“Your cooperation is requested”: The American Antiquarian Society and Operation Alert

Operation Alert was a Cold War exercise designed to assess how prepared both government agencies and citizens were in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. Starting in 1954, about 200 cities around the country took part in these drills until the project ceased in 1962. Worcester, Massachusetts, the home of the ...

Adultery, crime, and the “professedly obscene”: The beginnings of book bans in the United States

Book bans and challenges have been on the rise in libraries and schools across the United States: according to the American Library Association, who have tracked book censorship since 1982, over 1,600 titles have been affected in 2022 alone. These challenges, whether for political, legal, religious, or moral motivations, illuminate a variety of the nation’s ...

This Day in History: Great Chicago Fire Erupts

October 8, 1871 – On this day in 1871, the Great Chicago Fire erupted. The fire burned for two days, destroying buildings, claiming about 300 lives, and causing an estimated $200 million in damages. In all, the fire decimated a four-by-one-mile area of Chicago, including the city’s business district. The city quickly began reconstruction efforts, ...

This Day in History: Stamp Act Congress Convenes in Protest

October 7, 1765 – On this day in 1765, the Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City. Representatives from nine colonies met to protest the Stamp Act, which imposed the first direct tax by the British Crown on American colonies. The passage of the Stamp Act is often cited as one of the first ...

This Day in History: Lincoln Proclaims, ‘Turkey Day!’

October 3, 1863 – On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. The proclamation came in the midst of the Civil War. In his address, Lincoln chose to focus on the country’s prosperity: “[T]he country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, ...

In-person & Hands-on Early Worcester History, Featuring the Brown Family

Who and what springs to mind when you reflect on early Worcester history? Isaiah Thomas & his printing press? Major Taylor & his bicycle? Esther Howland & her Valentines? These classic Worcester historical figures will all be represented at AAS’s upcoming Chat with a Curator open house this Wednesday, but we hope many of the materials ...

Major Taylor letters featured in new video

In 2020, letters from a young Marshall “Major” Taylor were donated to the American Antiquarian Society by Constance L. Whitehead Hanks. Taylor, a Worcester resident, was the first African American to win the title of cycling world champion, in 1899, and the second Black athlete to win a world championship in any sport. He is ...

Artists in the AAS Archive: September 2020

This week we continue our Artists in the AAS Archive series.  This installment offers a spotlight on four more past fellows: book artist Maureen Cummins; performer-scholar Anne Harley; playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher; and playwright and performer Laurie McCants. This series celebrates the 25th anniversary of Artist fellowships at the American Antiquarian Society.  More information about ...

Celebrating National Dog Day at AAS!

It should come as no surprise that the staff here at the American Antiquarian Society is passionate about books and prints related to American history.  But we’re also deeply committed to our pets. From time to time, we’ll even share photos of our favorite furry or feathered friends on the AAS Instagram page. Today is National ...

Artists in the AAS Archive: New Series on the AAS Artist Fellowships

In April, we published an article in honor of National Poetry Month, entitled "Poets in the AAS Archive." In this same thread, we are pleased to share our plans now to create a new series on Past is Present dedicated to our artist fellows. This new series will spotlight the work of current and past fellows ...

When Times are Tough, AAS Gets Going . . . on Transcription!

Staff at AAS have been sad and frustrated about Covid-19’s effects on our researchers, fellows, and fellow cultural institutions. Despite this hardship, we’ve been able to find some joy in our days and to feel connected to the collections we love by working on a staff-wide transcription of the first AAS donation book. For those of ...

“Don’t Expose Me”: The Beecher-Tilton Scandal of New York

Maggie Panteli is pursuing a BA degree in History and is graduating May 2020 from Clark University. During the summer of 2019, she worked part-time as a Readers’ Services Page and as an assistant in the Graphic Arts Department cataloging stereographs. Her favorite cataloging job was working with the McLoughlin illustrations. Her time at AAS ...

Join AAS This Summer On a Social Media Road Trip

For many people, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. As we antiquarians here at AAS began thinking about summer in the collections, we started to imagine how wonderful it might be to go on a road trip and visit every state represented in our collections—that’s all fifty, of course!

Since the feasibility of ...

Worcester’s “Garden City”

My favorite part of cataloging is figuring out a mystery. When little information is given with an object and I am able to solve that mystery, I’m a happy camper. So when a set of three photographs came across my desk, one of them a very sweet image of children holding rabbits and chickens, I ...

Identifying the Unidentified

Kathleen Major has been volunteering in the Manuscripts Department at AAS for several years. She worked at AAS from 1976 to 1984 and was Keeper of Manuscripts for a portion of that time. After leaving the Society to care for her children, Kathy worked at the Gale Free Library in Holden, most recently as head of ...