The Acquisitions Table: Rosanna Sizer’s Female Whig of ’76

Rosanna Sizer. Female Whig of ’76. New London, Conn.: Jonathan Sizer, 2nd., 1840.

According to the imprint on this 1840 broadside, Rosanna Sizer wrote this poem in 1777, shortly after Danbury, Connecticut, was burned by the British in April of that year. A family connection between Rosanna and the publisher, Jonathan Sizer, appears likely (he may be a descendent) but has not yet been determined. Rosanna captures the patriotic outrage of American women, many of whom were running households and farms while British troops roamed the countryside.

Her poem also appears in an 1840 volume of eye-witness accounts of Revolutionary War events. Jonathan Sizer was involved with the production of a third 1840 printing of the 1781 Battle of Groton Heights. With the addition of the broadside, all three of these “memory of the Revolution” printings are now part of the Society’s collection.


Quicken the Thought — The Game of Authors

AAS houses a representative collection of American games, from board games inspired by the adventures of Nellie Bly to educational puzzles and fancy paper dolls, but one fascinating subgroup of this collection harnesses the popularity of one entertainment option of the 1800s: reading.

Before the world ogled over athletes and movie stars, the greatest celebrities were authors. People traveled far and wide to see the performances of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain as they read their stories aloud, complete with character voices and, in Dickens’ case, such taxing physicality that some believe it may have hastened his death.[1] Fans of literature could get their fix of their favorite authors outside of theater appearances by purchasing carte-de-visite or cabinet photographs, or products branded with their names. The Game of Authors, however, took the entertainment of nineteenth-century readers to the next level.

First appearing in an advertisement in December 1861, The Game of Authors boasted fun for all ages, intended to “amuse, instruct, and quicken the thought” of anyone who played.[2] Though each iteration of the game included slightly different types of cards and variations of the rules, the general premise followed a similar process to Go Fish. The cards typically consisted of portrait cards of famous authors (sometimes as many as 34 of them as in “The Game of Star Authors” from 1887), along with separate cards featuring titles of their popular works. Players were dealt hands from a shuffled deck with the goal of making as many “books” as possible, matching the portrait of the author with all of the accompanying title cards.

Advertisers insisted that “this game should be in every family” and, as its success grew, so did the number of derivative games trying to capitalize on the model. In 1863, an updated version of the game was released, being advertised outside of the holiday season and seeping into the entertainment of the every day. In that same year, stores began marketing “The Commanders of Our Forces” for children to “learn about our present war,” as an extension of the tried-and-true format.  Following that release came an iteration based on children’s authors, then, in 1866, a version focused solely on Shakespeare and another on musical celebrities made their debut.

Although initially created by women in Salem, Massachusetts, the authors depicted in the game were typically male [3]. Of the eleven most represented authors, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Dickens among others, only one—Louisa May Alcott—is a woman. Of the sixteen different editions of the game in the AAS collection, seven include women authors as part of the set. It seems like manufacturers began to take note of this imbalance though, as in 1887, McLoughlin Brothers in New York issued two versions of the game – one with an all-male group of writers and then an “improved” version that featured eleven women out of a total of eighteen-represented authors.

While this blog post was in production, the Society’s curator of Graphic Arts acquired another version of the game entitled “The Queens of Literature,” published in 1885. Featuring all women, there are a handful of lesser-known writers whose histories I briefly explored as I created the catalog record for the game.

Much like the variety shown in the original games, this set of cards depicted women from every part of the “moral” spectrum: from the corset-burning suffragette Elizabeth Stuart Phelps to Adeline Whitney who fore-fronted traditional values and the importance of traditional gender roles in her writing.

As a game marketed as both entertaining and instructive for children and adults alike, The Game of Authors, in all its variations, was incredibly popular in its time and is still printed in some form today. Maybe consider buying a copy for yourself to see what all the fuss is about!

[1] “Charles Dickens on Stage,” The Charles Dickens Page, 1997-2021.

[2] “New Games,” Salem Gazette (Dec 12, 1861): 2.

[3] Rick Russack, “Who Invented the Game of Authors?”  Game Times, Journal of the American Game Collectors Association, No 17 (April 1992): 351.  The original creator of the Game of Authors could have been local game designer and author Anne W. Abbot (1808-1908) or a group of unidentified young women in Salem.

2021 Seiler Intern Sienna McCulley will be graduating in December 2021 with a BA in English from Amherst College, where she spent multiple semesters working in both the campus library and special collections.  Her experience working with historic material at Amherst and this past summer at AAS has fueled her interest in a future career in the field. 

A Puzzle No More: Charles C. Green and The Nubian Slave

The catalog records that a library user sees in the course of searching often belie a considerable underlying complexity. At AAS, maximizing access to our collections through the creation of accurate, clear and concise catalog records is a high priority. However, the true extent of the effort required to create and maintain these records may not be readily apparent from their often brief and streamlined appearance.

One very particular aspect of this work that users of the online catalog may understandably not think much about is name authority control. The creation of a unique access point (or “heading”) to represent each individual whose name appears in a catalog record is important no matter who they are or what their role might be. Although authors, editors, booksellers, printers, publishers, artists, engravers, illustrators, lithographers, and the personal subjects of works might spring to mind most readily, other associated persons for whom we routinely create access points include dedicatees, translators and the former owners of AAS copies.

For well-known persons either living or dead (and even for some not so well-known), coming up with a unique access point might not be much of a challenge if they have been clearly documented in the collective historical record. But for others, especially the vast majority of the often-elusive historical figures who are of interest to us at AAS, devising a unique access point can be a circuitous and sometimes frustrating journey.

Basically, the goal of name authority control is three-fold: the first is establishing an individual’s identity clearly and unambiguously; the second is determining exactly what the form of the name ought to be; and the third is formulating some sort of qualifier—ideally birth and/or death dates—to differentiate the individual from others who may have the same name. The presence of vital dates in an access point also helps to situate a person within a particular historical context and increases the likelihood that users of the catalog will be able to zero in on what they are looking for as efficiently and quickly as possible.

One such elusive person who came to our attention recently was a Charles C. Green, whose proposal to publish “a series of anti-slavery designs . . . to be called, The Nubian slave” appeared in the March 14, 1845 issue of The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison’s Boston-based abolitionist newspaper. In the prospectus, Green explains that the work will include seven lithographs, each complemented by a poem designed to unite the whole, and that he believes the “application of pictorial art to moral truth is capable of producing a great, and, as yet, almost untried force, which the friends of human freedom have now an opportunity to test.” Green himself was both artist and poet.

The Nubian slave was soon published in Boston by Bela Marsh, and its stark depiction of an African family as its members are brutally enslaved elicited immediate comment. The first image shows the family living in freedom in Africa, but the others present an unflinching view of the father, mother and their small son as they are auctioned, sold, branded, and hunted down after attempting to escape. On June 11, 1845 the Emancipator and weekly chronicle included a staunchly positive review:

“All these horrid facts, the existence of which we all know, and to hide which baptized sophistry has for these hundreds of years been bestowing its paint and varnish and fig leaves, Mr. Green has made to stand out in living reality upon his page. He shows not only what they are, but how they are. With a genius that can transfer to a simple surface of white paper the lineaments and living expression of god-like humanity, he shows us its deep passions, while it undergoes the varied torture of being brutalized at the behest of Mammon, Moloch, Belial & Co. These passions, truly expressed, must awaken sympathy. They must. That is the eternal God’s decree. Let them be placed before every free American, and then let him decide, in view of the last picture of the poor fugitive, with his dead wife on his arm, battling with a pack of hounds and receiving the balls of a company of slaveholders, as if he were a wild beast, which side he will take in this war. He cannot look at this picture and not know which side God takes.” 

The lithographs may also have served as inspiration for Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery, a moving panorama created by Henry Box Brown. An enslaved man from Louisa County, Virginia, Brown escaped in 1849 by having himself shipped in a box from Richmond to Philadelphia. He eventually made his way to Boston and exhibited the panorama in New England for several years until moving to Great Britain following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850.

But what about Charles C. Green himself? Aside from the fact that he had created what was clearly a transformative work, few personal details about him and his life had thus far been unearthed, even though AAS acquired a copy of The Nubian slave many years ago.

A cursory review of the online catalogs of institutions holding the few other extant copies of Green’s work reveals no further clues. Bibliographies can often provide useful information, but The Nubian slave is not recorded in Wright Howes’ U.S.iana (1650-1950), Joseph Sabin’s Dictionary of books relating to America from its discovery to the present time, or in the Catalogue of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American collection. Although it is included in Checklist of American imprints for 1845, the entry includes no additional clues to Green’s identity. Green is not listed in the Getty Research Institute’s Union List of Artist Names, nor in Who was who in American art. This is precisely the sort of puzzle that catalogers find so tantalizing, and at AAS we are committed to creating bibliographic records that provide as much relevant information about the people associated with the items in our collections, as they do about the items themselves. In the case of Charles C. Green, however, extra tenacity would be required.

Initially, all that was generally known about the creator of The Nubian slave was that he had been an abolitionist in Boston in the 1840s. Databases like Ancestry contain massive amounts of information and can be overwhelming, particularly when seeking someone with a fairly common name, so the general approach in such cases is to start with census records. The 1850 U.S. Federal Census was the first to include the occupations of persons, so that seemed like a good place to begin. Although that census included several persons named Charles C. Green, one in particular stood out. Charles C. Green, a 31-year-old portrait painter, was listed as a resident of Canandaigua, N.Y. who had been born in Massachusetts. He remained in Canandaigua for at least another fifteen years and appeared in both the 1860 U.S. Federal Census and the 1865 N.Y. State Census, classified as an artist in each of these. He was not listed in any census after 1865. His wife Emily Green is listed in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, along with their three daughters (Edith, Susan and Mary), and is identified as divorced. As intriguing as this information was, however, it still did not connect back to Boston and The Nubian slave.

A few targeted Google keyword searches then led to several valuable sources that would likely have remained hidden had they not been scanned and available for searching. The first was a digitized periodical called the Sandspur (produced by the students of Rollins College). In an issue from November 7, 1934, there was a reference to an artist named Charles Chauncey Green, described as a friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller, a Brook Farm resident and one of the first U.S. muralists. This seemed promising even though there was no mention of The Nubian slave.

Another Google search resulted in a lead that connected a Charles Green (no middle name or initial specified) to the abolitionist, editor and reformer Frances Harriet Whipple (1805-1878), whose life is detailed in a 2004 biography by Sarah C. O’Dowd. In her book, O’Dowd describes the relationship between Frances and an artist named Charles Green who was fourteen years her junior. They were married in July of 1842, which is supported by numerous contemporary notices that appeared in newspapers announcing the marriage of Charles C. Green to Miss Frances H. Whipple, editor of the Fall River Wompanoag, on July 1, 1842. Unfortunately the published Massachusetts vital records had recorded Green’s middle initial as a “G” rather than a “C” in its entry for the marriage, leading briefly to the supposition that the artist Charles C. Green had been confused with Charles Gordon Greene, a printer and publisher in Boston at the time. Fortunately, the “G” was quickly determined to be a typographical error.

Charles and Frances lived in various places across New England, including Groton, Conn. and Dorchester, Mass., the latter place being not far from Brook Farm in West Roxbury. But they divorced in 1846 after what was apparently a difficult relationship. Charles soon fled to Canandaigua, NY, and married a second time—to a woman named Emily—which connects to the Charles C. Green previously found in the censuses. After that, the trail initially appears to have gone cold.

Based on evidence gathered thus far, it seemed quite likely that the Charles Chauncey Green described in the Sandspur and the Charles C. Green who married and divorced Frances Harriet Whipple were one and the same, but still there was no explicit reference tying this particular Charles C. Green to The Nubian slave. In the face of what remained essentially circumstantial evidence, it made sense to see if contemporary newspapers might yield some solid evidence. Another targeted keyword search of America’s Historical Newspapers turned up an article detailing the proceedings of the New-England Anti-Slavery Convention, held in Boston on May 27, 1845 and published in the Liberator on June 6 of that year. That article proved to be a gold mine. One of the resolutions passed at the convention acknowledged receipt of a copy of The Nubian slave, “the beautiful tribute of Mr. Charles C. Green to the anti-slavery cause.” But the real gem appeared at the end of the article, in a list of the financial donors to the convention, stating that Frances H. Greene had contributed one dollar. Variation in the spelling of Green/Greene aside, the New-England Anti-Slavery Convention was the common link between Charles C. Green, author of The Nubian slave, and Frances Harriet Whipple, who is known to have used the name Frances H. Green (or Greene) during her marriage to the artist.

As illuminating as all of this was, however, it still did not provide birth and death dates to add to the access point for this particular Charles C. Green, to distinguish him from any other person bearing that name. So, a return to the vital records to see if a birth record existed seemed in order. It was clear from the censuses that he was a native of Massachusetts, and that based on the ages stated there he was probably born in 1817 or 1818. Searching through the Massachusetts Vital Records led to the suspicion that he could be the Charles C. Green who was born in Leicester, Mass. on January 5, 1818, son of Thomas and Suky Green. Charles appears to have been his parents’ only child, and his middle name is stated variously as Chancy, Chancey, Chauncey or Choney in the several iterations of the vital records available on Ancestry and American Ancestors. Although several other persons named “Charles C. Green” had been born in various New England states during this time, he was the only one to have been born in Massachusetts. And, most importantly, he was the only one to become an artist.

If finding the birthdate had been fairly straightforward once Green’s identity had been established, the death date would prove much more difficult to uncover. As far as the censuses were concerned, he last appeared in the 1865 N.Y. State Census. After that he seemed to disappear. No newspaper obituaries appeared to exist, and there was no death record in any state for a Charles C. Green who had been born in 1818 in Leicester, Mass.

One of the pitfalls of doing research in online databases of historical metadata is that their indexing is based on what a human transcriber—or perhaps an OCR program—has recorded after examining an original source document. If a mistake is made in transcribing a name from an original source, for example, the level of access that users have to that original source is severely compromised, and unless the mistake is corrected the “true” data might never come to light. This idea was the motivation for some  “creative searching” in Ancestry, which resulted in finding a record for a “C. Chang Green,” son of Thomas, who died in Bangor, Maine, at age 63 on November 27, 1881. Based on the age, this person would have been born about 1818. Could it be a mere coincidence that his father’s name was also Thomas? One record led to another, and his place of birth was revealed to have been “Lecsterfield, Mass.” That was one coincidence too many—it just had to be “Leicester.” Things were indeed clicking into place, and it didn’t seem unreasonable to suppose that “Chang” might be a transcriber’s misreading of some version of the middle name–Chancy, Chancey, Chauncey, Choney, etc. But concrete proof was lacking. Complicating matters further, the death record appeared in another index in Family Search with his name given as “Chauncy C. Green.”

Unfortunately, none of the online sources that included the death record had an associated digitized image of the original document, so initially it seemed that it would be impossible to confirm that “Chang” had really been transcribed in error for some form of the name “Chauncey.” As logical an assumption as it seemed, it was just that–an assumption. But the question was resolved after a brief email correspondence with the supervisor of the Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, where Green was buried, in a section called “Stranger’s Row.” This is a part of the cemetery maintained today by the city of Bangor and includes no individual grave markers. After consulting the cemetery’s original 1881 burial book, the supervisor confirmed our hunch. The name in the original 1881 burial book was plainly stated as “Green, C. Chauncey.”

From the cataloger’s perspective, the search for Charles C. Green is complete. The resulting access point (Green, Charles C., 1818-1881) is unique, and will represent him and his work in library catalogs. But the full story of Green and The Nubian slave has yet to be told, and, as often happens in the course of name authority research, additional intriguing leads have emerged that deserve further exploration. Questions about Green’s life abound.

How did his career as an artist begin, and from whom might he have received training? What was his precise connection to Hawthorne and his circle, and to Brook Farm? When did he become a proponent of the abolitionist movement?  Were he and Henry Box Brown personally acquainted? Where did he go after leaving his family in Canandaigua sometime between 1865 and 1870, and when did he arrive in Bangor?

He could not be found in either the 1870 or 1880 federal censuses. But he did remarry. Death records reveal an Alfreda Green, his third wife, who died in Bangor just a week after her husband on Dec. 4, 1881, at age fifty-one. Except for that small shred of information, however, she remains a mystery. Our research also indicates that Green was the grandfather of author and journalist Will Irwin (1873-1948) and Wallace Irwin (1875-1959), also a noted author and humorist. Their mother Edith was the artist’s eldest daughter from his second marriage. But perhaps most interesting is the reference in the 1902 will of his second wife Emily, which includes bequests of two oil paintings–presumably Green’s own work. One, a portrait of the artist and his wife, went to daughter Susan Green Neiderlitz. The other, an oil portrait of daughters Edith and Susan when they were children, went to grandson Wallace A. Irvine (better known as Irwin), of San Francisco.

In Emily Green’s obituary, published in the Ontario County Journal on August 31, 1906, there is mention of her 1847 marriage to “C.C. Greene, who was a well-known artist of the time and a member of the Hawthorne literary circle.” And yet Green’s own death more than twenty years earlier appears to have gone completely unnoticed by the press. Perhaps our name authority research will be the beginning of a renewed interest in the artist and poet behind The Nubian slave, and inspire a deeper dive into his life and work.


“To the Public”: The Rutland Herald, 1794, and the San Francisco China News, 1874

The publication of the first issue of a newspaper is a momentous occasion.  After scraping together the funding to purchase equipment, lining up supplies, hiring staff, soliciting subscriptions, selling advertisements, and gathering news to print, the newspaper rolls off the press and is ready to be placed in the hands of the public for them to read.

Usually to mark the occasion, the editor writes a piece “To the Public” explaining the goals of the newspaper, what motivated the publication of the paper, and what they see as the future. For example, the first issue of the Rutland Herald (VT) of Dec. 8, 1794, the editor wrote,

“We this day present the Public with the first number of The Rutland Herald; or, Vermont Mercury.  As we have purchased of Mr. Lyon, Editor of the Farmers’ Library, the Printing-Office, Apparatus, and Privileges annexed by law to his Paper, it will, for the future, be carried on by the subscribers, with the above title, under the direction of Dr. Williams.”

The section continues,

Nothing shall be wanting which is in our power to render the Herald an useful and entertaining Paper.  Anecdotes, Poetical Essays, and Speculative Pieces, will be admitted in their proper place and proportion.  But our chief aim will be to collect and publish authentic and accurate accounts of all the Foreign and Domestic transactions which, from time to time, may take place . . . In Political matters we shall be ready to publish any pieces which may be of use to communicate information, or can be considered as relating to the Public:  But on no occasion will we condescend to publish any thing in the Herald of an immoral nature or tendency, become the retailers of scandalous anecdotes, or the dupes of electioneering politicians’ nor will we be eployed in private piques and quarrels, in murdering reputations and characters, or in disturbing the enjoyments of domestic happiness.

Most of these are common sentiments also expressed by other newspapers in their first issues.  Whether the ideals stated in the first issue were maintained is another matter.

Recently the American Antiquarian Society acquired the first issue of a scarce San Francisco newspaper; San Francisco China News dated July 14, 1874.  Except for the title, the entire newspaper is printed in Chinese.  Unlike most newspapers of the time, this one was printed by lithography.  At the time they did not have the huge amounts of lead type or over 3000 characters needed to published a Chinese-language newspaper.  All of the text was hand-drawn in reverse on a lithograph stone.


Since this is the first issue, we are asking our gentle and above-average readers if any of them can read this issue.  If so, is there an essay by the editor or publisher stating their purpose for publishing this newspaper?  What was their intent?  And if it is there, can a translation be provided?  If so, please write to the curator of newspapers, Vincent Golden, what you find.  I’m counting on the masses.

Reclaiming Heritage: Digitizing Nipmuc Histories from Colonial Documents

Today the American Antiquarian Society releases the new online exhibition Reclaiming Heritage: Digitizing Nipmuc Histories from Colonial Documents.

This online resource presents fully-digitized versions of seven pre-1820 Indigenous-language imprints as well as digitized materials from four manuscript collections.  The printed books featured in the exhibition add to an existing archive of early American imprints used today for language reclamation work among Indigenous communities in the northeast. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manuscript materials, including land deeds, proprietors and trustees’ reports, genealogical lists and accounting receipts from the towns Grafton, Sutton and Webster, Massachusetts (all within Nipmuc homelands), and the Society’s John Milton Earle collection, provide greater insight into the relationships between Nipmuc communities and settlers in central Massachusetts.

Supported in part by a Lapidus Initiative Fellowship for Digital Collections from the Omohundro Institute, Reclaiming Heritage provides more free, equitable access for Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous studies scholars to printed and archival materials directly related to the languages and lives of the Nipmuc people (upon whose homelands the AAS is built) and of other Indigenous nations across the northeast.

‘Uncle Cleve’: President Grover Cleveland, His-story v. the Truth

In a packed box of uncatalogued cabinet photos, in between portraits of the minister Charles Cleveland and the 22nd President, I came across three portraits of a young, dark-haired woman. In each photo, she looked to be about twenty years old — attractive, well-dressed, and entirely unrecognizable to me if it weren’t for the titles printed on the cards: “Mrs. Grover Cleveland” and “President Cleveland’s Bride.” After a quick google search, I would normally take the information I needed to complete her record and move onto the next. As a 22-year-old woman, however, I was fascinated to see that Frances Folsom Cleveland entered the White House at just 21-years-old, holding the record as the youngest First Lady in American history. This tidbit at the top of her Wikipedia had me itching to learn more about the woman in black and white that I had nearly passed by. But as I ventured deeper into her story, I fell down the rabbit hole of a darker history.

At twenty-seven years old, Grover Cleveland met the infant daughter of his law partner and close friend, Oscar Folsom, and became immediately infatuated with the child. He bought her toys and a baby carriage, becoming affectionately known as “Uncle Cleve” throughout her youth. Always a reckless driver, however, Folsom was killed in a carriage accident around the time Frances turned 11. With no will prepared, Cleveland became the executor of the Folsom estate, taking on the role of provider for Frances and her mother, Emma.[1] Emma Folsom, understandably, expected Cleveland to marry her, thus solidifying his already established role in their “family” dynamic. However, when asked by the press why he hadn’t married, he responded with, “I’m waiting for my bride to grow up.”[2] Tasteless as it may seem, the comment was laughed off as a joke, until the 49-year-old revealed his engagement to Frances Folsom, marrying her five days later in the first ever White House wedding. Their marriage took the media by storm and soon, Frances Cleveland, adored by the public, became the first First Lady to reach celebrity status.

This wasn’t the first media storm to surround Grover Cleveland during his political career. Just after Cleveland received the Democratic nomination for President, a scandal was unearthed: a 9-year-old boy named Oscar was presented as the illegitimate son of the presidential candidate and a department store clerk named Maria Halpin. While the Republicans took immediate advantage of the scandal, Cleveland’s team scrambled to decide what should be done in response. Cleveland insisted on a platform of “honesty,” claiming all responsibility for the boy, though he did not believe that he was biologically the father. He showed the public that he saw that young Oscar was well-cared for and sent him to an orphanage where he was adopted by a respectable family.[3] Maria Halpin, for her part, was portrayed as nothing but a drunk who had slept with at least three married men in addition to Cleveland who, as the only bachelor, saw it as his duty to make sure the boy was cared for. With that, the Democrats could breathe easy. [4] Anti-Cleveland chants from the Republicans of “Ma, Ma, where’s my pa?” were soon met by the victorious Democratic response: “Headed to the White House, ha-ha-ha.”

So it was quite convenient that, in the Spring of his first year as President, the press had another Cleveland romance to sink their teeth into, as his incredibly young and utterly mesmerizing wife became a perfect distraction from the earlier negative press around Oscar. The story of his illegitimate son moved to the backburner, the public’s love of Frances all but burying it in the sands of time. Cleveland’s account prevailed in most historical mentions, with Halpin written off as a villain, her affidavit against the President long forgotten.

Yet, a pamphlet in the New-York Historical Society’s collection entitled “Tell the Truth! This is a moral question, not a political one the case of Grover Cleveland the result of the investigation by clergymen of the city of Buffalo September, 1884” cites that “abundant evidence is in hand to prove that Maria Halpin was not a bad woman when Cleveland formed her acquaintance.”[5] As it turns out, by all accounts, the true Maria Halpin was a modest woman – a widow, a mother of two young children, and a church-goer who found herself in the unlucky presence of an immoral man. Cleveland, as the accuser, was more in the habit of becoming drunk and disorderly and forming intimate relations with disreputable people than Halpin ever was. According to Halpin’s recently uncovered statement, Cleveland took her home after a meal and proceeded to sexually assault her “by use of force and violence without [her] consent.” When threatening to call the authorities, Cleveland told her “he was determined to ruin [her] if it cost him $10,000, if he was hanged by the neck for it.”[6] Once Oscar was born, Cleveland had him removed from his mother’s care, and arranged for Halpin to be sent to Providence Lunatic Asylum where, after evaluation, the medical director released her on the grounds that she was not insane, but instead the victim of political abuse. Yet, Cleveland, from his position of power, held onto the upper hand. In the end, he was true to his word in at least one sense: he did everything he could to burn her reputation to the ground.

Historically, Grover Cleveland has been considered an above-average President, slipping in recent decades only from “near great” to squarely average despite his unpopular reputation at the end of his second term.[7] A standard search of his name first brings up the Wikipedia entry on him, which states that, among modern historians, “he has been praised for honesty, integrity, [and] adherence to his morals.” Elected by the American people twice, this man, who took violent advantage of at least one woman, destroyed her life to hold onto his power, and then groomed a young girl for marriage, is regarded as one of our country’s better leaders, and a righteous one at that. Just a few short weeks ago, when I saw a portrait of Grover Cleveland among the hundreds of cabinet photos I catalogued, I may have accepted that without a second thought. Having spent very little time on him during High School AP History classes, I had chalked his notoriety up to his one impressive feat of being elected to two non-consecutive terms. As for the names Frances Cleveland or Maria Halpin, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Thanks to AAS and a little digging, however, I know better.

My heart goes out to both of these women, whose lives and relationships with the same man turned out so drastically different. Frances came out of a questionable relationship managing to win the hearts of the public, dedicating her time to charity and helping to define the office of the First Lady, despite Cleveland preferring her to stay out of the spotlight. After the death of Grover Cleveland, she became the first First Lady to remarry, this time to a man much closer to her age. Halpin was a survivor who remained strong for her children and spoke up in a time when it was arguably even harder to do so than it is now. She died in 1902 as a social pariah, fading into obscurity.

Grover Cleveland may be known to most Americans by his administration’s one fun fact, but he seems to have been, as this political cartoon in the AAS collection shows, a real pig.


[1] “First Lady Biography: Frances Cleveland.” National First Ladies’ Library,

[2] Ackerman, S. J. “The first celebrity first lady: Frances Cleveland (Posted 2014-07-09 18:22:02): Frances Cleveland was 21 when she married Grover. America couldn’t get enough of her.” 2014.

[3] Serratore, Angela. “President Cleveland’s Problem Child.” Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Institution, 26 Sept. 2013,

[4] A pamphlet in the AAS collection entitled “Cleveland’s Moral Character: Some Facts It Would Be Well To Know” details one defense in response to Cleveland’s scandal. Published by the Buffalo Committee of Independent Republicans, the pamphlet makes a case for his moral integrity, refusing to even repeat the allegations against him. Notably, though Cleveland was running as a Democrat, a large subset of Republicans supported him over their own candidate, James Blaine, who had suffered his own share of political scandals.

[5] Though no publishing information is available for this pamphlet, the title does suggest that those who produced it did so with the hope of not affiliating themselves with a specific political party. The writing does imply an endorsement of Cleveland’s Republican opposition, James G. Blaine, but does not explicitly position itself as a Republican pamphlet and offers more of a religious perspective on Cleveland’s sinfulness.

[6] Lachman, Charles. “Grover Cleveland’s Sex Scandal: The Most Despicable in American Political History.” The Daily Beast, 23 May 2011,  In 2011, Lachman also published a book entitled A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland, in which he details the Maria Halpin scandal extensively.

[7]  The 2021 Presidential Historians Survey ranks Cleveland 25th out of 44, a decline that reflects modern history’s reconceptualization of post-reconstruction politics. However, it is worth noting that, though his reputation is slipping in the eyes of the educated, the average person’s first stop for information (websites such as Wikipedia) still spotlights his moral integrity.

2021 Seiler Intern Sienna McCulley will be graduating in December 2021 with a BA in English from Amherst College, where she spent multiple semesters working in both the campus library and special collections.  Her experience working with historic material at Amherst and this past summer at AAS has fueled her interest in a future career in the field. 

Fall 2021 Virtual Book Talk Schedule

We are pleased to announce the Fall 2021 schedule for the Virtual Book Talks series. Our lineup includes a variety of topics including astronomy and printing the universe, nineteenth-century printing in Mexico, African American literary practice, and the politics of Native American writing.

We ended our summer with Elizabeth Kimball, Assistant Professor of English at Drexel University, who discussed her title Translingual Inheritance: Language Diversity in Early National Philadelphia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021). Like all of our virtual programs, this talk was recorded and is available on the AAS YouTube channel.

Today, September 30, we launch our fall season with Gordon Fraser, Lecturer and presidential fellow in American Studies at the University of Manchester, who will present a lecture on his new title Star Territory: Printing the Universe in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).

In Star Territory, Fraser explores how from its beginning, agents of the state, including President John Adams, Admiral Charles Henry Davis, and astronomer Maria Mitchell, participated in large-scale efforts to map the nation onto cosmic space. Through almanacs, maps, and star charts, practical information and exceptionalist mythologies were transmitted to the nation’s soldiers, scientists, and citizens.

This is, however, only one part of the story Fraser tells. From the country’s first Black surveyors, seamen, and publishers to the elected officials of the Cherokee Nation and Hawaiian resistance leaders, other actors established alternative cosmic communities. These Black and indigenous astronomers, prophets, and printers offered ways of understanding the heavens that broke from the work of the U.S. officials for whom the universe was merely measurable and exploitable.

The virtual book talk series is an academic program that showcases authors of recently published scholarly monographs  broadly related to book history and print culture. Each installment includes a presentation from the author and a Q&A with the audience. This monthly program is held on the last Thursday of every month at 2PM.

These programs are free to attend but require advanced registration. More details about the program and the fall lineup may be found here:

If you’re interested in book history, you may also wish to sign up for our mailing list. Questions may be directed at Kevin Wisniewski, Director of Book History and Digital Initiatives, at

We look forward to seeing you at one of our next programs!


A Unicorn in the Archives

There are some archival gems you can’t pass up. During my fellowship residency at the American Antiquarian Society in May 2021, AAS staff were helping me comb through the Jacob Porter Papers, when we all noticed it in the catalog record: “An Attempt to Prove the Existence of the Unicorn.”[1] “I want to believe,” someone joked as we retrieved the ‘Unicorn Treatise,’ eager to find out what it said.

My dissertation is about kitchen gardens in early America and what they tell us about non-elite people’s scientific knowledge. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while doing this research, it’s that when your archival bread and butter rests in the natural world, and especially in people’s observations about the natural world, you are bound to come across some fantastic stories. A scientific essay seeking to “prove the existence of the unicorn” might seem strange to us now, but people in the early nineteenth-century scientific community debated the existence of the unicorn, as they also debated the existence of the famous Gloucester Sea Serpent.[2] In fact, the ‘Unicorn Treatise’ reminded scholars to suspend “incredulity in natural history, which leads us to deny the existence of such species as have not come under our observation.”[3] If incredulity is the enemy of observation, then perhaps all we who study the past have a lesson to learn from the unicorn’s plight. “Wanting to believe” might in fact be the best way to enter both a unicorn’s forest and an archive. With this mentality, we can take our finds, hooved or otherwise, on their own terms.

The ‘Unicorn Treatise’ was penned by Jean-François “J.F.” Laterrade (1784-1858), a French botanist and founding member of the Linnaean Society of Bordeaux. It was printed in the first volume of the Bulletin d’Histoire Naturelle de la Société Linnéenne de Bordeaux, in 1826.[4] The treatise in the American Antiquarian Society collections is Jacob Porter’s handwritten version. Porter (1783-1846) was a Yale graduate, Massachusetts physician, and member of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York.[5] His English translation of Laterrade’s treatise was published in the American Journal of Science and Arts in 1832.[6]

Filtered through the lens of Porter’s translation, Laterrade’s treatise offers a threefold defense of the unicorn – and of belief in what may at first seem inconceivable. First, he seeks to prove that the “land unicorn” – distinguishing it from the narwal – “has in it nothing remote from the ordinary laws of nature.” Since the unicorn primarily resembles a common horse, Laterrade supposes that the sticking point must be its horn. “But then,” he conjectures, surely the narwal’s horn is “far less natural” than that of a unicorn, since narwals are creatures of the sea.[7] Second, Laterrade cites historic references to the unicorn, from “David and the prophets;” to the Roman natural philosopher Pliny the Elder; to a unicorn skeleton discovered in 1663 in Quedlinburg (now Germany), and “sent to the princess Abbesse.”[8] Because “several authors have made mention” of the unicorn, Laterrade wonders what further objection there can be. He allows that historically there have been some “ridiculous” beliefs about the properties of unicorn horns but that such “falsehood or ignorance” should not cause scholars to reject “real facts.”[9] Third, Laterrade counters the argument that because “moderns have never seen [unicorns],” they must not exist. As with discoveries of “the mammoth,” and “shells, the inhabitants of which we have not yet been able to determine,” Laterrade contends “that nature loses nothing by growing old.” And that in fact, “what animal is [not] a little extraordinary…when the might of time has removed it a little distance from us?” In the end, Laterrade does not say definitively that the unicorn exists. He concludes merely that there is “satisfactory evidence” that the unicorn existed, and that possibly “he exists still.”[10]

More compelling to Laterrade than a neat proof – unicorns or no unicorns – was a disarming of narrow-mindedness. The last paragraph of the ‘Unicorn Treatise’ quotes Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle: “It is necessary to consider nothing as impossible, to look for every thing, and to suppose that whatever can exist, really does.”[11] Over and over, this is also Laterrade’s refrain. In the pursuit of knowledge, Laterrade insists, “[L]et us examine attentively and judge with impartiality.” Let us consider all possibilities, including those beyond our “exact sphere” of understanding.[12] Archival finds like the ‘Unicorn Treatise’ remind me to approach sources with an open mind. Often, the more interesting question to ask myself is not “was it real?” but “why was it a possibility for the people I study?” I want to believe.

[1] “An Attempt to Prove the Existence of the Unicorn,” Mss boxes P, box 3, Jacob Porter Papers, 1802-1846, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester MA.

[2] In the original publication of the ‘Unicorn Treatise,’ author Jean-François Laterrade explains in a footnote that he was convinced to publish the treatise after observing renewed interest in the unicorn in the scientific community. J.-F. Laterrade, “Notice en Réfutation de la Non Existence de la Licorne,” Bulletin d’Histoire Naturelle de la Société Linnéenne de Bordeaux 1 (1826): 186. Less than a decade before the ‘Unicorn Treatise’ was first published, many people sighted a sea monster in Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts, prompting members of the Linnean Society of New England to visit to see for themselves. Chandos Michael Brown, “A Natural History of the Gloucester Sea Serpent,” American Quarterly 42, no. 3 (September 1990): 402-436.

[3] “An Attempt,” Jacob Porter Papers, AAS.

[4] Laterrade, “Notice en Réfutation,” 186-192.

[5] Biographical information from the Jacob Porter Papers catalog entry, American Antiquarian Society website,

[6] J.F. Laterrade, “An Attempt to Prove the Existence of the Unicorn,” trans. Jacob Porter, The American Journal of Science and Arts 21 (January 1832): 123-126.

[7] “An Attempt,” Jacob Porter Papers, AAS.

[8] “An Attempt,” Jacob Porter Papers, AAS. The “princess Abbesse” may refer to the Princess-Abbess of Quedlinburg at the time, Anna Sophia I.

[9] It was believed that unicorn horns could detect poison and cure a wide range of other maladies.

[10] “An Attempt,” Jacob Porter Papers, AAS.

[11] Laterrade refers to Comte de Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi, published in several volumes beginning in 1749.

[12] “An Attempt,” Jacob Porter Papers, AAS.

Holly Gruntner is a PhD candidate in the Harrison Ruffin Tyler Department of History at William & Mary. She holds an MA in History from William & Mary and a BA from the University of Minnesota-Morris. Holly’s dissertation is titled, ‘“Some People of Skil and Curiousity’: Kitchen Gardens and Scientific Knowledge in Early America.”

Her research uses kitchen gardens as a lens through which to view non-elite people’s intellectual lives and work, and the ways in which they fed broader scientific conversations in the long eighteenth century.

The Acquisitions Table: Clark, B. (Benjamin), Sen. The Past, Present and Future in Prose and Poetry

Clark, B. (Benjamin), Sen. The Past, Present and Future in Prose and Poetry. Toronto: Adam, Stevenson, & Co., 1867. BIB #565812

Benjamin Clark was born to emancipated African American parents in Maryland in 1801, and he died in Detroit in 1864. He married, had ten children, and lived with his family in Pennsylvania. He also established himself as a successful “blue dyer,” with real estate worth $1,000 and older sons established in trades, but also continued to write prose and poetry that was published in Black newspapers and periodicals.[1]

Clark contributed pieces throughout his life to Frederick Douglass’ Paper and the Weekly Anglo-African, all culminating in this posthumously published collection of his writings: The Past, Present and Future in Prose and Poetry (1867).

In three of his poems, Clark takes on a first-person voice not his own, essentially ventriloquizing the voice of a slave-catcher, a slaveholder, and a slave. “Be Joyful!,” the last poem in Clark’s book, is dedicated “to the first colored regiment of Michigan,” and in it he describes their goal: “To make our country what it should / Have always been of right, / A land of justice, equal laws, / And not of force and might.”

[1] Lorang, Elizabeth and R. J. Weir, ed. “”Will not these days be by thy poets sung”: Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864.” Scholarly Editing (2013)

Cure and Preventive: Patent medicines in the 18th and 19th century United States

In popular culture within the United States, many have heard of the “snake oil salesman” – a stock character in Western movies depicted as a supposed traveling doctor who peddles “medical” oils, elixirs, tonics, pills, bitters, liniments, tinctures, salts, powders, or syrups to unsuspecting crowds of passers-by. An accomplice in the crowd (a “shill”) attests to the effectiveness of the product being sold to increase sales. By the time customers realize they’ve been swindled, the “doctor” is already long gone. Although such individual salesmen were cultural tropes, the medicines they peddled at their American Old West-themed medicine shows – more widely known as “patent medicines” – were a popular part of American life and culture in the 18th and 19th century.

What are patent medicines? Patent medicines – also known as “nostrum”, from the Latin nostrum remedium, meaning “our remedy” – were commercial products sold in the 18th and 19th century United States as purported over-the-counter medicines that made bold and sometimes far reaching claims about their curative properties. Many of these medicines were trademarked, but not patented in the way we think of patents today. The term “patent medicine” came about in the late 17th century marketing of medical elixirs in Europe, when those who found favor with royalty were issued “letters patent” – legal instruments in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or other head of state – authorizing the use of the royal endorsement in advertising of products such as elixirs. Chemical patenting as we know it today did not occur within the United States until about 1925.

What did these medicines contain? Usually patent medicines were made of relatively inexpensive ingredients sold at high prices. It is important to know that because many patent medicines did not explicitly list their ingredients, those who sold it could make lofty claims about what their medicines contained. For example, particular herbs were frequently talked of being medical wonders in the advertising of patent medicines, but their actual effects would come from other unnamed substances (such as procaine extracts [used as local anesthetics] or grain alcohol). Patent medicines could contain a combination of ingredients such as oils, water, sugar, herbs, minerals, alcohols, chemical compounds, etc., and sometimes they contained potentially harmful (but surprisingly still legal) substances. Why would anyone put such substances into their patent medicines? Patent medicine manufacturers needed substances in their product that had noticeable effects on the body, for there is only so far a placebo effect will work on consumers. The easiest way to do so was by adding laxatives, diuretics, stimulants, and/or depressants to their products. For example, “infant soother” medicines frequently contained opium. Opiates in general – which were legal at the time and sometimes effective in relieving pain, coughs, and diarrhea  – were added to medicines despite their known addictive properties (many such medicines were advertised as causing “none of the harmful effects of opium,” though some actually did contain opium). The effect that these substances had on the body made consumers of patent medicines feel as though the medicine was working in some way – whether by creating an effect on the body that would distract them from their symptoms or would help to temporarily relieve or mask their symptoms.

What did these medicines claim to cure? While some patent medicines made specific claims about their curative properties, many could be labeled as “cure-alls” – they claimed to cure a wide variety of illnesses. For example, Isaac Bartram’s Ætherial Oil of Tar (advertised via an 1773 broadside, see figure 1 below), claimed “by its warming and stimulating property, is found good in [curing] palsies, weakness of nerves, trembling, cramps, convulsions, lowness of spirits; numbness, weakness, coldness, or wasting of the limbs; white swellings, and King’s Evil; pain in the stomach, expels wind, helps digestion, and promotes an appetite.”

Figure 1: Ætherial Oil of Tar, prepared by Isaac Bartram, Chymist, (Burlington [N.J.]: Isaac Collins, [1773?]).

Dr. Hoofland’s Greek Oil, advertised within Dr. Hoofland’s  Primer (see figure 2 below), when “applied externally,” it claimed to “cure all kinds of pains and aches, such as rheumatism, neuralgia, toothache, chilblains, sprains, bruises, frost bites, headaches, pains in the back and loins, pains in the joints or limbs, stings of insects, ringworms, etc., etc., etc.” and when “taken internally” it claimed to “cure dyspepsia, liver complaint, indigestion, acid stomach, headache, heartburn, kidney complaints, backaches, sick headache, colic, dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera infantum, cholera morbus, cramps and pains in the stomach, fever and ague, coughs, colds, asthma, etc., etc., etc.”

Figure 2: Dr. Hoofland’s Primer, ([Philadelphia]: Charles M. Evans, [between 1869 and 1872?]), 21.

How were patent medicines sold within the United States? Patent medicines were mainly sold via advertisements within almanacs and newspapers, but were also advertised in a variety of other ways. One 1872 source summed up American’s experiences with patent medicine advertising:

We take up our morning journal: its columns are crowded by patent medicine advertisements. We turn in disgust from their glaring statements, and attempt to read a news item. We get half through, and find we are sold into reading a puff for the same trashy article. We take a horse-car for up or down town, and opposite, in bold and variegated letters, the persistent remedy (?) stares you continually in the face. We enter the post office: the lobbies are employed for the exposition, perhaps sale, of the patent medicines. We open our box: “O, we’ve a large mail to-day!” we exclaim; when lo! Half of the envelopes contain patent medicine advertisements, which have been run through the post office into every man’s box in the department. And so it goes all day.[1]

Sounds eerily similar to our modern day advertising woes, doesn’t it? Although I believe the book from which the above passage originates from was intended to be a collection of satirical anecdotes of the time, it does paint a realistic image of how widely patent medicines were advertised within the United States in the late 19th century; such patent medicine advertisements were peppered throughout Americans’ daily lives (see figure 3 below).

Figure 3: “If you travel on the railroad you will recognize this as a familiar scene. Wherever you go, all over this country, you will find attractive signs relating to Hood’s Sarsaparilla.” C.I. Hood & Co., Hood’s Sarsaparilla Painting Book, ([Lowell, Mass.]: Art Dept. of C.I. Hood Co., 1894.), 23.

As patent medicine advertising became more prevalent, some sellers of patent medicines realized that their products had to have a gimmick to set them apart from the competition (testimonies and letter patents aside). One such gimmick was the theme of exoticism and mystery – claiming that their product was made with “exotic” ingredients or recipes from far-away lands. Take the above mentioned Dr. Hoofland’s Greek Oil (figure 2) – its “principal ingredient” was “an oily substance – vegetable in its nature – procured from the southern portion of the Kingdom of Greece. This compound is a certain enemy to pains of all kinds; its effects are magical.” Another example of this is Tish-Wang, “the Great Chinese Remedy,” which claimed to cure a variety of venereal diseases. In an 1863 advertisement (see figure 4 below), the seller claims to have purchased this medicine from reputable medical staff in London:

An English surgeon, while with the Army in India, obtained the secret from a Chinese physician, and the Remedy has been used for several years with great success in the hospitals of Europe. The undersigned purchased the recipe from a member of the medical profession of this city, recently returned from England, where he obtained the secret and witnessed its curative powers on the patients of one of the most celebrated Lock Hospitals in London.

Figure 4: Samuel C. (Samuel Curtis) Upham, Tish-wang, the Great Chinese Remedy for Gonorrhoea, Gleet, Strictures, Syphilis, Gravel, Seminal Weakness, &c. ([Philadelphia : s.n., 1863]).

Why don’t we still have patent medicines today? The death of patent medicines came, in part, thanks to a 1905 article written by Samuel Hopkins Adams, an American author and muckraker journalist. This article, entitled “The Great American Fraud,” was an 11 part series for Collier’s magazine in which Adams exposed patent medicines’ fraudulent claims and revealed how some of these medicines were damaging people’s health. This article’s publication allegedly played a part in influencing the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the first significant consumer protection law in the United States. This law required that active ingredients be placed on the label of a drug’s packaging – which meant the beginning of the end for patent medicines in the United States.

[1] Addison Darre Crabtre, The Funny Side of Physic: or, The Mysteries of Medicine. (Hartford : J.B. Burr & Hyde, 1872), 86.

Summer 2021 Schedule Virtual Book Talks

This month, the Program in the History of the Book in American Culture (PHBAC) celebrated its one year anniversary of its Virtual Book Talks series. This new academic program showcases authors of recently published scholarly monographs, digital-equivalents, and creative works broadly related to book history and print culture. Each installment includes a presentation from the author and a Q&A with the audience. This monthly program is held on the last Thursday of every month at 2PM.

We kicked off the summer with Laura Heffernan (University of North Florida) and Rachel Buurma (Swarthmore College), who discussed their title The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study (University of Chicago Press). Like all of our virtual programs, this talk was recorded and is available on the AAS YouTube channel.

We are pleased to share the summer schedule with you here; more details about the program may be found here: On June 24, our next guest is Melissa J. Homestead (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), who will share her recent publication, The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather & Edith Lewis (Oxford University Press).

If you’re interested in book history, you may also wish to sign up for our mailing list. Questions may be directed at Kevin Wisniewski, Director of Book History and Digital Initiatives, at

We look forward to seeing you at one of our next programs!

Lucy Brewer and the Making of a Female Marine

The lore behind a great story is often as compelling as the story itself. The Female Marine; or the Adventures of Lucy Brewer was originally published by Nathaniel Coverly in 1815 as a series of pamphlets sold across Boston and advertised as the autobiographical account of Lucy Brewer, lauded as the first woman to serve in the Navy. Daniel Cohen, author of “The Female Marine” in an Era of Good Feelings: Crossdressing and the ‘Genius’ of Nathaniel Coverly Jr., asserts, “For a period of a few years, they must have been among the most widely circulated pamphlets in Boston.” The tale of a gender-bending seafarer and their adventures aboard the U.S.S. Constitution was eagerly consumed by Coverly’s audience, but the authenticity and authorship of this narrative has been hotly debated for decades.

The story of Lucy West, previously Lucy Brewer (and known by their aliases Louisa Baker and George Baker), begins in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a sixteen year old, Lucy Brewer becomes pregnant by a boy who refuses to marry her. Lucy runs away to Boston, filled with shame and the fear of dishonoring their family, where they suffer a miscarriage. After three years working in a brothel, where they are deeply unhappy and disgusted by the women they work alongside and the men they meet, Lucy escapes by joining the Marine Corps dressed as a man to fight in the War of 1812. They take the name George Baker and serve aboard the U.S.S. Constitution for three years, fighting competently in battles against the British while keeping their true identity–and gender–a secret. They return home to their parents in Plymouth, content in transitioning back into their life as a woman. Tacked onto this narrative and its sequels are “Lucy’s thoughts on vice, morality, and the importance of “parental approbation.”

Here, I’ve referred to Lucy using the pronouns “they, them, and theirs”, but I’d like to acknowledge the nuances of this choice. The assertion of 21st century language on a 19th century character comes with innumerable problems, but my use of gender neutral pronouns seeks to respect the fluidity of Lucy’s experience in the satisfaction they express while embodying both genders. While it would be preferable to ask Lucy what their pronouns are, using gender neutral language prevents having to switch back and forth between multiple sets of pronouns.

The story of Lucy Brewer was published as a real-life account, an autobiography of one person’s experience escaping the confines of their own womanhood to live freely as a man. Lucy’s authorship, however, is highly unlikely—as is their existence. Cohen argues that it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Lucy to keep their gender a secret for three years on board the U.S.S. Constitution, and no record of any marine named George exists from this time period.

Nathaniel Coverly, Jr. is remembered as the printer of hundreds of broadside ballads, many of which celebrate American victories in the ongoing war against England. Nathaniel Hill Wright, Coverly’s supposed hack author, gained notoriety in Boston for “two small volumes of poetry that featured patriotic verses on the American naval exploits in the War of 1812, including a couple of pieces relating to the frigate Constitution.” As readers, this complicates our understanding of Lucy and what they represent—if their interiority is not their own, who does their experience belong to? Perhaps the character of Lucy is modeled after someone Coverly or Wright knew, or perhaps they are merely imagined. Regardless, this story provides a unique opportunity to discuss what gender disobedience might look like in a work of 19th century fiction.

Accepting this story as fiction means considering how its representation of gender fluidity works to positively reinforce the story’s concerns with protecting the innocence and morality of youth. Lucy is deeply concerned with maintaining their virtue, but never describes their male alias as compromising to their values. Their greatest dissatisfaction was their inability to preserve their virtue because of the ways their gender was exploited, and taking on the identity of George Baker allows them to fulfill a desire to “pursue a course of life less immoral and destructive to my peace and happiness.” Lucy delights in their ability to dupe society, frequently reminding their reader how no one has discovered their “true” gender yet. Their “trickery” is never a fact which Coverly shames, but rather uses to showcase the autonomy Lucy has rebuilt through a newfound control over their gender.

The Female Marine explores the troublesome line between gender roles and gender identity, and brings into question which of these constructs Lucy is so desperate to escape. Coverly doesn’t necessarily portray the roles of each gender as flexible, repeatedly reassuring his audience that Lucy continues to “pass” as a man in order to continue performing the duties of one, but he does appear to make an argument that this is an act anybody could pull off–that it is indeed the clothes that make the man. Coverly is disinterested in the ruthless policing of sex and sexuality characteristic of Puritan New England and instead stresses that sin lies within the perversion of morality for both genders, not within the act of gender performance itself.


The Acquisitions Table: Cinderella.  Triumph edition.  Philadelphia: B. Wilmsen, ca. 1880.

Cinderella.  Triumph edition.  Philadelphia: B. Wilmsen, ca. 1880. Bib ID: 604082.

The now-obscure Philadelphia publisher B. Wilmsen published this pop-up version of Cinderella enhanced by cut tissue paper as part of his Triumph edition series, which featured fairy tales including Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel.

Although Wilmsen held the American copyright, the book was actually printed in Germany, reflecting the fact that aside from a major picture book publisher like McLoughlin Brothers that did its own manufacturing in Brooklyn, many children’s pop-up books issued in the United States in the 1880s were produced in Europe, which had the skilled workforce of lithographers and movable book assemblers at that time.


A Culinary Road Trip at AAS

We at AAS are excited to be embarking on a culinary road trip this summer! What’s a culinary road trip, you might ask?

A culinary road trip is an AAS social media series featuring AAS staff members traveling back in time and across the country (we’re not really doing either, but it’s fun to imagine) by cooking traditional summer recipes like potato salad, cherry pie, and ice cream from cookbooks and newspapers in the AAS collections. Inspired both by AAS’s involvement with this year’s Pi(e) day, our early blog efforts at baking historically inspired food, and visits to bakeries during conferences we’ve decided to do more historical cooking—but this time we’ll cook and bake our way across the country and into the past!

Join us in June as we start our twelve-week journey traveling from New England to the West Coast and back. You’ll get a historical post card from us every week along with a recipe for a fun summer food or drink from the AAS collections.

Follow along as different staff members try their hands at interpreting early recipes from the AAS collections and also see some wonderful collection items related to our imagined travels.

We hope that you’ll also decide to bake along with us and share your favorite summer recipes and traditions. To entice you to bake along with AAS, we’ve chosen foods and recipes that are palatable to contemporary eaters so that no one wastes food in testing and experimenting with centuries-old recipes.

If you decide to bake along with us or share your scholarship or stories, use the hashtag #AASCulinaryRoadTrip.


Virtual Conference: Textual Editing and the Future of Scholarly Editions

On May 25-26, 2021, the American Antiquarian Society is hosting a virtual conference that will bring together a range of scholars in conversation about new directions in textual editing and scholarly editions.

Since the late 1960s, AAS has been a sponsor of the Cooper Edition, a scholarly edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s works with the seal of the Committee on Scholarly Editions of the Modern Language Association. The conference coincides with the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Cooper’s first major novel, The Spy. Panels will address topics such as textual editing in the digital environment; the role of critical race theory, indigeneity, and the canonical author in textual editing and scholarly editions; and who should be involved in the creation and production of scholarly editions.

We are excited about the slate of the panelists (listed below) and hope you will register for the conference by visiting the conference webpage! This event will be free thanks to the generous support of the Cooper Edition. We are also grateful to the Bibliographical Society of America for supporting this conference.

The conference will be introduced by a video featuring James Elliott (Clark University) and Lance Schachterle (Worcester Polytechnic Institute).

In addition, textual critic and bibliographer G. Thomas Tanselle has written a special statement on the anniversary of The Spy and the value of the Cooper Edition just for this conference. You may read the statement here.

Textual Editing and the Future of Scholarly Editions:
A Conference on the Bicentennial of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy

May 25, 12:00-1:30 PM (EDT)
Panel 1 – “The Past, Present, and Future of the Scholarly Edition”

Co-chairs and Keynotes:
Derrick Spires (Cornell University) and Amy Earhart (Texas A&M University)

Douglas Jones (Rutgers University)
Joycelyn Moody (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Kirsten Silva-Gruesz (University of California Santa Cruz)

May 25, 2:00-3:15 PM (EDT)
Panel 2 – “Textual Editing in the Classroom and Beyond”

Chair and Keynote:
Elizabeth Maddock Dillon (Northeastern University)

James Ascher (University of Virginia)
Sonia Di Loreto (University of Torino–Italy)
Meredith Neuman (Clark University)
Sarah Robbins (Yale University)

May 26, 12:00-1:30 PM (EDT)
Panel 3 – “Textual Editing Beyond the Print Edition of the Canonical Writer”

Chair and Keynote:
John Bryant (Hofstra University)

John Garcia (Florida State University)
John McKivigan (Indiana University)
Joseph Rezek (Boston University)

May 26, 2:00-3:15 PM (EDT)
Panel 4 – “Textual Editing and the Future of Digital Editions”

Chair and Keynote:
Matt Cohen (University of Nebraska Lincoln)

Christine DeLucia (Williams College)
Jimmy Sweet (Rutgers University)
Robert Warrior (University of Kansas)


The Society has a wide variety of Cooper items in the collection, including a portion of Cooper’s personal papers; the personal library and papers of Cooper Edition editor James Beard; the account book of F.O.C Darley (who illustrated Cooper’s works in the 1850s); proofs from Alfred Jones’s engravings of Darley’s illustrations; a copy of David Mamet’s script for The Deerslayer; a painting portraying a scene in The Last of the Mohicans; and, among many other resources, hundreds of books.

Those interesting in learning more about this collection may be interested in the AAS online exhibition James Fenimore Cooper: Shadow and Substance.

In there are any questions concerning the conference or AAS holdings on Cooper, please contact Ashley Cataldo at or Kevin Wisniewski at