haswell's Massachusetts Spy

Notice its declaration as Haswell’s Massachusetts Spy rather than Thomas’s.

The most intriguing of the eight, Anthony Haswell, first came to Worcester in 1775 as Isaiah Thomas’s apprentice. This link to AAS’s founder was what first drew me to Haswell, and as I dug deeper I found a captivating story behind his five years in Worcester. The cards on Haswell further record that, from 1777 to 1778, Thomas leased his Worcester printing press to Haswell, allowing Haswell to print Thomas’s famed newspaper the Massachusetts Spy. After Thomas took back control of the press and paper in 1778, Haswell spent the rest of the decade working in Thomas’s printing office before departing Worcester in 1781.

The Printers' File card for Haswell.

The Printers’ File card for Haswell.

When Avis compiled the Printers’ File, she also maintained a corresponding set of notecards recording her sources. Checking the source cards for Anthony Haswell, I found John Spargo’s Anthony Haswell: Printer – Patriot – Ballader (1925). Haswell actually served as Isaiah Thomas’s first apprentice, but the two printers apparently later had a falling out over criticisms Haswell printed about Thomas. Spargo tells us neither what was said nor where it was printed, but we can assume it was rather nasty, as Haswell’s name appears only once, in passing, in Thomas’s influential The History of Printing in America (1810).

The Printers' File source card for Haswell and the biography by Spargo.

The Printers’ File source card for Haswell and the biography by John Spargo.

Before their eventual falling out, though, Haswell and Thomas altered the course not just of their own lives but of Worcester as well. Toward the end of Haswell’s lease of the newspaper, Thomas seemed to want to sell his Worcester press altogether. In a February 11, 1778, letter printed in the Spy, Haswell declared his intentions to purchase the press and settle it permanently in Worcester, asking his readers for financial assistance. The letter begins, “The utility of a Printing Press in this large country, is so well known to you, that the loss of it, especially at this time…would be more felt than at any other.” Haswell recognized the importance of print to the development of a young country in rebellion and a young town at the heart of that rebellion. He further notes, “Printing utensils are no where to be procured in this country at present, types in particular, are not now made in America…” The young country had yet to develop a printing equipment industry, so Haswell urged Worcester to jump on the opportunity to secure a full press. In spite of these efforts, Haswell failed to procure the necessary funds, and when the lease expired Thomas returned to Worcester to reclaim ownership of his printing press.

The press Haswell hoped to buy from Thomas, Old No. 1.

The press Haswell hoped to buy from Thomas, known as Old No. 1.

We know today that Thomas did keep his press in Worcester—in fact, as I write this sentence I sit about ten feet from Old No. 1—but the story of Anthony Haswell’s attempted purchase still cannot be dismissed. In Haswell, we have a significant piece of the early Worcester printing business and a man who recognized the value of a press to the Heart of the Commonwealth. Yet this man, who acted as Isaiah Thomas’s first apprentice and seemingly shared his views on printing, barely appears in Thomas’s influential record of American printers because of a personal grudge. Here we see the bias inherent in much of historical writing, a bias that the digitized Printers’ File, with its standardization and its easy manipulation of data, minimizes to a degree. And in this way, the Printers’ File provides unique angles and lost viewpoints on history, from the ordinary to the monumental. After all, the uncovered story of Anthony Haswell begs the question: If he had succeeded in purchasing Thomas’s printing press, would we today have an American Antiquarian Society to preserve such hidden stories of history?

The Acquisitions Table: Steel Printing Plate for “Echoes of the Woods”

Nicolas Valstin, engraver. Echoes of the Woods and Shepherdess and the Birds. Saint Louis: Kunkel Brothers, ca. 1871-1878.

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This steel printing plate was used to create sheet music covers. The two tunes that would have been found inside this cover were both popular in the United States until about 1900. Both were reissued multiple times by the publishing house Kunkel Brothers, which was founded in St. Louis by two German immigrants who were also trained concert pianists. They first issued this engraved cover in 1871 for just the Shepherdess and the Birds title (copy at Library of Congress), but then re-engraved the plate circa 1878 to include Echoes of the Woods (which was composed by Charles Kunkel under the pseudonym Jean Paul in 1878). The plate joins the Society’s representative holdings of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century printing matrices, which encompass the history of printing processes used in America.

Judaica at AAS: A Summer Intern’s Experience

Stay tuned throughout the summer for updates on Judaica at AAS from Claire Jones, an intern from Princeton University. Thanks to AAS chairman Sid Lapidus and the Princeton Internships in Civic Service program, Claire is working with Elizabeth Pope, curator of books, to identify, improve, and promote AAS’s Judaica collection.

Claire Jones, summer intern from Princeton, paging a book in the American Antiquarian Society stacks.

Claire Jones, summer intern from Princeton, paging a book in the American Antiquarian Society stacks.

Last month, I arrived at AAS for a ten-week internship in order to work on the Society’s Judaica collection with the enthusiasm of an undergraduate history major who has only a vague idea of what she’s getting herself into. My first few weeks were a bit of a whirlwind, settling in at AAS and beginning to wrap my head around the sheer volume of information housed here. Having the goal of collecting every printed work produced in North America before the U.S. centennial will do that to a collection; even though my area of focus for the summer—Judaica from 1841 to 1876—is relatively small by AAS standards, it was still a daunting prospect to just throw myself at the catalog and see what I could find.

Luckily, I’ve had a guide through all this mess. Yes, there’s my incredible supervisor, Elizabeth, whose understanding of the collection honestly still boggles my mind a bit, but the real hero of my first month at AAS has been Mr. Robert Singerman, without whose enormous bibliography, Judaica Americana, I would be so hopelessly lost. I spent my first two weeks checking all of his entries for the years 1841 to 1876—almost two thousand in total—against our online catalog. Sure, I got a lot of disheartening “Your search has returned no hits” results, but that search process meant reading through a list of quite literally every known work of American Judaica produced in my time period. I started to see patterns—names of people and institutions that kept coming up, popular topics for books and plays and pamphlets—and really got a feel for what mid-1800s American Judaica actually looks like. Most satisfying of all, though, was the finished product: a color-coded spreadsheet of a little over 450 titles, or around 25% of all American Judaica in my target years, that AAS now knows it has in its collection. Totally worth a few dead ends in the catalog.

An overview of the spreadsheet's findings as presented to the AAS Council. The final results will be available on AAS's website in fall 2016.

An overview of the spreadsheet’s findings as presented to the AAS Council. The final results will be available on AAS’s website in fall 2016.

Figuring out what exactly was in the AAS catalog had the added benefit of letting us know what kind of Judaica we were missing as well. One of the amazing things about AAS is that it’s always on the lookout for works it doesn’t already have: again, it’s the goal of the Society, to be as complete as possible within its scope. Despite this goal, though, there were a few significant gaps, the most prominent being works by Jewish thinkers or issued by Jewish institutions like synagogues or charity organizations. Elizabeth and I put together an acquisitions strategy for obtaining some of the missing titles,and also decided to make Jewish voices the focal point of our work on the collection this summer.

All of which brings me to my favorite part of my work here at AAS so far: picking out the most interesting-sounding works from my precious spreadsheet with the goal of finding and showcasing the highlights of the Judaica collection, both here and on the AAS website by the end of the summer. Actually getting a chance to interact with these nineteenth-century volumes is amazing, one of the best perks of working at a place like AAS, a place that is almost literally bursting at the seams with old books. As I probe the collection for whatever gems it can offer up, from the most important sermons and treatises to trashy novels and splashy pamphlets, we’ll be finding out a lot more about both our own collection and nineteenth-century Jewish life and culture itself. Whatever happens, we should emerge at the end of ten weeks with a beautiful cross-section of thirty-five years of Jewish life represented through AAS’s collections, bringing out an oft-forgotten part of the American story for our readers to discover and explore.

The Medical Education of Nathan Staples Pike

Bloggers at Past is Present have previously written about the recent donation of Pike-Wright Family Papers in several posts. This post is continuing a look at Dr. Nathan Pike’s medical career.

528208_0002In 1837, at the age of eighteen, Nathan Pike began teaching in the Foster, Connecticut, district schools and continued this employment for three or four years. His certificate, written by the school committee, stated that he was “a gentleman of unblemished character and worthy of public patronage as a school master.”

In August 1839, Nathan enrolled at Berkshire Medical Institution

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Pages from Pike’s medical notebooks

in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which had recently severed its ties to Williams College, becoming an independent medical school.  He attended lectures by Professor Watts on General and Pathological Anatomy and by Dr. David Palmer on Geology.

Nathan Pike’s medical education follows a complicated trajectory. His introduction to medicine at an institution rather than through an apprenticeship is unusual. In the first half of the nineteenth century, training for physicians (in New England, at least) traditionally began with a three-year apprenticeship under one or several sequential doctors. A minority continued their education at medical school, which consisted of two years of lectures—the second year being a repetition, sometimes verbatim, of the first.  The semester lasted four months. Formal medical education was not necessary—anyone could practice medicine. No licensing existed.

In November, 1839, after completing the semester in Pittsfield, Nathan started an apprenticeship with D. W. Hovey, in Killingly, Connecticut. A paper in the collection, signed and dated by Dr. Hovey in October 1841, attests that Nathan Pike studied medicine, surgery, and collateral branches of medicine and “witnessed” the practice of medicine with him for a period of one year and eleven months.

During 1840, Nathan signed a contract in July to teach in the Westfield schools, returned for a second semester, starting in August, at Berkshire Medical Institution and in December began a second apprenticeship with William Hubbard, M.D. Two papers in the collection, signed by Dr. Hubbard, certified that Nathan read medicine with him from December 1840 until August 1841.

In 1841, Nathan’s medical notes move from Pittsfield to New York, where he studied at New York University Medical Department, graduating in 1842.  His training with Dr. Hubbard must have coincided with his schooling, as one certification noted he had seen hospital practice and had free access to the dispensary and infirmary during his apprenticeship.

Nathan opened his practice in Sterling, Connecticut, in 1842, but it seems he was a lifelong student. His ledgers and notebooks indicate he returned to lectures given by Dr. Mott at his alma mater in 1846. And in November 1849, he again returned to Dr. Mott’s surgical clinic before continuing his education in December in Philadelphia.

It was natural that Dr. Pike would be drawn to Philadelphia, the center of American medical education, where its famous institutions hosted many of the most prestigious American physicians.  In 1825, Jefferson Medical College became the first in the country to establish a teaching clinic.  Prevailing medical school curricula then consisted only of lectures. Jefferson’s inclusion of patient care with formal education was unique and innovative.  Nathan is listed as a student at the College in the 1849-50 semester, when there were 477 students, with only 188 studying for a degree.  Most, like Nathan, were presumably clinicians advancing their education by viewing the latest surgical techniques and becoming acquainted with the latest medical practices. In the clinics he attended, he learned from Professors John K. Mitchell, Robley Duglison, William Gibson, Samuel Jackson, and Thomas Mütter.

Nathan’s interest in medical education continued throughout his life.  Among his collected papers is an announcement from Castleton Medical College in Vermont, listing the faculty, curricula, tuition, and helpful information about the school. He is listed in 1856 as a member for a two-year term of Yale Medical School’s Examining Board. He died—a young man of thirty-eight—the next year of tuberculosis before his term expired.

Raise a Glass to Freedom, Independence, and Perpetual Itching

Odds are your Fourth of July celebrations will include something along the lines of mounds of food, parades, drinks, bonfires, and fireworks. Turns out, if you add in some minor property destruction and some long-winded toasts, you’ll be right on target with those colonists who celebrated the long-awaited news of Congress’s adoption of independence in July of 1776.

Revelries sprung up everywhere as news of the Declaration spread throughout the colonies during the month of July. In Philadelphia on July 8, the Declaration was “proclaimed at the State-House in this city, in the presence of many thousand spectators, who testified their approbation by repeated acclamations.”[1] In New York on July 9, General George Washington had the Declaration read at the head of each brigade in and around the city, and it was “every where received with the utmost Demonstrations of Joy.”[2] Later that night, a large equestrian statue of King George III in New York, “which tory pride and folly raised in the year 1770, was, by the sons of freedom, laid prostrate in the dirt, the just desert of an ungrateful Tyrant! The lead wherewith this monument was made, is to be run into bullets…”[3] The Declaration was proclaimed in Williamsburg, Virginia, on July 25 and was “received with universal applause, under a discharge of cannon, firing of small arms, illuminations in the evening, &c. &c.”[4]

One of the most thorough descriptions of independence celebrations, however, appeared in the July 24 issue of Isaiah Thomas’s The Massachusetts Spy. Thomas had allegedly made the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New England some days earlier when he intercepted a post rider bound for Boston carrying a copy of the Declaration and subsequently read it to a large crowd from the roof of the portico of Worcester’s Meeting House (later known as Old South Church).[5] Several days later, on July 22, a bigger and more formal celebration took place when “a number of patriotic gentlemen of this town, animated by a love of their country, and to shew their approbation of the measure lately taken by the Grand Council of America, assembled on the green near the liberty pole,” where they displayed the colors of the thirteen colonies, rang bells, beat drums, and read the Declaration of Independence to “a large and respectable body (among whom were the Select-men and Committee of Correspondence) assembled on the occasion, who testified their approbation by repeated huzzas, firing of musquetry and cannon, bonfires, and other demonstrations of joy.”

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The Massachusetts Spy, or, American Oracle of Liberty, July 24, 1776

But this wasn’t enough for the “patriotic gentlemen” of Worcester. They followed these demonstrations by removing the King’s arms from the courthouse and burning them, after which a “select company of the Sons of Freedom” went to a tavern that had been known as the King’s Arms and tore down the sign proclaiming it as such. According to this article, the tavernkeeper—a woman named Mary Stearns—“cheerfully complied” with their wishes.

With the hard work of demolishing royal imagery done, the group celebrated by drinking in Stearns’s tavern to twenty-four separate toasts. The toasts began as might be expected: “Prosperity and perpetuity to the United States of America;” “The President of the Grand Council of America;” “His Excellency General Washington;” “Success to the American Arms;” etc.  But by the middle of the toasts, the effects of the free-flowing pints appear to have reached the gathered crowd. Toast numbers thirteen and fourteen call for “Sore Eyes to all Tories, and a Chesnut [sic] Burr for an Eye Stone” and “Perpetual itching without the benefit of scratching to the Enemies of America.”

The toasts quickly reverted to more standard fare, with glasses raised to the memory of General Joseph Warren, the state of Massachusetts-Bay, the town of Boston, and so on, ending on a heartfelt and hopeful  plea that “May the Freedom and Independency of America endure till the sun grows dim with age, and this earth returns to Chaos.”

The newspaper article concludes with a note that “The greatest decency and good order, was observed, and at a suitable time each man returned to his respective home.” It’s good to know that after they set off cannons, muskets, built bonfires, tore down and burned royal symbols, and in all likelihood got roaring drunk, they showed the utmost decorum in getting home safe and sound.


[1] Pennsylvania Gazette, July 10, 1776

[2] New-York Gazette, and Weekly Mercury, July 15, 1776

[3] The Massachusetts Spy, or, American Oracle of Liberty, July 17, 1776

[4] Dixon and Hunter, Virginia Gazette, July 27, 1776

[5] The story of Thomas’s being the first to publicly read the Declaration in New England first appears in the Massachusetts Spy of July 5, 1826, which also recaps the fiftieth anniversary celebrations, over which Thomas presided. The story is repeated in the diary of Christopher Columbus Baldwin, Thomas’s successor as librarian of the American Antiquarian Society, in his entry of July 4, 1832, where he notes that the story had been retold by Thomas many times over the years. There is no contemporary evidence for Thomas’s reading, but the specificity of the story, as well as Isaiah’s status as a printer who would need to set the text into his newspaper (which he did in the July 17, 1776, issue), does suggest authenticity. Later accounts carry conflicting details, including that Isaiah’s reading and the events of July 22 (sometimes stated as July 24) are the same event.

“Here a Lee, there a Lee, everywhere a Lee, a Lee”

Lee to Page, September 23, 1776

Richard Henry Lee to John Page, September 23, 1776. Images of the other letters are available here.

Kathy Major has been volunteering in the Manuscripts Department at AAS for several years and just recently found a small collection of uncataloged Richard Henry Lee letters, which she writes about below. 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.

The title of this post is from the lyrics of the amusing song, “The Lees of Old Virginia,” from the popular Broadway musical 1776.  The character singing the lyrics is supposed to be Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), the Virginia delegate in the Second Continental Congress who presented the motion for independence from Great Britain : “….that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states….” In addition to serving in the Continental Congress (1774-1779, 1784-1785, 1787), Lee signed the Declaration of Independence and also served as president of the Continental Congress and later became a U.S. senator.  Certainly he would not have been very happy with his portrayal in the Broadway show (and later film) as vain and somewhat dim-witted.  The actual Richard Henry Lee left behind a large correspondence, including three wonderful letters we’re integrating into AAS’s Miscellaneous Manuscripts collection.  The assistant curator of manuscripts was concerned about the fairly large backlog of unprocessed manuscripts and had asked me to begin to go through them.  Lo and behold, the three Lee letters turned up, and it was discovered that they have never been published.

The letters were donated to AAS almost thirty years ago by Mrs. Allan Carr McIntyre of Watertown, Massachusetts, and contain much valuable information about the military progress (or lack thereof) of the American Revolution from 1776 to 1778.  Written in Philadelphia, all three were addressed to Col. John Page (1744-1808), then serving as lieutenant governor of Virginia. Page was also an officer in that state’s militia and eventually served in the U.S. Congress from 1789 to 1797.

272194_0001On September 23, 1776, Lee referred to preparations on Harlem Heights for a confrontation with British General William Howe’s forces and to the mysteriously set “Great Fire” that destroyed a large portion of New York City.  He added a disparaging comment about the American troops : “…these northern militias. They are immensely expensive and utterly useless.”  Lee suggested that more ships should be converted to privateers in order to prey on British “sugar ships” from the West Indies, as well as the need to build  “10 or 12 large sea galleys,” to keep open the Chesapeake Bay to prevent invasion.

On October 10, 1777, Richard Henry Lee wrote of “a wise and well concerted attack on the British force on or near German town.” He believed that the British were “surprised, forced, and actually beaten,” but that a thick fog caused confusion among the American forces, which led to their retreat, thus depriving the U.S. of “a brilliant victory.” There is no reference to General Washington’s forces squandering too much effort on the Cliveden house, but certainly Saratoga and Germantown showed the French that the American troops could fight.

The third letter, dated September 7, 1778, detailed the confrontation between the naval forces of Admiral Lord Richard Howe and French Admiral Comte D’Estaing known as the Battle of Rhode island, or the Siege of Newport, during which “the same storm that has damaged our crops so much in  Virginia saved Lord Howe from ruin.” Lee mentioned that the French fleet was in Boston for repairs, and that American General John Sullivan’s army was forced to retreat, but Lee claimed victory for Sullivan due to “the enemy being driven from the field of battle in great disorder.” He added that the Battle of Rhode Island was “injurious to the enemy,” which “got a sound drubbing.”  He wrote hopefully that the French would reinforce D’Estaing’s fleet shortly.  This proved to be wishful thinking.

These three letters in no way support the character delineation of Lee as seen in the fun Broadway musical  (Alexander Hamilton and hip-hop, anyone?).  What they do convey are the commitment, dedication, industry, and determination of the Revolutionary War generation to secure independence for the united American states.

Please click here for images of all three letters!

Now available online: Photographs of Tuskegee Institute

Booker T Washington and familyFor some collections within the Graphic Arts Department, we do not catalog each item in the collection individually. Sometimes, it makes more sense to create one all-encompassing record that describes the collection as one entity to avoid redundancy in the catalog. These collections are still easily found in the online catalog, and they will usually have an itemized contents list or finding aid to help researchers make their way through them. However, sometimes these collections are important or visually interesting enough to warrant more. Many collections within Graphic Arts have been digitized and are available online and/or in GIGI (Daguerreotypes, Watch papers, etc.) But now, some collections will be available on the AAS website using the publishing platform of Omeka to create illustrated inventories where each item in a collection will be described in some detail.

Printing Office - TNIIImproved school and church near TuskegeeThe first collection to use Omeka to bring it to the light is the Society’s collection of fifty-six albumen prints of the Tuskegee Norman and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama, and the surrounding area. The images depict the people and buildings that made up Tuskegee Institute during the 1890s. Portraits of students standing before different halls and dormitories and in the classroom show the day-to-day life on campus. Other images show the locals who descended on the Tuskegee campus annually for the Tuskegee Negro Conference, where they learned of new advances in farming. The photographs show life off campus as well. Scenes depicting the “Black Belt” and other views outside of the college show the daily life of African Americans in Alabama near the turn of the century.

This is just the first of the illustrated inventories that we are creating. Inventories featuring a collection of photographs of Worcester’s fairgrounds and of the silhouette collection are in the works and will be available online soon!

AAS Hands-On Workshop Initiates Region-Wide Public History Program

IMG_0694 IMG_0691This past March the Society held a Hands-On History Workshop on the Declaration of Independence.  It featured Danielle Allen of Harvard University and used AAS collection materials to explore how Americans first learned about and celebrated independence in 1776 and how the Declaration was represented and interpreted in the nineteenth century.

Our Hands-On History Workshop was also the first program in a region-wide initiative sponsored by AAS and Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area entitled Declaring Independence – Then and Now. Recognizing that the Declaration of Independence is not only a beloved statement of our nation’s embracing of liberty and equality, but is also a living document, whose values continue to shape our lives today. Declaring Independence –Then and Now explores how the Declaration of Independence came to be, how we can find its roots in our own towns, what it meant to the founding generation, and how it continued to inform the generations that followed, including our own.

In the spring of 1776, the Massachusetts assembly sought to know the hearts and minds of the people. They charged each town with debating and resolving a critical question: Should the colonies declare independence from Great Britain? Declaring Independence –Then and Now engages Freedom’s Way towns in uncovering the evidence of responses to this challenge, through town debates, resolves, and local declarations of rights and liberties, as detailed in Pauline Maier’s American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. Towns also actively engaged in affirming, disseminating, and publically performing their assertions of independence. Their deep commitment to the public act of declaring liberty and equality continues to shape our local and national conversation today.

Mary Fuhrer, a public historian and AAS member, worked with communities in Massachusetts to uncover this evidence and to shape it into a performance piece. These will be presented at the Bullfinch Meetinghouse, 725 Main Street, Lancaster, Massachusetts, on Sunday, June 26, from 3 to 4 p.m., and on Saturday, July 2, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., at the Minute Man Visitor Center, Minuteman National Historic Park, 250 North Great Road, Lincoln, Massachusetts. The Lancaster program is presented in partnership with the Bulfinch Fund and is part of the Bulfinch 200th Anniversary Celebration. The program is also part of the church’s Annual Strawberry Festival and participants are invited to stay for chicken salad and all things strawberry, including ice cream and shortcake.  The Minute Man National Historical Park is a collaborating partner of the presentation in Lincoln.

I will act as narrator for both programs and will be joined by citizens of Lancaster and Lexington who, in addition to reading sections of the Declaration of Independence, will also discuss the mindset of their town leaders in 1776 and how the ideas in this seminal document continue to impact American government today.

The Acquisitions Table: The Spectroscope and Its Applications

Lockyer, J. Norman. The Spectroscope and Its Applications. London and New York: Macmillan and Co., 1873.

529791_0001This manual on the spectroscope is part of Macmillan’s Nature Series and is bound in publisher’s brick red cloth with gilt and black stamped front cover. Pasted onto the title page is a colorful watercolor spectrum with the initials “J.B.L.” next to it. The frontispiece is a tri-fold colored plate of spectra and there are sixty figures in the text, many illustrating types of spectroscopes. The front pastedown endpaper has the signature of previous owner David Peck Todd (1855 – 1939). An American astronomer and director of the observatory at Amherst College, Todd was chief astronomer at the Lick Observatory during the transit of Venus in 1882 and created the first known photographs of the transit. Spectroscopic measurements helped confirm the theory of the existence of an atmosphere on Venus, which appeared as though surrounded by a halo of light.

#hamildays: A Hamilton-Inspired Journey Through the Stacks

The following is the story behind the newest feature on AAS’s website, #hamildays: A Hamilton-Inspired Journey Through the Stacks.

monographs 336678 federalist bindings copyAs a monographs cataloger at the American Antiquarian Society, I work primarily with books and pamphlets, often ones printed in the United States during the nineteenth century. However, the twenty-five miles of shelves at AAS hold much more than books and pamphlets, and recently I ventured into collections that were entirely new to me and explored an array of AAS’s holdings that I hadn’t previously encountered.

portrait 44585 square elizabeth schuyler hamilton from republican courtThe impetus for this journey was the smash Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical. I listened to the Hamilton Original Cast Recording in October, and, like so many others have, I immediately started re-listening and quoting it at the drop of a hat. One of the (many) things I love about the music is how it incorporates the words and text of history into its reimagining of the past—the song “One Last Time” quotes George Washington’s Farewell Address verbatim, and “The Farmer Refuted” draws from a pamphlet war between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury. I began to wonder what might be within the walls of AAS that could connect me to the stories of Alexander Hamilton; Elizabeth Schuyler pottery 37085 square copper lustre pitcher with transfer-printed image of lafayette english made for the american marketHamilton, his wife; and their friends, allies, and opponents.

Ambitiously, I decided to see if I could find something in AAS’s collections inspired by each of the forty-six songs in the Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording. It took a bit of creative thinking, a generous approach to “inspired by,” and several conversations with my colleagues who guided me through AAS’s collections, but, after several months, I succeeded! Along the way, I posted the results of my journey to Instagram, where I gathered all the posts under the hashtag #hamildays
currency optionand gave some context—perhaps, at times, too much, given Instagram’s post limits—about what I had posted.

Over the course of creating fifty posts, the #hamildays project took me through twenty-eight collections at AAS, many of them new terrain for me. I wasn’t aware of the Currency Collection until Curator of Graphic Arts Lauren Hewes pointed it out to me. However, it was a perfect match for lyrics from the song “Stay Alive,” and it was thrilling to handle something as quotidian and tangible as money. It was also unexpectedly educational to see the volume of
manuscripts 271114 square abigail adams to mary smith cranch 24 june 1785 p 2 and 3bills counterfeiting banknotes issued by the Continental Congress and to learn that a sixpence could be issued as paper currency.

I was familiar with, in a general way, AAS’s manuscript collections, but I don’t interact with them on a daily basis. It was exciting to discover that AAS holds some of Aaron Burr’s papers and to read through them, finding Burr’s marriage certificate and handling letters written by his daughter, Theodosia Burr Alston.

newspaper 1014 new york evening post november 16 1801I’ve used digitized versions of AAS’s immense newspaper collection to search for information on authors and publishers, but physically handling them and turning through their pages while following the threads of the publication of the Reynolds Pamphlet, in which Alexander Hamilton admitted to an adulterous affair, was a very different experience than targeting snippets of text on a screen. Turning through a newspaper page by page gave me a richer sense of eighteenth-century daily life by seeing the advertisements, reprinted articles, reports of household unrest, and political news that made up people’s everyday experience.

map 488638 square montresor a plan of the city of new york & its environs.jpgAlthough I work with the books and pamphlets held by AAS, I discovered new things in those collections as well. For the first time, I visited the Almanacs Collection, which was cataloged prior to my tenure at AAS, and I was startled, although ecstatic, to learn how political almanacs could be, and how they visually depicted maps of the “present seat of war” and generals such as George Washington and Horatio Gates.

These fifty posts, with images from twenty-eight different AAS collections, have now been political cartoon 46362 square peep into the antifederal club.jpggathered up and archived on the AAS website as #hamildays: A Hamilton-Inspired Journey Through the Stacks. The #hamildays archive follows the structure of Hamilton: An American Musical, and is divided into two acts with each song represented by an image (or, upon occasion, two). It also includes a bibliography of both the collection items represented and secondary sources consulted. I hope you enjoy exploring #hamildays as much as I enjoyed assembling it.

Pictures, from top to bottom:

The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed Upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. 2 vol. New York: J. and A. M’Lean, 1788. Bindings Collection copy.

Portrait of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton from: Griswold, Rufus W. The Republican Court, or, American Society in the Days of Washington. New and rev. ed. New York: D. Appleton, 1856. Plate faces p. 55.

Copper lustre pitcher with transfer-printed image of the Marquis de Lafayette. English-made Staffordshire pottery for the American market.

Continental Currency. Three Dollar Bill. Philadelphia: Hall & Sellers, January 14, 1779.
Continental Currency. One Third of a Dollar. Philadelphia: Hall & Sellers, February 17, 1776.

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 24 June 1785. Abigail Adams Letters.

New York Evening Post. New York, N.Y. November 16, 1801.

Montrésor, John. A Plan of the City of New-York & Its Environs to Greenwich, on the North of Hudsons River, and to Crown Point, on the East or Sound River, Shewing the Several Streets, Publick Buildings, Docks, Fort & Battery, With the True Form & Course of the Commanding Grounds, With and Without the Town. Surveyed in the Winter, 1775. [London]: A. Dury, [1776?].

A Peep into the Antifederal Club. New York, 1793.

The Campaign Newspaper Title Quiz: The Answers

Last week we asked readers to figure out which five from a list of thirty nineteenth-century campaign newspaper titles were fake. Here are the answers. How did you do?

  1. Sober Second Thought (Hartford, CT), 1841

CT_Hartford_SoberSecond

A Democratic newspaper supporting Martin Van Buren.

  1. Castigator (Middletown, CT), 1840

CT_Middletown_Castigator

Another Democratic newspaper supporting Martin Van Buren.

  1. A Kick in the Pants – Fake
  1. Hard Cider Press (Chicago, IL), 1840

5000_0001

This is the first campaign newspaper published in Chicago.  It was a Democratic paper.

  1. The Old Soldier (Springfield, IL), 1840

IL_Springfield_OldSoldier

This is one of the earliest campaign newspapers known from Springfield, Illinois. It was a Whig newspaper supporting the election of William Henry Harrison. Abraham Lincoln may have worked on this publication.

  1. Tippecanoe Banner and Spirit of Democracy (New Albany, IN), 1840

Tippecanoe banner

A Whig newspaper supporting William Henry Harrison.

  1. Cabinet Maker (Boston, MA), 1860

MA_Boston_CabinetMaker

This is a Democratic newspaper supporting Stephen Douglas.  Like the Rail Splitter supporting Abraham Lincoln, the title of this paper is based on the trade Douglas was taught as a young lad. The aim was to present him as a candidate of the working class.

  1. My Worthless Opponent – Fake
  1. Rough and Ready (Boston, MA), 1848

MA_Boston_RoughReady

A Whig newspaper supporting Zachary Taylor.

 

  1. Give ‘Em Jessie! (Groton, MA), 1856

MA_Groton_GiveEmJesse

A People’s Party newspaper. The phrase “We strike for freedom but not with a cane!” refers to the incident when Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat Charles Sumner with a walking cane in the Senate chambers over a speech Sumner gave attacking slaveholders.

  1. Harry of the West (Lexington, MO), 1844

MO_Lexington_HarryWest

A Whig paper supporting Henry Clay.

  1. The Slasher (St. Louis, MO), 1844

MO_StLouis_Slasher

A Democratic paper supporting James K. Polk.

  1. Rough and Ready (Concord, NH), 1846-1848

NH_Concord_RoughReady
A Democratic Republican paper published in opposition to the Tough and Steady (see number 15 below).

  1. The Cane Mutiny – Fake
  1. Tough and Steady (Concord, NH), 1847

NH_Concord_toughandsteady

An independent newspaper in opposition to the Rough and Ready (see number 13 above).

  1. Whip & Spur (Newport, NH), 1839-1856

This is a Whig newspaper that appeared during various elections between 1839 and 1856.  Here are three mastheads used in 1839, 1840, and 1844.

NH_Newport_WhipSpur01 NH_Newport_WhipSpur02 NH_Newport_WhipSpur03 

  1. The Hare Splitter – Fake
  1. The Polk-er, and Young Hickory Advocate  (Hamilton, NY), 1844

NY_Hamilton_Polk-er

A Democratic newspaper supporting James K. Polk (as if you couldn’t guess from the title).

  1. The Thrasher (Hudson, NY), 1840

NY_Hudson_Thrasher

A Democratic newspaper supporting Martin Van Buren.

  1. Barnburner (New York, NY), 1848

6345_0001

A Free Soil newspaper supporting Martin Van Buren.

  1. New-York Must be Redeemed! (Rochester, NY), 1840

6802_0001

A Democratic newspaper supporting Martin Van Buren.

  1. That Ball! (Rochester, NY), 1840

NY_Rochester_ThatBall

A Whig paper supporting William Henry Harrison.

  1. The Giraffe (Cincinnati, OH), 1842

OH_Cincinnati_Giraffe

A Whig newspaper supporting the election of Thomas Corwin as governor.  This is an example of a campaign newspaper printed for a local rather than national election.

  1. Mother’s Favorite! – Fake
  1. Scott Soup Bowl (Cleveland, OH), 1852

7503_0001

A Whig newspaper supporting Winfield Scott.

  1. That Same Old Coon (Dayton, OH), 1844

OH_Dayton_ThatSameOldCoon

This is a Whig newspaper supporting Henry Clay. The symbol of the Whig party was the raccoon. This newspaper included an image of a raccoon in the masthead, and the pages were bordered by images of raccoons as well.

  1. Coon Dissector  (Dayton, OH), 1844

OH_Dayton_CoonDissector

A Democratic newspaper supporting James K. Polk.  The symbol of the Democratic party at the time was a rooster.  Instead of incorporating their own symbol into the campaign newspaper, they decided to attack their local opponent seen above in number 26.  They used an image of a dead raccoon with a knife in its chest and decorated the borders with dead raccoons hanging by the neck.

  1. The Magician (Harrisburg, PA), 1840

PA_Harrisburg_Magician

A Democratic newspaper supporting Martin Van Buren.

  1. The Dirty Shirt (Philadelphia, PA), 1840

PA_Philadelpiha_DirtyShirt

A Democratic newspaper supporting the election of Martin Van Buren.

  1. Old Granny, That Delivered the American Frontier from the British Proctor and His Army (Pittsburgh, PA), 1840

5065_0001

A Whig newspaper supporting William Henry Harrison.

Now In Print from the AAS Community

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

BOOKS

Apap, Chrisopher. Genius of Place: The Geographic Imagination in the Early Republic. Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2016. (Peterson Fellow, 2012-2013)

Barreyre, Nicolas. Gold and Freedom: The Political Economy of Reconstruction. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015. (Tracy Fellow, 2011-2012)

Bassett, Lynne. Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion & Its Legacy. Hartford: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2016. (Peterson Fellow, 2004-2005; AAS member)

Blum, Hester, ed. Turns of Event: Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies in Motion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. (Reese Fellow, 2004-2005; AAS member)

Crabtree, Sarah. Holy Nation: The Transatlantic Quaker Ministry in an Age of Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.  (AAS-ASECS Fellow, 2013-2014)

Crosby, Sara L. Poisonous Muse: The Female Prisoner and the Framing of Popular Authorship in Jacksonian America. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2016. (AAS-NEH Fellow, 2005-2006)

Dalton, Russell. Children’s Bibles in America: A Reception History of the Story of Noah’s Ark in U.S. Children’s Bibles. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.

Gunn, Robert Lawrence. Ethnology and Empire: Languages, Literature, and the Making of the North American Borderlands. New York: New York University Press, 2015. (Peterson Fellow, 2008-2009)

Kelley, Sean. The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016. (AAS-NEH Fellow, 2008-2009)

Sinha, Manisha. Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. (AAS-NEH Fellow, 2004-2005; AAS member)

ARTICLES

Edelstein, Sari. “Reading Age Beyond Childhood.” ESQ 62.1 (2016): 122-127. (Peterson Fellow, 2008-2009)

Fagan, Benjamin. “Chronicling White America.” American Periodicals 26.1 (2016): 10-12. (Tracy Fellow, 2008-2009)

McGill, Meredith. “American Poetry: What, Me Worry?” American Literary History 28.2 (2016): 288-294. (Peterson Fellow, 1995-1996; Mellon Fellow, 2003-2004; AAS member)

Murphy, Jillmarie. “The Humming Bird; or Herald of Taste (1798): Periodical Culture and Female Editorship in the Early American Republic.” American Periodicals 26.1 (2016): 44-69.

Pawley, Emily. “The Point of Perfection: Cattle Portraiture, Bloodlines, and the Meaning of Breeding, 1760-1860.” Journal of the Early Republic 36 (2016): 37-72. (AAS-NEH Fellow, 2009-2010)

Ross, Kelly. “Babo’s Heterochronic Creativity.” Leviathan 18.1 (2016): 5-21. (Fellow, 2009-2010)

The Campaign Newspaper Title Quiz

This election year the verbal thrusts and parries have been fast and thick throughout the primaries. Today Facebook and Twitter are as important as radio and TV in spreading the vitriolic name-calling and accusations of various candidates. In the nineteenth century politicians had to resort to print media, and one way to do this was through campaign newspapers.

Campaign newspapers were separate publications issued just during elections to promote a specific person, party, or issue. They were printed in local newspaper offices (and sometimes edited there) for distribution in the surrounding region. Often the title is evocative of some feature of the candidate. For example, leading up to and during the Republican convention in Chicago in 1860, there was a campaign newspaper published supporting the nomination of Abraham Lincoln as the Republican candidate titled The Rail Splitter. The title emphasized Lincoln’s humble beginnings and implied that he was a man of the people.

The Rail Splitter

Similarly, the election of 1840 produced many campaign newspapers supporting William Henry Harrison with the phrase “Log Cabin” in the title. The most famous one was called The Log Cabin and published by Horace Greeley in New York and Albany.

The Log Cabin

Sometimes the title was very explicit about who they supported but at other times they were quite imaginative. Thanks to this fact, as well as to the rough and tumble primaries of the 2016 election, we decided to create a quiz similar to one from last fall asking readers to identify genuine newspaper titles from a list, this time with titles of campaign newspapers.  Can you find the five fake titles out of this list?

  1. Sober Second Thought
  1. Castigator
  1. A Kick in the Pants
  1. Hard Cider Press
  1. The Old Soldier
  1. Tippecanoe Banner and Spirit of Democracy
  1. Cabinet Maker
  1. My Worthless Opponent
  1. Rough and Ready
  1. Give ‘Em Jessie!
  1. Harry of the West
  1. The Slasher
  1. Rough and Ready
  1. The Cane Mutiny
  1. Tough and Steady
  1. Whip & Spur
  1. The Hare Splitter
  1. The Polk-er, and Young Hickory Advocate
  1. The Thrasher
  1. Barnburner
  1. New-York Must be Redeemed!
  1. That Ball!
  1. The Giraffe
  1. Mother’s Favorite!
  1. Scott Soup Bowl
  1. That Same Old Coon
  1. The Coon Dissector
  1. The Magician
  1. The Dirty Shirt
  1. Old Granny, That Delivered the American Frontier from the British Proctor and His Army

Next week: The answers!

Transforming the Printers’ File into a Linked Open Data Resource

PFCabinetEmily Wells, who is working on the Printers’ File project at AAS this summer, received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 2015. In the fall she will enter the History Ph.D. program at the College of William and Mary and begin work as an editorial apprentice at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Here she shares what she has learned while working with the Printers’ File. 

When you walk into the reading room, a number of objects might catch your eye, from the marble busts that flank the doorway to the portraits that stare down from the second floor balcony. One object that might escape your notice, however, is a brown wood cabinet that stands to the left of the main entrance. This cabinet, known as the Printers’ File, contains more than 16,000 typewritten cards that record the stories of approximately 6,000 people who were involved in the American book trade before 1820.

At present, this resource is only available to researchers who are able to visit the reading room and peruse the cards in person. To make the Printers’ File more easily accessible, AAS is working to digitize and transfer the information recorded on these cards to a linked open data resource. Not only will this resource make the Printers’ File available to anyone with a computer and internet access, but it will also allow researchers to answer complex research queries and draw connections between the people and places recorded within the scope of the project.

As the person hired to enter data, I am working to interpret and transfer the information written on the original typewritten cards to a digital environment while also helping to formulate guidelines that will standardize the data entry process. Through my work with the Printers’ File, I have discovered that there is a fundamental difficulty that arises when attempting to fit biographical information into a standardized format. To create a working dataset, one must determine the best way to field a person’s life experience, something that is inherently messy and complex, within the limits of a data entry form.

The original Printers' File card and the digital entry for William Bradford.

The original Printers’ File card and the digital entry for William Bradford.

EventsFieldAlthough there is no perfect solution to this problem, there are several ways that we can record the unique details of a person’s life while also maintaining consistency across the entire dataset. One way we can accomplish this is by entering information in a specially created “events” form. This form, which is separate from, but connected to the form that contains information regarding a person’s profession, allows us to record the more unusual aspects of a person’s life in a searchable format. For example, if someone was banished, held for ransom, impressed into the navy, or enslaved, we can create unique entries for those occurrences.  By creating these events, we avoid relegating information to the notes, a catchall field that renders the data unsearchable and therefore, somewhat unusable.

Another challenge arises when attempting to interpret the cards themselves. Avis Clarke, the woman who created the Printers’ File, devised a system that allowed her to record information in a consistent manner, even when she returned to cards years later with new research. Starting in 1927, Clarke combed through a vast number of imprints, newspapers, and secondary sources to find information that could be incorporated into the Printers’ File. Before I could understand the essential data recorded on the cards, I first had to familiarize myself with Clarke’s method. Every so often, her quirks and idiosyncrasies shine through and create an extra challenge of decoding her research before entering it into the data entry form.

Clarke

Avis Clarke, who created the Pinters’ File, working in Antiquarian Hall.

Although the Printers’ File contains records for a number of well-known individuals, some of the most colorful stories are those that are relatively unknown. For example, James Adams, the first printer in Wilmington, Delaware, was forced to move his press to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in 1777 to escape the British forces. Another printer, Daniel Bowen, gave up his business in 1788 to travel the country exhibiting his collection of wax sculptures. The Printers’ File also contains the stories of a handful of women who participated in the early American book trade. One of these women, Mary Baldwin, took over her husband’s printing business in Kingston, Jamaica, after his death in 1722. A few decades earlier, Mary Avery began working as a bookseller in Boston after the death of her first husband in 1678 and continued her business even after she remarried in 1679.

Once the project is complete, these stories and many others will be available to researchers anywhere in the world. With a single search, we will be able to comb through thousands of records. For example, we could compile a complete list of women who owned printing offices in early America or search through the names of printers who learned their trade in Europe before immigrating to North America. Regardless of specialty, scholars of early American history will undoubtedly find something of interest.

This fall, as I begin my first year as a History PhD student at the College of William and Mary, I will have the chance to apply skills I learned while working on the Printers’ File to my own research. Not only has this experience opened my eyes to the varied world of the early American book trade, but it has also given me an inside look into how digital repositories of information are constructed, knowledge that will make it easier to find and navigate these resources in the future.

Support for this work has been generously provided by the Delmas Foundation, the Lapidus Digital Enterprise Fund, and the Pine Tree Foundation of New York.