America’s Sherlock Holmes

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A recently acquired amateur newspaper, Hail Columbia, published in Hartford by W.H. Gillette, sent this serials cataloguer on a hunt for the full name of the editor. The paper itself gave no clues, and it was fairly typical of such things—riddles, poetry, bits and pieces of “news,” notices of other amateur newspapers and the like. ...

An Unusual Advertisement

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The Philadelphian  (Philadelphia, PA).  February 1846. This is a scarce monthly publication filled with stories, tidbits of information, and small jokes for the entertainment and amusement of the reader. What makes this particular issue interesting is an advertisement on page 2 that takes up almost two-thirds of the page.  It is for drugs, medicines, chemicals, paints, oils, ...

Now that’s a hat!

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The People’s Pathfinder  (St. Louis, MO)  Spring 1853.  Edited by William H. Keevill. This is a rare advertising piece for the dry goods palace of Hubbell & Hunt at Corinthian Hall in St. Louis, Missouri.  As can be seen from the large woodcut on the front page, this publication is about hats.  The articles are about ...

Exploring the Archives with High School Students

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Josiah Burden is a history teacher at Worcester's South High Community School. Over the course of several years, he was able to take part in many workshops at AAS through a federally-funded Teaching American History grant awarded to AAS and the Worcester Public Schools. The experience led him to bring two of his own U.S. ...

No blondes need apply.

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The Matrimonial Bazar.  A Monthly Journal, Devoted to the Interests of Love, Courtship and Marriage  (Chicago, IL)  May 1876. Long before there were online dating services there were singles ads.  Local or community newspapers often have a section of advertisements for men seeking women, women seeking men, and a variety of other combinations.  SWF and DBM ...

Adventures in Cataloging: Some Sleuthing Required (Part III)

Dr. Asa M. Stackhouse’s notes about Dr. Samuel Jackson, which proved to be the key to disentangling the identities of the doctors Jackson.

This week, the series ends by correcting a case of mistaken identity. And if you missed the first two parts, be sure to check them out: Part I, Part II. 3. The Doctors Jackson We like to trace provenance information in our records when we can. This allows one to find former owners, virtually reconstruct an ...

Adventures in Cataloging: Some Sleuthing Required (Part II)

Title page of A Real Object of Charity (Walpole, N.H., 1806).

Last week, in Part I, Amy discovered the title and date of a pamphlet missing a title page by scouring the newspapers. Now, she puts a name to a remarkable but unidentified woman. 2. The life of Ms. Sally (or Sarah) Rogers Sometimes, I catalog a book or pamphlet and a person appears whom we know ...

Adventures in Cataloging: Some Sleuthing Required (Part I)

Our 25 miles of shelves hold many mysteries for the intrepid cataloger to unravel.

One of the neat things about working as a cataloger at the American Antiquarian Society is solving the puzzles that come across my desk. I work exclusively on books and pamphlets published in the early nineteenth century, and over the course of 200 years title pages are lost, authors are forgotten, and people disappear into ...

Valentines Outside the Envelope

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As has been blogged on Past is Present before, AAS has an extensive and representative assortment of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century valentines. Part of the Graphic Arts Collection, these ephemeral pieces of affection were exchanged on or before February 14, as Valentine’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to give that special someone a card. Many were ...

Adventures in Cataloging: Inscriptions

The re-stitched bindings of Perry’s Royal Standard English Dictionary (Worcester, Mass., 1788), Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest (Philadelphia, 1803), and Russel’s Seven Sermons (Boston, 1715).

As a cataloger for the North American Imprints Program, my job is to catalogue books and pamphlets printed and published in North America between 1801 and 1820. I describe them, I put them into context with other books and pamphlets, and I become the latest person to handle an item that is two centuries old. Many ...

Instagram Redux

The Society's Graphic Arts collection is a wonderful place for browsing, looking for visual evidence of whatever topic you may be working on.  I have helped researchers hunt in the collection on such broad topics as death, food production, and dress, and as specific as orphaned children, methods of doing laundry, and book shop interiors. As ...

Did you send out your New Year’s cards yet?

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It’s no wonder Louis Prang is considered the “Father of the American Christmas Card.” During the height of chromolithography in the 1860s, 70s, and 80s, Prang’s firm in Boston introduced the concept of the Christmas card to America and produced over 5 million greeting cards per year. While Prang’s Christmas cards are displayed often, in ...

Santa and the Christmas Tree in Nineteenth-Century American Children’s Books

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Although we might think of Santa and an evergreen Christmas tree as inevitably wedded in nineteenth-century children’s book illustration, that was not necessarily the case.  Until about 1840, New Year’s Day was favored over Christmas as the family-appropriate winter holiday in the young American Republic, particularly in New England, where the descendants of the Puritans ...

A “Spirited” Collection

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Nothing is hair-raising quite like a chilling photograph. This month, when the occult is most heavily sought after in popular culture, we made a small collection accessible which examines death, the afterlife, photography, technology, and (naturally) print culture. AAS’s impressive collection of stereocard views includes a subset categorized as “Ghost” images. This includes approximately 31 images ...

Your Move!

Many magazines of the nineteenth century were published with paper wrappers, the purpose of which were to protect the issue as it went through the mail on its way to the subscriber’s home.  These wrappers (often on colored paper) would identify the name of the periodical.  Sometimes they would just reproduce the title page, but ...