Time for a New Illustrated Inventory – Watch Papers

After many years of inventorying, identifying and digitizing, the Society’s collection of nearly 500 watch papers are now available as an illustrated inventory! Watch papers are small, decorative pieces of paper or cloth that are meant to protect the mechanisms of watches, and were also used to indicate when a watch was last repaired and by whom. The subjects of the images are varied, and include scenes of Father Time, beehives, horses, factories and of course watches.

In 1951, AAS staffer Dorothea Spear cataloged all of the watch papers in the collection, publishing her findings in the Society’s Proceedings that year. It wasn’t until 2011 that Wellesley College intern Dominique Ledoux took on the challenge of updating the list, making an editable digital list. At the same time, our photographer digitized the fronts and backs of each watch paper. All of that information has once again been updated and has come together to create an easily searchable visual inventory.

New to this exhibit is the “Browse” tab. As there are so many items in this inventory, this feature makes it much easier to sort the items by the watchmaker/jeweler. Simply click on the tab, and click on “Creator” in the “Sort by” menu. This will present an alphabetized list of all 493 items. As with all of the Omeka illustrated inventories, clicking on a tag will present a list of all of the other items that fall into this category, whether it be by watchmaker, location or subject matter. For a list of the other illustrated inventories available online, click here!


Back to School (supplies!)

In the AAS Penmanship Collection, a group of penmanship exercises  and copy books by various students, there is a poem titled “After Vacation” by an unknown pupil from the Parkerville School in Westford, Massachusetts. The poem is on the first page of one of the mostly-filled volumes and captures an adieu to summer with the refrain: “Work is coming! Coming! O!….Play is ending! Ending! O!”

The bittersweet (but lovely!) poem has put us in the mood for an archive-inspired back-to-school supplies hunt. We hope you will enjoy this selection of items pulled from several of our favorite collections and worked against a (contemporary) school’s supply list. We tried to find versions of composition books, erasers, packs of pencils, cases, and other items which (we hope) will make us leader of the class.

Let us know if there is anything missing which you’d like to see checked off!

Are pens and pencils near the top of your list? We got that. We have a set of nine quill pens in a box that slides open; the “Congress quill pens” were manufactured by E. De Young in mid-nineteenth-century New York.






If a good name-brand is your game, might we interest you in the pencil we have made in Concord by Thoreau & Co. (yes, the same family!) This pencil and label for “Thoreau’s improved drawing pencils” is from a set of four (we alas, have one) but is “for the nicest uses of the drawing master, surveyor, engineer, architect, and artists generally:  Graduated from 1 to 4, in proportion to their hardness.”



Do you require a box to store your supplies? You might find this one appealing – the Louis Maurer Archival Collection dating from 1850-1932 contains boxes (and as you can see, boxes of boxes!) of material. Pictured here is also a package of Charles Currier Lithographic crayons, No. 2 with the crayons and a label as well as the wooden toolbox;  an inventory of the items contained can be found here.









Crayons not enough to satisfy the fine art supplies you demand this year? Might you also need some blotter paper? We have some paints in an account notebook from Bass Otis (1784-1861) which is a DIY-version. Otis, a Philadelphia artist and portrait-painter, as well as lithographer, took notes in the volume on artistic-technique in addition to using some inner pages for oil-testing.






Need inspiration for your workbooks, nameplates, desk tags, or other classroom belongings? We’ve got you covered – literally. Presented here are examples from the copybook cover collection. The Society has three boxes of copy, drawing or writing book covers – many with aids for learning such as multiplication or mathematical tables and a place for the pupil to inscribe his or her name (such as the hand-colored example, bottom). These printed wrappers were originally from blank composition books which were made into their own collection because of their rich printed imagery. You see these covers at work protecting content in the Society’s penmanship collection.






Have a special interest in portability? We don’t have laptops, cases or tablets, but we do have a mobile device – this Civil War envelope shows the Soldiers’ Portable Camp Writing Case printed by J.M. Whittemore & Co. in Boston during the Civil War years. The image on the envelope shows illustrated details for writing instrument and paper storage (and how it rolls up).



Need a way to safely display your hanging posters? This 1865 advertisement for “Diagram of Lloyd’s patent revolving double maps of Europe and America” is pretty handy and illustrates in detail how to jerk the cord to roll the map.






Want to go old school with your supplies? Do you require a slate? We have a ca. 1811 one which has its original sponge eraser. This example with marbled boards is over a sheep-back spine; there are also faded chalk notes with sums. Make sure to do your own work!






Teachers:  are you looking for stickers or other incentives for your students? Look no further than our reward of merit collection! We have lovely ones filled in for students and blank ones ready for you to heap praise on your favorites for anything from spelling to punctuality. Several are handmade beauties, such as this top one, “Mr. Moody A. Pilsbury has made very good improvement in learning since he has attended school, for which he is entitled to much praise. – Martha Prichard”

….while another example here presented on the bottom to Arthur Holt by his teacher Edna F. Pike shows a boy chased up a fruit tree by a dog – there has to be an easier way to get an apple for your teacher, Arthur!

With the summer staff returning to college (and before the new crop of academic fellows join us in the reading room this fall) we enjoyed collecting items for our own mini-back-to-school. Yes, the bug bites us all. And no, fear not! There won’t be a quiz later!



Collaborative Bibliographic Data Production: AAS and Lyle Wright’s American Fiction, 1851-1875

Nigel Lepianka is a graduate student in the English Department at Texas A&M. He recently spent a month under the generous dome researching his dissertation, “‘Yet of Books There Are A Plenty’: The Bibliography of Literary Data.” Nigel and AAS Director for Digital and Book History Initiatives Molly Hardy co-authored this post.

The trend towards using catalog data to analyze bibliographic data continues as the Library of Congress recently announced that they have “opened their catalogs to the world.” This means that they have made 25 million records created between 1968 to 2014 available in bulk. We at AAS who work on the American printing record prior to 1900 don’t deal in such largess, and yet, data downloads of any size can be daunting. How do I know that I am getting all of the records for a given set of criteria — say, all books printed in Philadelphia from 1790-1800? When the criteria are temporal and spatial and when you are working with a comprehensive data set like the North American Imprint Program (NAIP), you can be pretty certain. But, what about when you are looking for types of authors or of books? Just as we are underway to enable increasingly users to be able to search for “blacks as authors” or have made it possible to search American reprints of English prose and verse before the Revolution, we also want to make it possible to search for “fiction” as a category. As a genre term, “fiction” can be very sticky, and so rather than reassessing thousands of records ourselves and deciding which to label as fiction, we did what we often do: we included citations to the definitive bibliography on the subject. In this case, we used volume two of Lyle Henry Wright’s three-volume American Fiction, 1774-1900. In volume two, Wright lists “the American editions of novels, novelettes, tales, romances, short stories and allegories, in prose, written by Americans” from 1851 to 1875. Wright excludes from his list “annuals and gift books, publications of the American Tract Society and the Sunday School Union, juveniles, fictitious Indian captivities, jestbooks, folklore, collections of anecdotes, periodicals, and extra numbers of periodicals.”  

Using Wright as a basis for the improvement of fiction title metadata is a choice that is far more precedented for the Society than one might imagine. During the composition of the bibliography, particularly the first volume covering 1774-1850, Wright spent a decent portion of the leave he received from the Huntington Library at the AAS.  Several decades of both publishing and revising the three volumes produced a robust collection of letters between Wright and AAS staff inquiring about titles, potential authors, editions, and the various minutiae of bibliographic detail amidst more genial discussions of the how-is-the-weather sort. These letters even include a suggestion by Robert Vail for Wright to read Arthur Hobson Quinn’s American Fiction: An Historical and Critical Survey (1936), which would ultimately inform Wright’s decision to use the term “fiction” over “novel” in the bibliography “to avoid trouble with the purists.” 

Verso of Wright letter with Vail’s notes towards a response

Letter from Wright to Vail, February 2, 1937. AAS Records, Box 171.










AAS itself has invested in the Wright bibliography periodically to inform its holdings. Several copies of the first and second volumes of American Fiction are held in the AAS; they point to both physical, intellectual, and institutional labor spent in thinking about Wright’s listings. For the first volume, there are four copies of the published bibliography and a mimeograph checklist composed by Wright before publication. These copies include handwritten annotations and notes for particular titles listed by Wright as the Society acquired them. Wright already included in his descriptions the libraries in which he found a particular title, but the AAS staff in several cases continued to point out the evolution of their holdings in respect to American fiction. As Wright revised the first volume for the 1948 edition, he incorporated approximately 600 more titles and editions. Of these, close to 100 titles were found penciled in by AAS in the earlier 1939 edition.  In the flip book below, see for example, the expansion of the entries for “Goodrich, Samuel Griswold” from half a page in the 1939 edition to two pages in the 1948 edition to three pages in the 1969 edition based on Clarence Brigham’s pencilled notes in the 1935 edition.

It is no surprise then that Wright included this dedication to the 1948 edition of his bibliography he gave to the Society, “To Clarence S. Brigham — Without whose aid this work would have been woefully incomplete.” 

Wright inscription to Clarence Brigham in 1948 edition of his bibliography

This sort of collaborative effort would continue, as acquisitions of fiction would continue to be described as either “Found in Wright” or “Not in Wright.” The 1969 edition would feature corrections grafted physically into the book that attempted to append authors to anonymous titles.

Given AAS’s longstanding relationship with Wright and his work, the Society has been including Wright numbers as catalogers came across records for included titles, either in cataloging nineteenth-century imprints or in enhancing recon records. But, thanks to the University of Indiana’s Wright American Fiction 1851-1875 project we now have comprehensive records for volume 2 of Wright. The Indiana project includes 2,340 texts included (2,040 unedited and lightly encoded, 300 fully edited and encoded). The University of Indiana library generously gave us their MARC records for these texts. These records include links to each of the images of and encoded texts in Wright II, but they also enable analysis of the bibliographic data contained in the records. We have enhanced the records by adding to each a field (or fields) listing in hierarchical fashion the place (or places) of publication named in the imprint (e.g. United States–Pennsylvania–Philadelphia). This enables the geo-locating of these records.  We are in the process of further enhancing the records by adding the heading “Women as authors” to all works written by women. Already, we can see the top ten authors based on the number of titles Wright lists.

Top Ten Authors in Wright


These names might come as a bit of a surprise. Timothy Shay Arthur and not Harriet Beecher Stowe? Really? It is hard to imagine that Arthur’s Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, and What I Saw There  could beat out Uncle Tom’s Cabin, say. Wright himself acknowledges this when he reflects on his work for the second volume in the AAS Proceedings, describing Arthur as a “classic example of an author who ground out one hundred or more books during his lifetime, yet was unable to attain the rank of a literary craftsman.” Wright nevertheless acknowledges Shay’s success, writing “…it cannot be denied that his saccharine tales were tremendously popular and influenced the thinking of a large body of his readers.”  Repeated Wright entries are indeed indications of proliferation. Multiple editions of a given book did not receive their own entry; instead, they are merely listed under the original edition’s entry. 

While Wright’s bibliography is a hallmark of both traditional bibliography and American literary study, it has gained new life in an age that has increasingly seen scholars turn towards questions of scale, database, and distant reading. The composition of Wright’s work  as a classical enumerative bibliography demonstrates an ethos that more contemporary distant reading scholars have recently professed. A bibliography such as a Wright’s, while not perfect when you consider his exclusions (i.e. Walt Whitman’s Franklin Evans or Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women) and problematic inclusions (i.e. Harriet Jacobs’ autobiographical Incidents in a list of fiction), represents effort, attention to, and documentation of what Franco Moretti calls the “Slaughterhouse of Literature”, though more recently scholars such as Ted Underwood would question the ethos of the slaughterhouse over more controlled collections. The point, however, is Wright produced a dataset, that can be explored, modeled, and read (and IU and now NAIP have assisted in delivering this). Within this dataset there is an attempt (at the least) to describe those that exist beyond the canon in a way that is synonymous with the democratic “one vote” principle: Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin receive one entry. Wright himself embodies this ethos years before when he, echoing the sentiments of the New Bibliography tradition, asserts that it is a “bibliographic impossibility” to say that a text should not be described in a list.


Report from Digital Humanities Conference 2017

I had the pleasure of attending my first Association of Digital Humanities Organizations Conference last week in Montreal. The conference began with two days of workshops, and I attended the Advancing Linked Open Data in the Humanities session on Monday. Overall, the session was helpful in the reassurance that we are not alone in the trials and tribulations of adopting Linked Open Data (LOD) models. The first break out session dedicated its discussion to the challenges that come with making LOD user interfaces that are effective for users without belying the complexity of the data structures behind them. I learned of the Social Networks and Archival Context Cooperative (SNAC) project, hosted by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and funded by IMLS, NEH, and the Mellon Foundation. SNAC looks to “enable archivists, librarians, and scholars to jointly maintain information about the people documented in archival collections.”  Alison Hedley, of  The Yellow Nineties Online, gave a great presentation on their efforts to create a proposopograhy in LOD that was especially relevant to our work on the Printers’ File. She went over “best practices” that I found incredibly instructive as they were concise, yet really sophisticated in addressing how practitioners must “look at the information structure the historical data is embedded in” and “document contingencies.” This presentation as well as those by Constance Compton and others fueled a break out session that centered on one of the most valuable conversations I partook in and heard at DH: the relationship between data as it exists and the representation –both historical and present–we look for it to capyure. In her presentation on “Cultural (Re-)formations: Structuring a Linked Data Ontology for Intersectional Identities”, Susan Brown,  of the Orlando Project (and many others), perhaps summed it up best when she reflected on the “need to talk to data without endorsing an impoverished representation of gender.” Similar points were made about the ways in which data models oversimplify race, and the ways in which we can’t ignore these models (“we need to talk” to them, as Susan said), but we also want to consider how LOD might document more complex and nuanced understandings of these social constructions. In a similar vein, I saw a great panel on “Accessing Alternative Histories and Futures: Afro-Latin American Models for the Digital Humanities” in which Eduard Arriaga examined the ways in which our current understanding of diversity can be an “intellectual pitfall.” In an effort to avoid oversimplification, he called for “more powerful destruction and enablement.” I hope that I am able to carry his reflections into AAS’s continued work with Black Bibliography as well as our potential involvement in Northeastern’s Design for Diversity forum.

Another theme that emerged from the sessions I attended was the need for documentation for all we make. Through these presentations, most notable Livingstone Online: Illuminating Imperial Exploration, I began to understand the potential for documentation not just as a prevention against institutional amnesia in what we at AAS often refer to as the “hit by a bus” scenario, but also as a form of reflective project work. Documentation can be an opportunity to situate a project in time and place:

  • What resources are available and what do we wish were available?
  • What data must we rely on even though we see its limitations (see paragraph above)?
  • With hindsight being 20/20 vision, how might we do things differently next time?

As Megan Elizabeth Ward and Adrian S. Wisnicki reflected on Livingstone Online, such documentation helps us to understand access as a matter of repair (a la Eve Sedgwick’s “reparative reading”) and transparency. This presentation was also incredibly instructive in thinking through how spectral imaging complicates our understanding of the original material object and its digital segregate. The  spectral imaging in this GIF of Linivstone’s 1870 Field Diary page that apparently doubled as a coaster reveals a pre-textual moment for this object, a moment that the human eye could not recapture in the way spectral imaging makes possible. 

An animated spectral image of David Livingstone’s 1870 Field Diary. Copyright David Livingstone Centre. CC BY-NC 3.0. Image published by Livingstone Online (http://livingstoneonline.org/).

Questions around digital publishing, both in terms of scholarly editions and scholarly monographs, percolated throughout  much of the conference. Transcription tools Transkribus, which the Omohundro Institute is using for its Georgian Papers Programme and TextLab, which John Bryant is using for scholarly editions of Herman Melville’s work in the Melville Electronic Library, were showcased. The Digital Scholarly Editions Initial Training Network (DIXiT) panel discussed how digital scholarly editions are often hard to identify in library catalogs as well as how important it is to include the underlying XML for digital editions. Speaking of XML, James Cummings gave a really helpful talk on “Myths and Misconceptions about the Textual Encoding Initiative (TEI)” that demonstrated expectations and preconceived notions with which people come to digital mark-up. Conversation abounded with about new directions in scholarly publishing, with a panel on reports from the Mellon-funded Monograph Publishing in the Digital Age Initiative, including the new Greenhouse Studios at the University of Connecticut

In the conversations that related most to libraries, there was a lot of talk about International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) and how it is changing image sharing among cultural heritage organizations. I saw some really computationally complex uses of bibliographic data in DH projects, including Ben Schmidt’s analysis of Hathi Trust data as well as David-Antoine Williams’s efforts to tag (or to have students tag) all of the entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. Both of these efforts avoided the confusion that often comes when scholars work with MARC data and encounter the 650 (subject) and 655 (genre/form) fields; instead, they use the shelf marks from the Library of Congress Classification system embedded in the data for a much more direct understanding of the content of their corpus. I’m not sure that this necessarily solves the genre troubles questions, but to me, it was a new approach. I presented a paper on Beyond Access: Critical Catalog Constructions entitled “‘The Technology of Shared Cataloging’: A Retrospective,” in which I looked at the creation and re-creation of two rare book union catalogs: the English Short Title Catalog (ESTC) and the North American Imprints Program (NAIP). In 1981, in a Bibliographic Society of America Symposium from which the title of my paper took its name, William Todd wrote, “Perhaps we do not yet fully appreciate the situation, now rapidly materializing, whereby computers converse with each other in any mode, while the rest of us, mere mortals, stand mute before them.” Remarks like this, which abound in the excitement and trepidation expressed during the emergence of these rare book union catalogs, echo a similar exuberance and hesitancy around the transformation from MARC to linked data models. I argued that consideration of the rare book catalog as a digital humanities project invites reassessment of legacy information architecture as well as the many hands that built the bibliographic structures on which so much of the work of the digital humanities rests. This gave me a chance to conclude with a few brief remarks about the Printers’ File and our work with the Advanced Research Consortium (ARC).

The view from Mont Royal, Montreal … a brief respite from conference going & a great place to contemplate what it is all for

I thoroughly enjoyed the DH Conference for much of the same reason that I enjoy The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) conferences: their focuses on methodology bring people of different scholarly and professional backgrounds and perspective together to share frustrations, ideas, and encouragement. Conversations about how we do what we do lead easily into conversations about why we do what we do, and such exchanges, whether partaking in them or listening to them, are most inspiring.

The Acquisitions Table: Little Marian

Little Marian. Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, [ca. 1853-1857]. 

The American Sunday-School Union was a pioneer in the use of the shaped book format and chromolithography, competing directly with secular firms including McLoughlin Brothers. Little Marian serves as a sequel to the Pilgrim’s Progress-inspired children’s book Little Marian’s Pilgrimage, issued by the ASSU ca. 1852. The earlier book was issued in the less visually exciting format of marbled boards with leather spine, which was a much more typical format for children’s tracts. This shaped book has chromolithographs signed by European lithographer Ferdinand Moras (1821-1908) who had moved to Philadelphia and set up shop in 1853.

“the question of [her] sex”: Transgender Histories in Nineteenth-Century News

The first in a two-part series, this blog post features an AAS-based undergraduate project, “Queering the Archive” at College of the Holy Cross.  Under the advisement of Professor Stephanie Yuhl of the History Department, Carly Priest ‘18 and Emily Breakell ‘17 spent the summer searching for resources relevant to the history of transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the United States.

Based in Boston and printed in the late 19th-century, The Illustrated Police News was a sensationalist periodical widely-circulated on the east coast. Much like contemporary tabloids, serials like The Illustrated Police News were interested in stories that would sell.

Their articles featured crime, subversive behavior, and any aberrations from mainstream culture that fell in-between— with little regard for the humanity of the people on whom they “reported,” or whether the stories presented were even true.

Shaw’s story appears in this issue

Though the content of publications like The Illustrated Police News were intentionally sensationalist (and therefore should not be viewed as reporting with journalistic integrity), The Illustrated Police News and similar serials ultimately offer important sources for our project, “Queering the Archive.” The articles, however aggrandized, discuss people on the fringes of society and frequently feature individual departures from nineteenth-century gender norms—even if only to reinforce mainstream social norms.

In July of 1876, The Illustrated Police News reported on Esther Shaw, a chambermaid who lived as a woman for most of her life (while The Illustrated Police News referred to Shaw with he/him/his pronouns, I will use she/her/hers to reflect what Shaw appears to prefer). The article, entitled “A Thirty-Years’ Masquerade: A Mulatto Chambermaid at New Orleans Proves to be a Male” sensationalized Shaw’s life and career as a maid.

Shaw became ill and was admitted to the women’s unit of a local hospital. Several days after her admittance, a medical student suspected Shaw was a biological male, and brought her into “the inspecting room.”  Disturbingly, despite Shaw having “fought and plead[ed],” the report nonchalantly indicated the hospital’s medical staff forcibly physically examined Shaw to determine “the question of [her] sex.”

“A Thirty-Years’ Masquerade: A Mulatto Chambermaid at New Orleans Proves to be a Male” mirrors several other articles we found in the archives of the AAS. While Esther Shaw lived happily, normally, and quietly, as a woman, The Illustrated Police News treated her gender identity as a spectacle. Though sensationalist papers regularly dehumanized the people they reported on, accounts of those who lived outside the boundaries of their assigned gender—those who cross-dressed once to commit a crime, or who lived as a man or woman for thirty years, as Shaw did—were especially derisive. Headline descriptions of people who cross-dressed regularly included the terms “man-woman,” “freak,” and “unnatural.” Such accounts illustrated social anxieties surrounding deviance from gender normativity and positioned periodicals as cultural signposts to reinforce acceptable expression of gender.

On one hand, the story of Shaw stood as a typical example in the  pattern we encountered in periodicals like The Illustrated Police News. As Illustrated by Shaw’s experience, invasive practices to identify gender and sex were common events in stories of people who cross-dressed. Like Shaw, these articles indicated enforcement of the gender binary by police and medical professionals in the nineteenth century.

On the other hand, the story of Shaw stands out from others we encountered in two ways: first, The Illustrated Police News account quoted Shaw in the article, allowing Shaw to explain, at least partly, why she cross-dressed. This marks a significant departure from other sensationalist stories we encountered, both in The Illustrated Police News and other serial publications, which frequently silenced those who subverted social norms. As The Illustrated Police News reported: “Shaw said…during [her] young days, [s]he wore smock frocks, and never felt at ease unless so attired. As [s]he grew up, [s]he found that man’s labor did not agree with [her], and therefore concluded that as a woman [s]he could succeed better.” Whether intentional or not, this brief description of Shaw’s life and preferences not only contextualize her life as a woman, but also gesture toward a depiction of Shaw as a whole person, a person who tried to live inside of gender norms, but found that they, like the boy’s clothes she tried to wear, never “felt” right. This moment of sympathy for Shaw renders her a potentially sympathetic character to The Illustrated Police News reader.

Second, the reporter further garners such sympathy by explaining why Shaw would have wanted to dress in feminine apparel in the context of other cross-dressing individuals.  As The Illustrated Police News pointed out, “Numerous instances are on record of women assuming male attire to better further their ends…on the other hand it is a rare occurrence for a man to don feminine gear, and for years carry out the deception.” In the patriarchal society of the nineteenth-century, biological females sometimes chose to live as men in the search for better jobs, better pay, and better treatment. Biological males who lived as women, therefore, existed in a more enigmatic space and were therefore pushed further to the margins. A society dominated by cisgender people—i.e., people that identify with the gender assigned to them at birth—would have a harder time understanding why a biological male would want to live as a woman. Given the prevailing attitude that no person would choose to live as a woman, male-to-female transitions were riskier, and more criminalized than female-to-male.[1]

NYC scene from Jan 23, 1873 issue of The Illustrated Police News

Prevalent commentary on race throughout this article invites further speculation about the societal norms the unnamed The Illustrated Police News journalist assumed.  Take the initial description of Esther: “Shaw is a medium-sized, delicate looking mulatto, about 30 years of age, with a few scattered hairs on his lip and chin, not any more than a large proportion of creole negroes or sufficient to betray his sex.” As was common practice in the 19th-century, the author of the article identified Esther as “Mulatto” in the subtitle before they flagged Shaw’s non-conforming gender identity. This served to portray Esther as a particular social conundrum: not only of mixed sex, but also of mixed race.  In short then, the story of Esther Shaw was not that of “A Thirty-Years’ Masquerade.” Rather, her story is one of a person who lived and worked as a woman of color in a time when mixed race and gender rendered Esther Shaw doubly marginalized.

[1] The News Desk. “Arresting dress: A timeline of anti-cross-dressing laws in the United States.” PBS Newshour. 31 May 2015. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/arresting-dress-timeline-anti-cross-dressing-laws-u-s/.

New Online Exhibition – Victorian Valentines: Intimacy in the Industrial Age

Editor’s note: Originally from Texas, Zoe Margolis is an Art History major at Smith College, slated to graduate this upcoming spring (class of 2018). Zoe wrote the first draft of this post on behalf of the students in the Spring 2017 course at Smith College “ARH291: Be My Valentine.” It was later revised by Prof. Kalba for clarity and concision.

Students looking at material in Smith College’s archives.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what ephemera was before I joined Professor Laura Kalba’s art history course at Smith College, ARH291: Be My Valentine: Ephemera, Ephemerality and Affect From the Victorian Era to Today. The class caught my eye with the promise of field trips and hands-on experience creating original public scholarship in the field of art history. Focusing on a largely unprocessed collection of Victorian-era valentines held at the American Antiquarian Society, along with a variety of online digital artifacts such as GIFS and emojis, the class invited students to investigate a broad range of popular commercial imagery and reflect on how the study of these everyday images both draws upon and departs from the knowledge and skills foregrounded in most art history courses.

Over the semester, we worked to create the online exhibition Victorian Valentines: Intimacy in the Industrial Age. The exhibition explores both handmade and commercially manufactured valentines, their materials and iconography, as well as the sentiments that inspired them. In addition to romantic valentines, the exhibition also includes vinegar valentines, designed to mock and insult their recipient, and other types of ephemera related to the history of courtship and emotions, such as escort cards and “maps of the heart.”

Some of the AAS material presented for the students to explore.

Students collaborating on the online exhibition.

After visiting AAS and the Smith College Archives, each student chose a few of their favorite objects to research and write about for the exhibition. The class then collaboratively decided upon the exhibition’s themes and worked in smaller groups to write the interpretive “wall texts” and design specific sections of the website. Students assumed additional responsibilities, ranging from copyediting and quality control to social media “ambassador” to project manager. Final revisions to the exhibition were completed over the summer by Sally Stack ’19 and Clara Rosenberg ‘20.

We could not have completed this exhibition without the guidance of our fearless leader, Professor Kalba; Lauren Hewes, Nan Wolverton, and Molly Hardy, to only name a few of the people at AAS who helped us with the research, conceptualization, and design of the exhibition; and Ken Albers, from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, who not only taught us how to use Omeka but also provided Sally with essential technical assistance during the summer. We also wish to thank the Five College Blended-Learning Steering Committee for its generous financial support.

The Acquisitions Table: The Whip

The Whip (New York, New York), Oct. 8, 1842. 

Racy papers were scandalous newspapers mostly published in the 1840s and 1850s in New York and Boston. AAS has one of the larger institutional collections of these lowbrow papers. Opportunities to acquire additional issues of these papers are few and far between.

An issue for one of the New York papers, The Whip, recently showed up on eBay. It happened to be the one issue missing in the Society’s short run of this title. There were numerous bids, but AAS was victorious in acquiring it. There are several articles in this issue related to prostitution and bawdy women. The Whip’s editor, George B. Wooldridge, was in prison when this issue was published, but his imprisonment didn’t stop him from writing pieces for the paper.

Nimrod, Newspapers, and the Apocalypse of 1812

An undated edition of Hughes’s prophecy, published in 1811 or early 1812.

“I saw the gathering tempest and heard its dreadful roarings, which seemed to me the roaring and burstings of ten thousand canons at once. Then I saw the trees of the forest torn by the violence of the winds, and dashed against each other, and against everything that stood before them, and houses and rocks and hills torn from their foundations, and shattered into atoms, and blown about like the dust of the earth.” According to Nimrod Hughes, this is the fate that awaited the world on June 4, 1812, along with the destruction of one-third of mankind. In the wake of a bright and long-lasting comet, earthquakes, and an eclipse, Hughes’s prophecies fell onto a population primed to believe in any new natural catastrophe.

Hughes’s prophetic pamphlet was titled A solemn warning to all the dwellers upon earth, given forth in obedience to the express command of the Lord God, as communicated by Him, in several extraordinary visions and miraculous revelations, confirmed by sundry plain but wonderful signs, unto Nimrod Hughes, of the county of Washington, in Virginia, upon whom the awful duty of making this publication, has been laid and enforced; by many admonitions and severe chastisements of the Lord, for the space of ten months and nine days of unjust and close confinement in the prison of Abingdon, wherein he was shewn, that the certain destruction of one third of mankind, as foretold in the Scriptures, must take place on the fourth day of June, in the year of our Lord 1812. In it, Hughes claimed to have received apocalyptic visions from God during a recent imprisonment. A Solemn Warning was a bestseller, and many editions were published from mid-1811 into 1812, including at least six in English and two in German. On October 25, 1811, the Carlisle Gazette noted that “[Nimrod Hughes’s] prophecies are eagerly sought after from every corner, and the printers are hardly able to keep pace with the uncommon demand.” The popularity of this pamphlet eventually spawned a massive assault against Nimrod Hughes and his prophetic pretensions in the press.

A woodcut from a broadside poem about the Great Comet of 1811. The comet was seen all over the world and was viewed as a warning of forthcoming disaster. In the novel War and Peace, Tolstoy describes the comet as a sign, “said to portend all kinds of woes and the end of the world.” Hughes’s prophecy was published in the wake of the comet’s first visibility.

Some early newspaper articles about Nimrod Hughes and A Solemn Warning tried to simply present a balanced view of the available information. Kline’s Weekly Carlisle Gazette in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, published a communication from “a layman” in Baltimore describing a terrible hail storm in Alexandria, Virginia, ten days after its citizens mocked Hughes, concluding with the observation, “since this period the reputation of Nimrod Hughes, has greatly augmented in the public estimation; but as to his prophecies, (without hazarding an opinion) we leave them, and him with his motives to settle with his maker.”

Obed Alcox, the former owner of the undated copy of A Solemn Warning featured above, clearly shared the low opinion of Hughes’s prophecy present in the newspapers. His note reads: “Retire & rest: say I, and think of Hughes’s lie.”

Most writers, however, openly attacked both Hughes and the credulity of his readers. One of the earliest assaults on Hughes’s character appeared in a letter from William M’Kee to his brother on November 4, 1811, which received wide reprinting. In it, M’Kee describes Hughes as “one of the greatest villains I ever new [sic].…There is no man who is acquainted with him would believe a word he says; much less have the confidence in his prophecy, and I never was more astonished than to hear that his pamphlet excited a single enquiry” (Palladium of Liberty, January 28, 1812). Newspapers printed conflicting accounts of what landed Hughes in jail, and he was alternately accused of libel, horse theft, stealing bacon, and burning a barn. When some reports claimed he had been a Methodist minister, other reports were quick to say he’d never been any such thing. In many ways, the constant attempts to pin down facts, the in-depth arguments against false prophecy juxtaposed with quick character insults, and worries about the public’s willingness to believe anything in print would be instantly familiar to anyone who spends even a small amount of time looking at contemporary news.

The descriptions of Hughes in 1811 and 1812 newspapers easily presage the character attacks prevalent in contemporary journalism. Throughout the country, Hughes was described as “the pretended prophet” (Farmer’s Repository, Charles Town, Virginia); “the imposter” (Palladium of Liberty, Morristown, New Jersey.); “the false prophet” and “an abandoned wretch,” (Long-Island Star, Brooklyn, New York); and “that villain Nimrod Hughes” and “ye who fatten on human vice, ignorance and meanness” (The Pittsburg Mercury, reprinted in The Tickler, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Some writers went so far as to accuse Hughes of maliciously misusing the public’s trust. “It is matter of much regret to see persons, who ought to know better, take advantage of such a period to impress the minds of the people with idle fears,” lamented an anonymous writer to the Pittsburg Mercury. Under the headline “False Prophet,” the Long-Island Star complained, “there have been four or five different prophecies since the appearance of the comet but none of them so artful, so wicked, or so dangerous as Nimrod Hughes’.”  The vocabulary may have changed in modern discourse, but the sentiments are essentially the same.

What apocalyptic prophecy is complete without Biblical arithmetic? Here, Hughes attempts to prove that a prophecy from Daniel was scheduled to occur in 1812. Such attempts by Hughes to legitimize his prophecy lead to multiple newspaper screeds about how to recognize “real” prophecy.

When June 4, 1812, passed without any of Hughes’s predictions coming true, the papers wasted little time in pointing out the error of Hughes’s prophecies. On June 9, the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser in Baltimore reported “The 4th of June has past [sic].…[Hughes’s] prediction of the hail, and the whirlwind, and of the destruction of one-third of our species is blown to air.” The Courier in Washington, D.C., went so far as to publish a poem by one Julio Everard, which begins “Blush—ye weak deluded mortals, blush, / Ye who would believe and fear a man, / And not the words of thy all seeing God!” (The rest of the poem is equally melodramatic.) The New-England Palladium in Boston opined that believers in Hughes’s prophecy would have been better off buying lottery tickets, and the Public Advertiser in New York argued that the only apocalyptic occurrence following the publication of Hughes’s prophecy was the nomination of DeWitt Clinton for president.

I stumbled into this vicious nest of newspaper attacks after cataloging an undated, abridged edition of Hughes’s prophecy. While the outrage over Hughes’s audacity at publishing “lying prophecies” is amusing and entertaining reading to us, what truly struck me is how little the response to ridiculous news has changed in two hundred years. Aside from the medium of delivery, there isn’t much difference between a newspaper reprinting William M’Kee’s letter prefaced by their own commentary and a Facebook or Tumblr user sharing a link to an article and putting their thoughts with it. If there’s one thing exposure to the vast collection of newspapers housed at AAS has taught me, it’s that the news has changed very little throughout America’s history. So, the next time you’re rolling your eyes over an acquaintance believing a dubious news article or you’re exasperated by extended news coverage of a dubious scientific claim, remember the time Nimrod Hughes predicted the destruction of one-third of the population and was wrong.

The Practice of Everyday Cataloging: ‘Blacks as authors’ and the Early American Bibliographic Record

Recent conversations addressing the lacuna of representation of people of color in the bibliographic record have ignited a flurry of activity in our cataloging department that we hope users of our catalog will find helpful. As is often the case when we reflect on our cataloging processes and procedures, this activity has a long history here at AAS. In the 1990s and in response to scholars’ needs (most notably those of AAS Librarian Nancy Burkett, Randall Burkett, and Henry Louis Gates, the co-editors of Black Biography, 1790-1950: A Cumulative Index), the question was posed: is there a way to identify works by black authors in the AAS Catalog? AAS Head of Cataloging Alan Degutis reported that there was not, but that there could be, and he, in consultation with his staff, set to work devising a cataloging policy. Henceforth, AAS catalogers began adding to the MAchine Readable Catalog (MARC) records they created the following locally-defined subject headings: “Blacks as authors,” “Blacks in the printing and publishing trades,” and “Blacks as illustrators.” This work was begun in the 1990s, and all rare-book-level records created thereafter include these headings when appropriate.

But what about all of the MARC records that had been created before 1990 and the retrospective conversion records added to the catalog in the 1990s? How could we most efficiently and effectively add these headings to older records? In other words, what could we do to ensure that a user searching for black authors, illustrators, and people in the printing trades could be found in the early American bibliographic record that AAS has been dedicated to producing for centuries? To address this question, we did what we often do when faced with a bibliographic dilemma: we consulted our collections. On our reading room reference shelves, we identified some forty books and pamphlets that might help us identify the names of black people in our catalog and the works of those we might add to the North American Imprints Program (NAIP) records. (For more on NAIP, please see my previous post “Big Data in Early America.”) 

The earliest of these is Daniel Alexander Payne Murray and Wilberforce Eames’ Preliminary List of Books and Pamphlets by Negro Authors for Paris Exposition and Library of Congress (1900).  

This eight-page list was sent to libraries in an effort t to collect more “books and pamphlets by Negro authors” for both the Exhibit of Negro Authorship at the Paris Exposition of 1900 and for the Library of Congress collection.
With the blank form they inserted, Murray and Eames asked for reader responses:  “[a]ny person able to furnish books or pamphlets on this list, or having knowledge of such as are not on this list” should fill out the card and return it to the Library of Congress. The feedback “will greatly aid this effort … to make certain that all books or pamphlets are duly represented in the collection.” This pamphlet and the responses the blank generated surely deserve further scrutiny, but for now, I point it out as one of the many bibliographic treasures we encountered on our shelves. Ultimately, we identified eight references that would be most useful to help us identify the catalog records to which we could add “Blacks as authors.” This is our starting focus; though we are always looking out for “Blacks in the printing and publishing trades” and “Blacks as illustrators” mentioned in these works, we have not yet made those headings our focus. These references we used (with a brief description of them) include:

  1. Daniel Alexander Payne Murray and Wilberforce Eames, Preliminary List of Books and Pamphlets by Negro Authors for Paris Exposition and Library of Congress (1900), as mentioned above.
  2. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, A Bibliographical Checklist of American Negro Poetry (1916) lists imprints by authors (though no dates are given) and includes, at the end, Charles Heartman’s bibliography of Phillis Wheatley.
  3. Vernon Loggins, The Negro Author: His Development in America (1931) that, at the end of 400 pages of prose, includes a “brief record” with holding institutions of imprints and serials by African Americans from 1760-1900.
  4. Dorothy Porter Wesley, Early American Negro Writings: A Bibliographical Study (1945) is a “checklist” that includes 292 entries for imprints, serials, and manuscripts held at 31 publicly accessible collections, as well as, in the private collections of Arthur B. Spingarn and Dr. Reynold Johnson.
  5. Dorothy Porter Wesley and Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, North American Negro Poets: A Bibliographical Checklist of Their Writings, 1760-1944 (1945) is an expansion of the Schomburg published in 1916. It does not include foreign titles, but it doubles the number of domestic titles, including books and pamphlets by individual poets, anthologies edited by Negro authors, and a few printed broadsides. It Includes holdings at 25 collections, and though the entries are not numbered, there are about 620 of them.
  6. William P. French and Geneviève Fabre, Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760-1975: A Guide to Information Sources (1979) includes both Afro-American texts in anthologies and single-author publications as well as studies of these works.
  7. William L. Andrews,  To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865 (1986) includes an annotated bibliography of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865 (333-342).
  8. Jean Fagan Yellin’s and Cynthia D. Bond, The Pen Is Ours: A Listing of Writings by and about African-American Women before 1910 with Secondary Bibliography to the Present (1991)  includes writings by and about African-American women who produced separately published writings; writings by and about African-American women who had been enslaved and whose stories, either dictated or written, had been published; and  writings by and about African-American women whose works appeared in periodicals and collected writings.

We went through these anthologies and made a spreadsheet of all names that might be found in our catalog. We then searched the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF) for the identified individuals, matching the form (or forms) of a person’s name as given in the bibliographies to a person’s name (or names) as authorized in LCNAF; it is the latter that we use in the catalog. For example, Wesley and Schomburg identify the author of Catoninetales as Hattie Brown, which is the name on the volume’s title page. However, Catoninetales was written by William James Linton under the pseudonym Hattie Brown, and Linton’s name in LCNAF is authorized as “Linton, W. J. (William James), 1812-1897”; it is this name that we needed to search with to find the thirteen records in which Linton is traced. With this new list in hand, we could identify the books and pamphlets written by a black author with catalog records that did not yet include the subject heading “Blacks as authors” and then add it. We made sure that the headings were applied comprehensively to all works by each author.  All of this work continues to be in process, but thus far we have added the heading to almost 300 monograph records.  

The blue bars in the graph indicate the progress we have made since we began this work in March 2017. It is a start: we have much more to do, especially to identify “Blacks as illustrators” and “Blacks in the printing and publishing trades.” We are currently mining the amazing collection of North American Slaves Narratives in Documenting the American South not only for more headings we might add to existing records and to records we might create, but also for links we can include in our catalog to full text and XML files for these texts. We have a number of other ideas in the works to enhance our catalog in the hopes that it will serve our users better, make these important works more accessible, and ensure that the AAS does its part to combat the further “symbolic annihilation” of people of color in the historical record.

This work has led to some important conversations in Antiquarian Hall about when to apply the term “Blacks as authors.” We do not determine the terminology used; the Library of Congress Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO) does that. In 1990,  we decided to use “Blacks” rather than “African Americans,” the two possibilities offered by the Library of Congress. For our purposes, “blacks” seems best because it captured not only people of African descent living in “America” but also those living elsewhere and who might be in our catalog. We are now asking: how is a person identified as black? And how does that identification delimit and circumscribe other identities? For the time being, we consider inclusion in the references listed above as reason to add the subject heading “Blacks as authors.” We are eager, however, to be a part of the the current work at the intersection of digital humanities and bibliography that might alter our practice insofar as this work can interrogate the assumptions under which those who compiled these bibliographies worked. Any alterations of our own practice must  be considered along with our adherence to cataloging standards that render AAS data interoperable and meaningful in digital environments beyond our own online public access catalog (OPAC).  This balance of subject expertise, bibliographic prowess, and data demands are how we at AAS arrive at our practices of everyday cataloging.

Thanks to Head of Cataloging Services Alan Degutis and Project Cataloger Amy Tims for their help with this post. 

Interview with Chris Phillips

Chris Phillips is associate professor of English at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and the author of Epic in American Culture, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2012. Chris has been a Lapides Fellow at AAS and is presently an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellow spending time at AAS researching his new book on reading hymns.

In this interview Chris discusses his own epic adventures searching in libraries and archives for material that formed the foundation of his newest book, The Hymnal Before the Notes: A History of Reading and Practice, which Chris began working on at AAS several years ago. He also talks about his early years as a graduate student working with Jay Fliegelman, the nature of epic in America, libraries and reading, and even reads a little Milton poetry for us.

Construction Begins On Antiquarian Hall

After months of preparation that included shifting stacks, boxing up objects, and countless meetings about architectural plans, the ground has finally been broken—both figuratively and literally—on the expansion and renovation of Antiquarian Hall.

Architect’s rendering of the new exterior facade on the Park Avenue side of Antiquarian Hall.

The Preparation

As with any major building project, much of the time in the months preceding the actual construction was spent on refining and finalizing the architectural plans. Meetings with architects, contractors, and various staff members have been a constant presence here at AAS. But beyond the blueprints, there are also a lot of other preparations that need to be done when renovating and expanding an over-one-hundred-year-old building with over four million items residing in it. Two of the biggest projects involve removing various artwork and collection items on display and shifting collection material in the stacks to make room for the renovation work.

Though AAS’s collecting focus is on printed material and manuscripts, as anyone who has been on a tour can attest there is also a substantial amount of artwork as well as interesting artifacts on display around Antiquarian Hall. Portions of our large portrait collection line the walls of Antiquarian Hall; Isaiah Thomas’s first printing press, Old No. 1, has a permanent home on the balcony; and a collection of nineteenth-century Staffordshire pottery nestles comfortably on the shelves of the Council Room (now renamed the Thomas Room in the course of this building project). All of these items need to be protected from the vibrations and other movement caused by the construction of the addition.

Our in-house photographer shooting the Morse pottery collection in place before taking down for storage.

The Emma DeF. Morse Collection of American Historical Pottery, which has 324 pieces of nineteenth-century Staffordshire pottery illustrating major sites in the United States and commemorates events in the nation’s past, was the first collection to be put away for safekeeping. Each case was photographed in situ before being packed away by a professional art handling company with the help of Lauren Hewes, our curator of graphic arts, and Nan Wolverton, our director of fellowships and the Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAViC). Other small but popular items, such as the vial of tea from the Boston Tea Party and the Celeron Plate, have been temporarily moved and put on display in the Orientation Room off of the front foyer of Antiquarian Hall. In mid-June, the portraits currently hanging on the walls will be removed and Thomas’s printing press will be boxed up for protection. (Due to the removal of these items and other construction-related restrictions, we will be temporarily suspending our weekly Wednesday afternoon public tours after June 14.)

Rows of empty shelving after the shifting, waiting for construction work.

The other large undertaking—shifting collection material in the stacks—was a long and complex task, but necessary to the success of the project. With so many collection items housed within the walls of Antiquarian Hall, it was a challenge to figure out how to keep the collections here—thereby allowing minimal impact on library operations—but still maintain proper levels of safety while giving the contractors room to renovate the HVAC system. With their usual precision and doggedness, library staff have managed to shift and consolidate collections within the existing stacks to provide enough room for the contractors to safely complete their work. In total, nearly 10,000 shelves of material were shifted during the process.

The Groundbreaking

While these preparations have been ongoing, AAS also planned a Groundbreaking Ceremony, held in the Reading Room on April 27. With remarks by AAS Council Chair Sidney Lapidus, AAS President Ellen Dunlap, AAS Council member James Donnelly, project architect Samuel Anderson, and Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus, and a champagne toast for the standing-room-only crowd, it was a celebratory event marking the beginning of the construction phase of the project. Chairman Lapidus also announced that more than $9.5 million has been raised to date towards the $20 million goal for construction costs, a sum that reflects the first part of our “Safeguarding the American Story” campaign.

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus addressing the crowd

It was a bit unusual for this antiquarian crowd to have a trough of mulch in the Reading Room, but if ever there were a proper occasion, this was it! Samples of the pre-patinated copper that will be used to fabricate the new Park Avenue façade and screens showing the architectural plans of the building were also on view.

From left to right: Sidney Lapidus, AAS chairman; Samuel Anderson, architect; Edward Augustus, city manager of Worcester; James Donnelly, AAS treasurer; and Ellen Dunlap, AAS president. The samples of pre-patinated copper are visible at the bottom of the picture.

The Construction

With the planning, preparation, and pleasantries under our belt, we’re now ready for the construction phase of the project. Work has already begun on building a new, specialized server room within Antiquarian Hall. The work trailer for the construction crew is in the parking lot, and the construction fence has been erected. 3D imaging that the engineers will be using to plan out the placement of the new HVAC ducts is being completed. Digging and drilling related to the building of the expansion portion of the project has also begun.

As construction continues in the coming months, we’ll be providing regular updates about the progress here on the blog, as well as on our website. For more details about the goals of the building project, check out the September 2016 and March 2017 issues of our newsletter, Almanac. Upcoming issues of the newsletter will also feature more information. And as the project nears its end in the fall of 2018, we look forward to sharing with you not only the physical building, but also the exciting new possibilities that its completion will bring to the Society. We hope you’ll follow us on this journey!

Now in Print from the AAS Community

Every quarter at AAS we release a list of publications by those who have researched at the library as fellows, members, or readers. If your book, article, or other achievement is not included, just let us know if you’d like to see it posted here!


Cohen, Michael David, editor. Correspondence of James K. Polk. Volume 13. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2017.

Coward, John. Indians Illustrated: The Image of Native Americans in the Pictorial Press. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016. (AHPCS Fellow, 2010-11)

Hansen, Kathleen and Nora Paul. Future-Proofing the News: Preserving the First Draft of History. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017.

Peterson, Dawn. Indians in the Family: Adoption and the Politics of Antebellum Expansion. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017. (Hench Fellow, 2012-13)

Rusert, Britt. Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2017. (Peterson Fellow, 2011-12)


Altschuler, Sari and Christopher J. Bilodeau. “Ecce Homo! The Figure of Benjamin Rush.” Early American Studies 15.2 (2017): 233-251. (Altschuler: Legacy Fellow, 2011-12 and Hench Fellow, 2013-14)

Baumgartner, Kabria. “Building the Future: White Women, Black Education, and Civic Inclusion in Antebellum Ohio.” Journal of the Early Republic 37 (2017):117-146. (Peterson Fellow, 2015-16)

Bernstein, Robin. “‘I’m very happy to be in the reality-based community’: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Digital Photography, and George W. Bush.” American Literature 89 (2017):121-154. (Last Fellow, 2008-9)

Brown, Joshua. “‘Our sketches are real, not mere imaginary affairs’: The Visualization of the 1863 New York Draft Riots.” In The Civil War in Art and Memory, ed. Kirk Savage. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art/Yale University Press, 2016. (Drawn to Art Fellow, 2011-12)

Capshaw, Katharine and Anna Mae Duane, editors. Who Writes for Black Children? African American Children’s Literature before 1900. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. With contributions by AAS staff and fellows Laura Wasowicz (staff), Nazera Sadiq Wright (Ford Fellow, 2013-14), and Brigitte Fielder (CHAViC Fellow, 2011-12)

Casmier-Paz, Lynn. “‘A Dying Man:’ The Outlaw Body of Arthur, 1768.” In Reading African American Autobiography: Twenty-First Century Contexts and Criticism. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017. (Botein Fellow, 2009-10)

Cohen, Lara Langer. “The Depths of Astonishment: City Mysteries and the Antebellum Underground.” American Literary History 29 (2017): 1-25. (Botein Fellow, 2008-9; AAS-NEH Fellow, 2011-12)

Finley, James S. “A Free Soiler in his Own Broad Sense: Henry David Thoreau and the Free Soil Movement.” In Thoreau at Two Hundred: Essays and Reassessments, ed. K. P. Van Anglen and Kristen Case. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. (Packer Fellow, 2012-13)

LaFleur, Greta. “‘Defective in One of the Principle Parts of Virility’: Impotence, Generation, and Defining Disability in Early North America.” Early American Literature 52 (2017): 79-108. (Peterson Fellow, 2013-14)

McLaughlin, Don James. “Inventing Queer: Portals, Hauntings, and Other Fantastic Tricks in the Collected Folklore of Joel Chandler Harris and Charles Chesnutt.” American Literature 89 (2017): 1-28. (Peterson Fellow, 2015-16)

Stone, Andrea. “Lunacy and Liberation: Black Crime, Disability, and the Production and Eradication of the Early National Enemy.” Early American Literature 52 (2017) 109-140.



The Acquisitions Table: Friendship Album, 1842-1846

Esther Blackmer, Friendship Album, 1842-1846

This album looks similar to other albums from the period, with its hand-colored lithographs and manuscript poetry. The album’s  owner, unlike the many students who kept friendship albums, was a chambermaid at the State Lunatic Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. The hospital’s trustees’ report indicates that Esther Blackmer’s compensation was board plus $1.50 per week and that several of her family members also worked at the hospital as attendants, a table girl, ironer, and kitchen help. On the first two pages of the volume, Samuel B. Woodward, founder of the hospital, writes to Esther, “Have you ever duly considered the necessity of cheerfulness to a happy life? It is above the price of rubies.” Esther eventually married Benjamin F. Slow in Worcester in 1846, the same year the entries in this album end.