Author Archives: Diann Benti

About Diann Benti

Assistant Reference Librarian

The Acquisitions Table: Quagga and Rhinoceros

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The quagga illustrated in this children's book caught my eye because, possibly like you, dear reader, I had never heard of this animal.  And so I went to Wikipedia where I read an interesting article about the quagga's relationship to the plains zebra and about efforts to breed them back into existence.  Curator of Children's ...

The Sweet Smell of a Mystery Solved

abigail_adams

There is something fitting in one librarian coming to the aid of another. The mystery surrounding the New York Times 1964 claim that the Adams family celebrated July 4, 1776 with “Green turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce and apple pan dowdy,” found a resolution with the detective work of New York ...

The gentleman doth protest too much

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Background: The books in the AAS collection began appearing long before a comprehensive cataloging system. Building on the foundational donation of Isaiah Thomas' personal library, members sent books to the Society, and according to the letter transcribed below, at times also removed them. Item: A letter from AAS member and prominent Worcester lawyer William Lincoln to statesman ...

The Question: Something Smells Fishy

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If Abigail Adams were planning an Independence Day feast what would she make? According to a 1964 New York Times article: “green turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce and apple pan dowdy.” In fact, the article claims she served this fine menu to John Adams on the very first Independence Day. Is ...

Do you hear what I hear?

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Within the roughly 60,000 pieces of sheet music in the AAS collection, a devilish and spry Santa Claus waits for just this time of year.  At the first talk of Christmas, he appears, dancing on a chimney while playing the violin.  This 1846 incarnation of Santa Claus stands on the cover of the Santa Claus ...

Santa Claus Exposed

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AAS's The Children's Friend: A New Year's Present is one of just two known copies of the 1821 pamphlet.  Fifteen centimeters tall and eight pages deep, the paper-covered volume stood little chance of survival in the hands of generations of American children. But there was one family fastidious enough for the task, and by chance ...

It’s all in the timing

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Proof that humor is not a modern invention:  a joke to lighten our Wednesdays direct from John Davis to AAS Librarian Christopher Columbus Baldwin in the close of a February 4, 1832 letter. Can you tell why a catterpillar [sic] is like a woman churning butter? Do you give it up? Because she makes butterfly. No groans ...

Anatomy of a Catalog Record

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People tend to treat catalog records a lot like refrigerators: open it, grab what you need, and close it up again. At AAS, the milk, eggs, and butter of the record are the author, title, and call number. Locate those three and the rest can stay a black and white blur. But know that ...

Apple Pie Bake-Off Or The Sweet Taste of Revenge

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In the October 1813 Report of the Committee, Isaiah Thomas justified the choice of Worcester for the home of the American Antiquarian Society. He maintained that an “inland situation” offered the best protection against, the destruction so often experienced in large towns and cities by fire, as well as from the ravages of an enemy, ...

Halloween Terror: The Glass-Eyed Ghouls

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In the mid 1800s, people began appearing with eyes so clear they were nearly invisible.  The ghostly faces stared straight ahead without a hint of shame in their alien faces. They haunt us still, following us from countless daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and cartes-de-visite, warning us of a different time.  A fearful era when to be photogenic ...

One more thing about me…

25 Random Things

An online fad became a journalistic obsession with a late-winter craze known as “25 Random Things.” Members of the social networking site Facebook began crafting lists about themselves: personal histories, likes, and dislikes -- self-identified quirks describable in a sentence they then displayed for others to see. The only thing that seemed to equal the number ...

The Original Balloon Boy: Edgar Allan Poe?

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Have you heard the one about the balloon boy? No, not that balloon boy.  On April 13, 1844, the New York Sun printed an extra edition reporting that man had finally flown across the Atlantic.  In a balloon. A postscript in the April 13th morning edition of the Sun taunted readers, We stop the press at a late hour, to ...

Baron Lecture Thursday Night

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AAS invites you to join us in Antiquarian Hall at 7:30pm on Thursday, October 22nd for the 6th Annual Baron Lecture.  William W. Freehling, the Singletary Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at the University of Kentucky and Senior Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, will be discussing his 1965 work Prelude to Civil ...

Your Daily Dose

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What’s the world coming to? John Quincy Adams is tweeting from 1808  and our own anonymous blacksmith’s apprentice is blogging away right above these very words.  Following Adams’ debut on Twitter, one of the  librarians from the Massachusetts Historical Society explained that, “We want to get it out there to the technophile generation ... We ...