New Illustrated Inventory: Photographs of North American Indians, 1850-1900

Today, the American Antiquarian Society is launching a new illustrated inventory featuring photographs of Native Americans from our graphic arts collection. This collection of 225 photographs spans from 1859 to 1910 and makes available photographs of members of thirty-nine tribes. The collection was compiled as a resource decades ago, long before the creation of the Society’s online catalog, and represents just a fraction of the resources documenting Native people in AAS collections. Information on other holdings can be found on our resources page.

The new inventory includes many studio portraits of Native Americans and views of their homes and surroundings. Most were intended for non-Native audiences and were reproduced in government reports, illustrated newspapers, or were mounted as stereo cards for general distribution. Many of the photographs in this collection were included in William Henry Jackson’s Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians (1877). Jackson worked as a photographer for the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey and documented Native Americans across the west. The collection also includes photos from Thompson and Powell’s series U.S. Topographical and Geological Survey of the Colorado River of the West.

If you are interested in nineteenth-century photography, be sure to explore the other visual resources for the Society’s photography collection.

Isaiah Thomas’s Library Catalog Is Now Digital

Jeremy Dibbell is the director of communications and outreach at Rare Book School and the volunteer head of the Legacy Libraries and Libraries of Early America projects for LibraryThing. He is always happy to receive information on American book lists/inventories/catalogs of any size, particularly for the colonial period.

In July 1812, Isaiah Thomas presented a large collection of books, pamphlets, and newspapers to the nascent American Antiquarian Society. He documented this gift, and additional items given through 1821, in a manuscript volume headed “Catalogue of The private Library of Isaiah Thomas, Senior, Of Worcester, Massachusetts.”

Marcus McCorison (1926–2013), who served as librarian, director, and then president of AAS from 1960 until his retirement in 1992, worked for many years to transcribe and annotate Thomas’s library catalog, identifying the works indicated and adding important bibliographical citations and context. In September 2012, AAS President Ellen Dunlap and I met with Marcus and proposed the use of the social book-cataloging website LibraryThing to present his work on Thomas’s library as part of the site’s Legacy Libraries project. Established in 2007, this project allows for the documentation and cataloging of historical libraries; information on more than 1,900 libraries (including more than 1,700 early American libraries) has been added to date. I had demonstrated the possibilities of this project to Marcus several years earlier by showing him the LibraryThing catalogs of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, so when Ellen and I suggested that it might work for Thomas’s library, he wholeheartedly approved the idea, and I got to work.

Thomas’s manuscript entries for dictionaries

As is the way of such things, it took a whole lot longer than I thought it would when I agreed to do it, but in January I finally finished adding books to the Isaiah Thomas account on LibraryThing. The account now includes the titles included in Thomas’s manuscript catalog, as well as more than 550 additional books in the AAS collections identified as being given by Thomas after the period covered by the catalog. Marcus’s citations and transcriptions have been included with each record mostly as given in his final draft version of the catalog, though I corrected a handful of obvious errors where found, and in several instances I was able to identify specific editions unlocated by McCorison. I have also added the current AAS call number and any copy-specific information as given in the catalog records.

Thomas’s dictionary entries in LibraryThing

Isaiah Thomas’s bookplate

Thomas’s catalog in LibraryThing is keyword-searchable and browseable (click on the header of any column to re-sort), and includes both books still at AAS and those no longer in the AAS collections. Sorting on the “Dewey/Melvil” column, which contains McCorison’s citation number for each book, will display the records in the order given in Thomas’s manuscript. Tags have been added to each record based on Thomas’s own categories as given in the manuscript catalog.

There is much more work that might be done (many books currently at AAS are not specifically identified as Thomas’s, for example, so those could be checked to determine whether they bear marks of his ownership), and I will happily add any updates, corrections, &c. as needed. I hope that this resource will prove useful for anyone interested in Isaiah Thomas’s books, the output of his printing and publishing outfits (very well documented in the catalog), and the early AAS collections.

An Adventure with Nineteenth-Century Knitting

I would like to begin by saying, I consider myself a fairly capable knitter. I can read a pattern, my stitches are even, and I can occasionally knit without looking, detecting by touch if something goes awry. I am by no means a “lady expert,” as Miss H. Burton, author of The Lady’s Book of Knitting and Crochet (1875), claims to be, but I’m competent. I admit that my “skills” have been bolstered by the existence of the internet. If I can’t quite visualize a new stitch, I can turn to YouTube and watch someone else doing it until I have mastered it. If that doesn’t work, there are dozens of knitting blogs with step-by-step tutorials, tips, and tricks to guide me through. This makes knitting much more approachable, and I have been advancing in this manner for the better part of the last five years.

With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to consult one of the nineteenth-century knitting books in the AAS collection and try to follow one of the patterns without my modern training wheels. The challenge here lies in the complete lack of visual aids and the reliance on the written pattern and explanations in the book. Not only are the descriptions of the stitches limited (and inconsistent—but we’ll come back to that), but there are no pictorial representations of what the completed pattern should look like. I selected a pattern that had a descriptive title and a recommendation of what needles and yarn to use so that I could at least get an impression of what the end product may be. I planned to do this without my trusted YouTube or Google, though I allowed myself the modern luxury of electric light to knit by. (Full disclosure, at one point I did consult an outside text to confirm I was doing something correctly. I was correct, so there was really no need to doubt myself and cheat a little, but in the moment I panicked.)

While many librarians may be more skeptical at this point in their careers, I am still generally trusting of promises made by books. I chose The Lady’s Book of Knitting and Crochet to guide me through this experiment because it held the promise of “over one hundred new and easy patterns…compiled and edited by a lady expert who has conscientiously tested all of them” [emphasis added]. I like a challenge but also I wanted to keep this as frustration-free as possible, and who could resist that sort of guarantee?

The decorative edge in progress.

A quick scan of the book revealed that some of these patterns were scant, to put it generously, but my first real warning should have come when I discovered that there was a section on crochet terms but not knitting ones. Well that’s fine, I have a good base knowledge of knitting terms, I thought. But then I got into the pattern itself…

The “lady expert” author recommends using a coarse cotton and no. 13 “pins” to complete this pattern, a decorative rose-bud patterned edge. Size 13 needles sounded surprisingly large, especially given the delicate weight of the cotton. I sized down the needles and doubled the cotton strand and still something seemed amiss. Certainly this would knit up quickly but it would be a huge boarder edge—almost the size of a washcloth in and of itself. That’s when I remembered that British (and “Old” U.S.) needles were on a different measurement scale. I knew it couldn’t be metric, 13 mm would still be too large, and thus my Google dependence deepened, my second cheat for a seemingly simple pattern.

I discovered that British and “Old” U.S. needles were based on wire gauges and count down, with 1 representing the largest size. Modern U.S. needles do the exact opposite and count up, with 1 being among the smallest needles, because nothing asserts independence like doing the exact opposite of what your parents say. An “Old” U.S. 13 is about a 1 in modern U.S. gauging—a fairly extreme difference when trying to follow a pattern (see image below). America switched to the present system in the 1950s but it is difficult to find reliable sources clarifying the reason for the change.

A modern 13 needle compared to an “Old” U.S. 13 needle.

Once I got going, it quickly became clear that needle sizing was not going to be my only source of confusion. Maybe it would have helped if other people had tested the author’s patterns. I often find that, when writing recipes, knitting patterns of my own, or really any sort of instruction, it helps to have someone else take a look to make sure they can interpret what made complete sense in my own head. I know what I was going for…does anyone else?

Here is how the pattern is written.

Here are my points of confusion.

  1. The instructions indicate 19 stitches for the pattern with 2 additional stitches for the edges. The first row accounts for all 21 stitches. By row two we are down to 19 stitches total with instructions for only 18 stitches and subsequent rows don’t all begin and end with a plain. So…????
  2. What’s going with the punctuation? Does it have any sort of significance or is the author just using semicolons or commas interchangeably without reason?
  3. What about those rows that only tell you what to do with 18 of the stitches? Do I have an extra stitch? Do I just assume it ends on a plain because of that note at the beginning? Do I turn my work leaving the last stitch behind?
  4. Is there a difference between a knit and a plain stitch? If yes, what? If not, why mix and match in one pattern? (Note: My research into historic knitting needle sizes revealed that a knit and a plain are, in fact, the same thing)
  5. Sometimes the word comes first (i.e. Knit 1), sometimes the number comes first (i.e. 3 pearls) and sometimes there are no numbers at all.
  6. Did the author just abandon punctuation entirely toward the end? Or is a pearl plain and a plain pearl something I am supposed to know?
  7. To complete row 8, I tried ending the pattern on a pearl plain rather than a plain pearl and it seemed to fit in with the pattern much better. Typo or style choice? The world may never know.

The completed project.

So how did it go? Well, I did my best but I am not completely confident in my result.

Did I do it correctly? Maybe. I ultimately decided that when the last stitch in a row did not have specific instructions I would knit a plain stitch. The pattern is supposed to create an edge, so perhaps the left side is for attaching to the rest of a work? And the right side sort of looks like rosebuds, if you look at it the way you would look at a magic eye poster (squinty and with your head at an angle—maybe try standing a little farther back).

I invite all the readers to give this pattern a try and see if you come up with anything different or can determine where I may have gone astray. It is entirely possible (i.e. likely) that I misinterpreted something due to the limitations of my modern visual learning style.

Interview with Gregory Nobles

Gregory Nobles is professor emeritus in the School of History and Sociology at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, where he first started teaching in 1983. Prior to that he taught at Virginia Tech. Dr. Nobles’s accomplishments are too many to list here, but he has received numerous research grants and fellowships, including two Fulbright professorships and several National Endowment for the Humanities and Mellon Foundation awards. In fact, he just finished a term as Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American Antiquarian Society, where he was elected to membership in 1995. Dr. Nobles has been on the advisory council of SHEAR (Society for Historians of the Early American Republic) and has published and lectured widely on everything from early and revolutionary American politics to the American frontier to John James Audubon. His most recent book, John James Audubon: The Nature of the American Woodsman, was just published by University of Pennsylvania Press. His current work is tentatively titled “Betsey Stockton’s Mission: From Slavery to Freedom, From Princeton to the Pacific.”

In this interview, Dr. Nobles talks about this newest project, tells us a bit about the history of social history, and discusses how his work as a historian has affected his personal life.

My Thirty Years’ Adventure with McLoughlin Brothers

“Royal Picture Gallery,” copyrighted 1894.

The exhibition Radiant with Color & Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858–1920, now on display at the Grolier Club in New York, is the culmination of my three decades’ worth of work in cataloging, documenting, and interpreting the output of this titan New York publisher that dominated color picture book publishing in the United States in the latter half of the nineteenth century. My contact with the some 1,800 McLoughlin picture books in the AAS Children’s Literature Collection began almost immediately after I joined the AAS staff in 1987. One of my first tasks as senior cataloger of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded American Children’s Books project was to write the renewal proposal that would fund the cataloging of these color-filled treasures.

I quickly discovered that cataloging these books to rare book level would pose a variety of challenges, one of the biggest being that many of them did not have publication dates because they were meant to look eternally new, regardless of how long they might have sat in a warehouse before they were sold. I also realized that outside of a few brief essays in book dealers’ catalogs and periodicals, there was very little substantive information written about the history of McLoughlin Brothers because the firm’s business records did not survive. Furthermore, McLoughlin, unlike competitors such as E. P. Dutton or Frederick Warne, did not flourish after the early twentieth century, keeping it removed from modern memory. After the death of its co-founder and innovator-in-chief John McLoughlin Jr., McLoughlin Brothers was sold to Milton Bradley in 1920. The new  owners reissued the hefty inventory of McLoughlin games under the Milton Bradley name and recast the picture books as the McLoughlin line of Milton Bradley. The McLoughlin line was sold off by Milton Bradley in the early 1950s, eventually becoming a brand used on a few books published by Grosset & Dunlap, until the legal demise of the McLoughlin corporate name in 1984.

The bookplate for all of Herbert H. Hosmer’s donations.

Due to these challenges, I acquired my knowledge of McLoughlin Brothers by cataloging the picture books themselves and by speaking to a few McLoughlin collectors, including Herbert Hosmer (1913–1995), who donated a large cache of books and artwork belonging to the McLoughlin business archives to AAS in 1978. Herbert was a charming eccentric, a schoolteacher who spent most of his career in the Lancaster, Massachusetts, public schools. A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art, Herbert was a skilled puppeteer and the proprietor of the Toy Cupboard Theatre, which delighted generations of local children. His great uncle was John Greene Chandler (1815–1879), an engraver and lithographer who designed picture books and paper dolls. Chandler’s daughter Alice (referred to by Herbert as “Cousin Alice”) told young Herbert about her father’s career as a book illustrator in antebellum Boston, and she eventually gave him some of those picture books, thus planting the book collecting seed that became Herbert’s lifelong passion. By the 1960s, he was a serious collector of children’s books, dolls, and dollhouses.

Fortunately for AAS, Herbert was also a serious reader of newspaper obituaries, so when he read that Charles Ernest Miller (1869–1951), a longtime McLoughlin Brothers executive, had died, he eagerly contacted Miller’s surviving daughter, Ruth, to see if she had any McLoughlin Brothers books he could purchase. Miss Miller didn’t answer until many years later, but when she did Herbert was more than ready to examine what she had, which turned out to be over one thousand items, including picture books, games, paper toys, illustration blocks, and original artwork belonging to the McLoughlin business archives. Herbert arranged to buy the whole collection from Miss Miller on an installment plan. He made at least the first installment and took possession of the McLoughlin treasure trove, but his ambition as a collector was not matched by his salary as a public schoolteacher in the 1970s. Seeking a way to pay Miss Miller the money due her and keep the magnificent collection together, Herbert sought the help of then American Antiquarian Society President Marcus McCorison. Herbert had been an occasional researcher at AAS since about 1940, using AAS holdings to document the careers of his artist ancestors Winthrop Chandler and John Greene Chandler. When Marcus examined Herbert’s McLoughlin trove, he swiftly realized its importance in the history of the book in America; as a whole the archive reflects the profound changes in picture book production in the mid nineteenth century from poorly hand-colored wood engravings to sophisticated chromolithography done on steam-powered presses. McCorison paid Miss Miller the balance and made Herbert honorary curator of children’s literature. It was just when Herbert had retired from his honorary curatorship that I came to AAS and met him in 1987.

McLoughlin Brothers publishers’ catalog, 1871-1874.

In unpredictable health and unable to drive, Herbert came to AAS occasionally during my early days at AAS, regaling me with tales of nineteenth-century publishers and his joy in collecting the books they had produced, as well as showing me his arrangement of the books and drawings awaiting substantive cataloging. Examining the neatly typed envelopes housing each of the fragile picture books, I soon came to recognize his curvaceous Palmer method handwritten notes on some of the envelopes, identifying illustrators, color printing processes, or estimated publication dates. These notes eventually informed my cataloging of these books. I can still hear his lively cadence when I read those notes. He urged me to phone him if I had any questions about the collection, of which I had many, particularly in my first few years at AAS. Talking to Herbert on the phone was always an adventure. I realized that he preferred to live in the past—not his personal past, but his extended family’s past in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries! He would tell me of fantastic Fourth of July celebrations in mid-nineteenth-century Boston and the tragic ends of long-lost relatives and eventually cycle back to answering my question; regardless of whether I actually got an answer, the journey was splendid!

Thankfully, I had the Society’s premier collections to help answer my questions, including a nearly complete run of New York city directories to document the dates of activity of McLoughlin Brothers at specific addresses. Another crucial source was the McLoughlin publisher’s catalogs, which came to AAS as part of Herbert Hosmer’s donation. They linked specific titles to dates and showed how McLoughlin largely arranged its inventory within a complex system of series that were produced in an array of price points ranging from one cent to two dollars.

“Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper,” 1897.

While cataloging the McLoughlin picture books I began to give conference presentations on my work, drumming up interest among scholars to come to AAS and use this fascinating visual material. AAS was way ahead of the curve in providing rare book-level access to historical children’s literature, and very few researchers coming to AAS in the 1980s and 1990s came to work specifically with children’s books. I had to both build the intellectual infrastructure and promote the material. While writing one conference presentation about the portrayal of the picture book Cinderella in nineteenth-century America, I discovered that this popular tale was produced by McLoughlin among a number of series simultaneously (including the Cinderella Series) and at a variety of price points. Cinderella also provided a key way into exploring developments in McLoughlin’s use of illustration technologies, from wood engraving to zinc etching and eventually chromolithography. I was learning to navigate the world of McLoughlin on a number of levels!

Left: “Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper,” ca.1858. Right: Detail from image in “Puss in Boots. Cinderella. Little Red Riding Hood.,” ca. 1895. The switch from hand-coloring to chromolithography can be seen in these two images.

Enter AAS member George King Fox (1937–2017). Elected in 2005, George had a direct family connection to McLoughlin Brothers: both his father, George Marshall Fox, and his grandfather George Albert Fox worked as executives for the McLoughlin line of Milton Bradley. Having grown up in Springfield, Massachusetts, near the Milton Bradley plant, George King Fox moved west to California to pursue his passion of alpine skiing. He eventually convinced his father to move to San Francisco and donate his children’s book collection, which included many picture books from the McLoughlin business archives, to the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL). I met George King Fox shortly after his election to AAS membership, and we spoke briefly about our respective McLoughlin Brothers collections. Several years later I received a phone call from George inviting me to San Francisco to give a lecture on the history of McLoughlin Brothers in conjunction with the first major exhibition of his father’s collection at SFPL since its donation in 1978. I was given a magnificent opportunity to put together all the bits of information about McLoughlin that I had acquired over some twenty-five years of cataloging these picture books, and I embraced the assignment! Using my old friend Cinderella, I worked with my colleague AAS Curator of Graphic Arts Lauren Hewes to pinpoint when McLoughlin Brothers started to switch over from hand-coloring to machine-color printing, which turned out to be about 1867. Between my memory of how the picture books looked and Lauren’s technical expertise, we made a great discovery little documented in the history of illustration!

“Cenicentilla, ó, El Escarpin de Cristal,” published by D. Appleton & Co., manufactured by McLoughlin Brothers, 1864.

Once in San Francisco, I took a look at the George Marshall Fox Collection and realized that the collection contained material filling gaps in the AAS collection and that I needed to dig into it. Thanks to the hospitality of George and his partner, Dorothea Preus, I was able to return to San Francisco several more times to mine the riches of the Fox Collection, which is a wonderful resource. In the course of my research with the collection, I discovered that McLoughlin manufactured Spanish-language picture books for seeming rival D. Appleton & Company. The business records apparently don’t survive for either firm, so the only way of discovering the relationship was through examining the books themselves.

When Lauren Hewes and I were approached by members of the Grolier Club to submit a proposal for an exhibition on McLoughlin Brothers, we knew that we had the material and the knowledge to write on McLoughlin’s seminal place in the business of picture book publishing. I am absolutely thrilled that I was able to do the research and select the material that tells this long untold tale, and that this story is so beautifully documented in our exhibition catalogRadiant with Color & Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858–1920. Like Cinderella, I got to go to the ball after many years of hard work. The exhibition will be on view at the Grolier Club (47 E. 60th St., New York) through February 3. Please consider coming to the public reception for the exhibition on Tuesday, January 23, at 2:30 p.m.

Designing McLoughlin: Finding Inspiration for the Exhibition Catalog

1898 McLoughlin Brothers publisher’s catalog

When we were faced with the challenge of designing the catalog for the McLoughlin Brothers exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York in-house, the task seemed a bit overwhelming at first. The collection material featured was already so lively and engaging. But the answer quickly became clear when we began creating a plan for the recently published catalog—use the firm’s own work for inspiration.

The Society holds the archival collection of the McLoughlin Brothers firm, which was assembled by former McLoughlin vice president Charles Ernest Miller in the twentieth century. The archive includes drawings, watercolors, proofs, print samples, correspondence, and original manuscripts, as well as order forms, catalogs, and price lists. We were drawn to the firm’s publisher’s catalogs (as seen in a sample page here), which proved to be the inspiration for our own.

Catalogs as Inspiration

Endpapers of new catalog featuring a McLoughlin Brothers publisher’s catalog from1871

In our publication, Radiant with Color & Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 18581920, we wanted to create a layout with elements that hinted at these past publisher’s catalogs, so we incorporated parts of their design—size, double bars at the top of the page, a similar font style, and margins—into the whole of the modern one. We also liked the organized structure of the catalogs produced from the 1870s through the 1940s, as well as the saturated color palette of the artwork in the later copies, which made them inviting to flip through. We even reproduced pieces of the original catalogs where there was available space, such as on the endpapers (see above), which feature the firm’s publisher’s catalog from about 1871.

McLoughlin Brothers publisher’s catalog from 1946

Once a basic layout had been decided, including the spacing, columns, and so on, we incorporated the photographs of the collection items taken by our staff photographer, Nikki Grdinich. At this point we also began focusing on the use of color in our catalog’s final design and narrowing down choices for cover artwork. The firm had a practice of “putting color on every page,”[1] so in homage, we put it on every spread; this gave us the opportunity to showcase some of our favorite items and to incorporate the vibrant colors of the firm’s later catalogs, such as this one from 1946.

However, matching “McLoughlin red,” a bright shade of scarlet found in many of the firm’s publications, proved problematic as it varied over the decades the firm was in business and in some cases by what the products were printed on (linen or paper). One thing that remained consistent was that it was vibrant. We used it on both the cover and introductory pages to sections of the catalog. The sampling of images included in our catalog seen below show some of the variations.

Another challenge in the design process was the great variety of types of items we needed to illustrate. They ranged from archival watercolors to block illustrations, shaped toy books to inexpensively made pamphlets, and board games to ABC and picture books. Looking through the archival collection of catalogs for inspiration on how to make these items work with each other, it seemed that McLoughlin wanted the viewer to easily make comparisons between texts. As we liked this strategy of comparison, we employed it in our design as well, such as in the section about “McLoughlin Brothers and Its Competitors” (seen here), which gives side-by-side comparisons of originals done by McLoughlin’s competitors and the pirated copies done by McLoughlin.

We also liked the font on the McLoughlin publisher’s device (two owls with the motto “Educate-Amuse”) and found that the font family Myriad would complement it. Throughout the catalog we also used small caps of Myriad for the san serif (as well as in the captions); we combined this with Minion as the serif typeface for the body text. These two fonts work together and seemed to fit the criterion of educating and amusing!

The final catalog is an upright, perfect-bound paperback of 144 pages; the trim-size is the same as a McLoughlin catalog produced in the 1910 to 1919 decade.

Printing the Catalog

The press used to print the catalog at Puritan Capital’s print shop

When it came to the actual printing of the catalog, we relied on the expertise of the sales representative and project manager at Puritan Capital, Richard Denzer. Puritan Capital, located in Hollis, New Hampshire, is well known to cultural institutions for printing fine art books and museum catalogs. Our catalog, done in 4/color process, was produced in their print shop on their 28 x 40-inch Komori Lithrone S40 Press. As we had requested to have 750 copies printed (a relatively short print-run), Denzer assured us this press would maintain the high print quality we desired of the finished product in a cost-effective way. “We chose the Komori Lithrone to print the catalog because it ends up being much more efficient price-wise to offset print the project, as opposed to producing it digitally on our HP Indigo press,” Denzer explained. “We also have a lot more control in regard to managing the color images with offset printing. Digital printing is great for a lot of things, but when it comes to art books, color reproduction can be less stable and less consistent.”

Sorting through the rounds of proofs

Denzer delivered two rounds of loose proofs (for color) from the prepress department at Puritan, as well as a composite proof (for layout). We reviewed them, comparing the illustrations with the original artwork and making notations on individual pages that needed corrections.

When we received the final copies of the exhibition catalog a few weeks ago, the first question upon opening the box was whether we achieved our version of “McLoughlin red.” We compared our Pantone formula guide—a fan-deck tool we used throughout the process for specific color and printing accuracy—against the color block on the cover. It was spot on.

Matching the “McLoughlin Red”

Design can be a solitary activity. But for this catalog, there was nothing isolated about it—from working with curators Lauren Hewes and Laura Wasowicz to receiving feedback from editor Kayla Hopper to having conversations with other designers, such as AAS member Ingrid Jeppson Mach (elected 2008), who provided invaluable advice in the final stages of design. There was also input from the Society’s managers. Indeed, there were lots of voices. The entire team felt great pride when we finally opened those boxes from the printer (complete with the glee of the new book smell!). We hope you enjoy working your way through the catalog as much as we did laying it out and designing it.

Copies of the catalog can be purchased onsite at AAS and the Grolier Club or for shipping through Oak Knoll.

[1] Radiant with Color & Art, p. 61.

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. To see the full list, please visit our recent scholarship page on the AAS website. If your book, article, or other achievement is not included, just let us know if you’d like to see it there!


D’Alessandro, Michael. “George Lippard’s ‘Theatre of Hell’: Apocalyptic Melodrama and Working-Class Spectatorship in Quaker City.” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 5.2 (2017):205-237. (CHAViC Fellow, 2012-13)

Garcia, John J. “‘He Hath Ceased to Be a Citizen’: Stephen Burroughs, Late Loyalists, Lower Canada.” Early American Literature 52.3 (2017): 591-618. (Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, 2015-2016)

Harvey, Sean. “Colonial Indigenous Language Encounters in the Americas and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World.” Co-authored with Sarah Rivett. Early American Studies 15.2 (2017) 442-473. (AAS-NEH Fellow, 2010-11)

Hunter, Christoper A. “William Smith’s Catonian Loyalism, Race, and the Politics of Language.” Early American Literature 52.3 (2017): 531-558. (Reese Fellow, 2012-2013)

Pope, Justin. “Inventing an Indian Slave Conspiracy in Nantucket, 1738.” Early American Studies 15.3 (2017): 505-538. (Legacy Fellow, 2016-17)

Roy, Michaël. “The Vanishing Slave: Publishing the Narrative of Charles Ball, from Slavery in the United States (1836) to Fifty Years in Chains (1858).” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 111.4 (2017): 513-545. (d’Héricourt Fellow, 2013-14)

Zuba, Clayton. “Apess’s Eulogy on King Philip and the Politics of Native Visualcy.” Early American Literature 52.3 (2017): 651-678. (CHAViC Fellow, 2015-2016)


Bramen, Carrie Tirado. American Niceness: A Cultural History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017. (NEMLA Fellow, 2009-10)

Kiechle, Melanie. Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. (AAS-NEH Fellow, 2014-15)

Rozga, Margaret  Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems. Lit Fest Press, 2017. (Baron Fellow, 2014)

Roy, Michaël. Textes fugitifs. Le récit d’esclave au prisme de l’histoire du livre [Fugitive Texts: Slave Narratives in Antebellum Print Culture]. Lyon: ENS Editions, 2017. (d’Héricourt Fellow, 2013-14)

Smith, Steven C. Empire of Print: The New York Publishing Trade in the Early American Republic. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017. (Reese Fellow, 2011-12)

An American at an 1820 German Christmas

The trappings of an American Christmas have become as familiar as one’s own family—lights and trees, Santa Claus and reindeer, food and good cheer. That hasn’t always been the case, of course. The Puritans, for one, simply banned Christmas in the New World. Stemming from pagan celebrations of the harvest and the winter solstice, the Christmas season had historically been a time for inverting the social order, featuring a rowdy carnival atmosphere of mobs, alcohol, and excess. Even when, later in the eighteenth century, American Protestants began to celebrate Christmas once more, it looked very different from our Christmas today—many chose to retain the elements of public disorder and excess, while others called for moderation and piety.

An 1882 book featuring Irving’s Christmas stories, “Old Christmas: From the Sketch Book of Washington Irving,” published in London.

But by the early 1820s, the seeds of our modern, domestic version of Christmas had begun to be planted. In the late eighteen-teens, several Boston ministers, mostly of the Universalist and Unitarian variety, joined Episcopalians and Catholics in offering Christmas Day services. Though the religious focus of Christmas saw its heyday in these years, Christmas as a cultural phenomenon was just beginning. In January 1820, Washington Irving, in his The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (which included the soon-to-be classics “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) published several nostalgic stories describing how Christmas was still celebrated in the “old” way in England. The Sketch Book was incredibly popular, and these stories, along with Irving’s earlier depictions of Saint Nicholas (though as a patron saint of Dutch New York with no attachment to Christmas)in his satirical A History of New York, served as one of the inspirations for Irving’s friend Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Within a few years that poem would be the smash hit it continues to be to this day, and is largely responsible for the association of St. Nicholas with Christmas.[1]

Likewise, in 1820 America almost no one had heard of a Christmas tree. Though they would become common within a couple of decades, all of that was in the future when a young Massachusetts man visited the home of a baron in Berlin, Germany, to celebrate Christmas Eve. George Bancroft, who would become the preeminent American historian of his generation, witnessed the relatively new German ritual centered around the Christmas tree in the house of the renowned jurist Baron Friedrich Karl von Savigny. Writing home to his parents in Worcester, Massachusetts, on December 30, 1820, Bancroft describes a scene both magical and moving:

Beginning of Bancroft’s Dec. 30, 1820, letter. From the George Bancroft Papers.

Christmas is kept in Germany as the most sacred & cheerful festival. On the eve preceding it the general custom prevails of making presents to one another. The parents, be they poor or rich have a Christmas gift for each of their children. The circumstances attending the evening donations are exceedingly moving. Mrs. de Savigny had invited me to spend the evening at her house, & this gave me a chance of seeing the whole of the beautiful domestic scene. A little evergreen tree, the top or branch of a fir tree is always placed in the centre of the room, & hung full of little wax candles. This is done in every house; in the houses of the rich with greater profusion of lights. The tree is generally loaded with sweetmeats & gift apples, which glitter charmingly amidst the candles. The children are long before hand full of the joy that awaits them at Christmas, and are perfectly happy at receiving these pleasing tokens of parental affection. No festival is looked forward to with such longing expectation, & none celebrated with such sincerity of joy – On reaching the house of Baron Savigny I found the children assembled in the antechamber, and waiting with uncertain expectation the presents destined for them. The parents were busy in arranging the tables, kindling the lights, & preparing all things in the saloon. At length the signal was given; the Baron rang the merry bell, & the folding doors were thrown open. A bright blaze of light burst upon our eyes. In the centre of a large table a fine branch of fir & two smaller ones on the right & left were filled with little tapers, the splendor of which inspired gladness into the hearts of children & men. A Geranium on each side of the larger fir was another emblem of immortality with it’s [sic] perpetual freshness & fragrance. We all hastened into the apartment. First came the infant son: he found his presents spread on a table, so low that he could reach them. The other children followed & rejoiced loudly at finding the very books, clothes, playthings, they had long been wishing for. The parents had their good things too, which their elder relations had sent them. I too found a plate loaded with good things for me, apples, burnt almonds, and sweetmeats. At length curiosity was satisfied: each had found his own treasures & examined those of his neighbours. The tapers on the “Christ’s tree” were extinguished, the halls lit up as usually, & while the young ones still continued amusing themselves with their newly acquired playthings, the elder part of the company withdrew to the tea table, and began an interesting conversation on the wise & great men, whom Germany had produced in later years.

Though the types of gifts are somewhat different, and it was the custom to have just the top of a fir on a table rather than an entire tree, it’s easy to see the connections between this German Christmas in 1820 and ours today. “No festival is looked forward to with such longing expectation, & none celebrated with such sincerity of joy,” and food, candy, presents, lights, and a focus on children are all hallmarks of the celebration Bancroft describes.

That Bancroft would be witness to such a ceremony when Christmas in America was still nascent was suiting in that his father, Aaron Bancroft, was among the Protestant ministers in Massachusetts who tried to resurrect Christmas as an observed holy day in the eighteen-teens. Aaron Bancroft was a Congregational minister in Worcester and held services on Christmas Day from at least 1816 to 1818. Among the congregants was AAS founder Isaiah Thomas, who in his diary for 1816 noted, “Rev. Dr. Bancroft preached a Christmas Sermon at West-boylston, by request.” In 1817 Thomas’s Christmas Day again included a “Sermon preached by Dr. Bancroft at his Church.” And on Christmas Day 1818, Thomas “Went to Church. Sermon at Dr. Bancroft’s Meeting. Dined with many other Gentlemen with the Sheriff, at Sikes’s—a handsome dinner and a very respectable Company.” Bancroft had this last sermon published as The Doctrine of Immortality: A Christmas Sermon.

By the late 1830s and into the 1840s, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the nativity, and presents had all become mainstays of a new domestic American Christmas (though an excess of alcohol, food, and good cheer, of course, has never fully disappeared from the Christmas landscape). But in his 1820 German Christmas, Bancroft unwittingly got a glimpse of what Christmases would soon be like in his own homeland. It leads one to wonder how his father, who had tried to spur observance of the holiday, reacted to the description, and if both Bancrofts, in later years, ever remarked on how quickly that Christmas, the likes of which George had obviously never seen, became commonplace in America.

[1] For a full treatment of how Christmas changed in American from European settlement through the nineteenth century, see Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle For Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday (New York: Vintage Books, 1996).

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 technical services, until her retirement in 2014.

A large number of unidentified diaries have been purchased by or donated to AAS in the last several years, and it’s been a fun challenge for those of us cataloging manuscripts to attempt to identify the diarists by searching for any clues that might spoil the anonymity of the writers. We can then move the diaries to the identified category, thus making them more accessible to researchers.

Two such diarists were recently exposed through evidence offered to us in the journals via references to the given names of siblings and cousins, possible locations, and occupations. These clues were then fed into and other websites. A gift of the Uxbridge Free Public Library has now been identified as the diary of Frederick Taft (1759-1846), covering the period 1837 to 1843. A Revolutionary War veteran, Taft was a prominent member of the Uxbridge community and was a prosperous farmer and cranberry grower. He was a distant ancestor of President William Howard Taft.

A greater challenge was an unidentified diary from 1817, given to AAS by member Ross W. Beales Jr. (elected 1982). After quite a bit of digging and using the process of elimination concerning references to nearby towns, siblings’ first names, and, finally, a reference to “cousin Wheeler,” I determined that the diarist was Claudius Wheeler (1790-1863). Wheeler was the son of a prosperous merchant and farmer who had also served in the Revolutionary Army. What is especially interesting about the diary is Wheeler’s reference to Conradt Burghardt, who owned the mill that processed Wheeler’s wood in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Knowing that the sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963) was from Great Barrington and that the “B” in his name stands for Burghardt, we were able to determine, following additional research, that Conradt Burghardt’s Dutch colonial ancestors, also named Conradt, had been the owners of a slave named Thomas, who assumed the Burghardt surname and settled in Great Barrington as a freeman after serving in the Continental Army. He was the great-great grandfather of W.E.B. DuBois, although the diary does not appear to have any references to the “black Burghardts” of Great Barrington (DuBois’s grandfather, Othello Burghardt, was living in the town in 1817).

It is always very rewarding to find the key that will unlock the anonymity of these diarists, especially when the result becomes a piece in the puzzle of another story.

A “Sour” Construction Surprise

Progress on the new addition to Antiquarian Hall has been moving steadily over the past few months. Collections have been moved for protection, windows abutting the new addition have been boarded for safety, and these days you may even see staff and readers with ear plugs in the reading room, still hard at work despite the intermittent interruptions. And just last week, the steel beams have finally arrived and passersby can now see the frame starting to take shape.

One of our favorite unexpected developments during the construction process, however, was the discovery of these Old Crow Sour Mash bottles, which were dug up during excavation for the foundation of the project. Founded in 1835, the Frankfort, Kentucky, distillery produced hundreds of barrels of bourbon whiskey each year, which was said to be favored by Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain. Based on the label design and construction features, these bottles have been dated to the early 1900s and so were likely deposited there during the construction of Society’s library building from 1909 to 1912.

The bottles are also marked with the name and address of George F. Hewett Co., a liquor and water bottler located in Worcester from 1860 to at least 1915. Like many New England towns, Worcester was home to many bottling companies over the years. These firms sold and refilled glass containers for everything from milk to soda water. Standing orders for beverages, including liquor, soda, and seltzers, were delivered to customers by horse cart and empties were hauled away.

Detail of a chromolithograph, “Coburn, Lang & Co. Manufacturers of Soda & Mineral Water… No. 100 Worcester St. Boston,” published in Boston, 1870s.

A view of the construction of Antiquarian Hall in 1910.

Finding the bottles intact was thrilling for the work crew and staff at the library. The bottles have now been cataloged and are housed safely inside the stacks. They are a reminder of the crews of workmen who built the Society’s library building before the days of modern backhoes and jack hammers and, after a hard day’s labor, may have sat at the job site and passed a bottle of Kentucky bourbon around.

“The Very Act of Manufacturing Books”: or, an Update on Projects to Link Printing Trade Prosopographies

I’ve just returned from a visit to the British Library, where, in true antiquarian fashion, I couldn’t help but pretend to be Washington Irving’s Geoffrey Crayon learning the “Art of Bookmaking” and studying the “very act of manufacturing books.”  In reality (though not unrelatedly), I was there to partake in a meeting with other institutions working with legacy data related to people in the printing trade from 1450 to 1850. These prosopographies, or mini-biographies, of people’s lives in and around the book trade were largely collected in the twentieth century, and we are all working hard to make them interoperable in the twenty-first. Printers' File at AAS

A continuation of conversations first begun in 2014 in Oxford at the “Mapping the British Book Trade” conference, this meeting gave me a great chance to update this group about what’s new with AAS’s Printers’ File. This project aims to make available a unique set of data on the printing trade in what is now the United States from first printing in 1640 through 1820. BIBFRAME vocabularyThis information set, which was created in the middle of the twentieth century on index cards, has already been transformed into data, thanks to a group of assiduous summer staffers last year (read about their work here and here) and generous support from the Delmas Foundation. With more generous support from the Pine Tree Foundation and the Lapidus Digital Fund at AAS, we then partnered with Zepheira to transform the data into BIBFRAME, the library standard for Linked Open Data. The Early Printing Trade vocabulary builds on the BIBFRAME Lite vocabulary to support the description of people involved in all parts of the printing trades in the hand press and early steam press periods. The Printers’ File data now exists in a backend framework on Library.Link Network.  Please find the data there, but know that it is not yet easy to search or extract. That’s what’s coming!

The Printers’ File project’s next phase is to make this data and its structures available  by creating the Printers’ File Online (PFO), a front-end user interface to query, extract, and enhance the data.We will also develop an ontology to describe the complex relationships between people, their occupations, and the objects they produced. The Roles in the Early Modern Printing Trade (REMPT) ontology will render the Printers’ File data interoperable with preexisting large, international data sets related to print production in the hand press and early industrial printing periods. Formed in conjunction with partners at Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), and the Stationers’ Register Online, REMPT will also pave the way for future projects interested in creating such data sets.

I went to the British Library to update the group on the developments of the Printers’ File, not as my imagination directed me: to ogle “a body of magi, deeply engaged in the study of occult sciences,” as Irving’s Crayon does. In the course of the meeting, I heard updates about a number of related projects that capture the lives of those involved in the early modern printing trades. These projects are at various phases of development, but it is still worth sharing these amazing research resources:

  1. Anette Hagan presented on the Scottish Book Trade Index hosted by CERL, but compiled and maintained by the National Library of Scotland. This index lists the names, trades, and addresses of people involved in printing in Scotland up to 1850, including printers, publishers, booksellers, bookbinders, printmakers, stationers, and papermakers.
  2. Giles Bergel then presented on the British Book Trade Index, a resource that has, in the course of its relatively long history, moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to Birmingham, and is now maintained by the Bodleian at Oxford.  The BBTI, as it is commonly known, includes brief biographical and trade details of all those who worked in the English and Welsh book trades up to 1851.
  3. Neil Jefferies spoke about the London Book Trade Index, which is currently under development by the Bodleian. This index was compiled from former Bodleian Head of Special Collections Michael Turner who entered all of this data into an Access database that he would share with friends and other libraries. Jefferies spoke of the use of Semantic Media Wiki to make the data more widely accessible; this platform allows for the concurrence of structured and unstructured data.
  4. Ian Gadd updated us on his work with Giles Bergel to create the Stationers’ Register Online, which is neither a database of books or people, but instead of copyright claims. The SRO, as it will be known, is forthcoming by the end of the year. In the meantime, you can learn about the project here.
  5. Justin Tonra ended the discussion with details of plans for the Irish Book Trade Index. This resource is still largely aspirational, but there is much enthusiasm for it. Its sources will be former Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Keeper of Early Printed Books Mary “Paul” Pollard’s Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade, 1550-1800, as well the extension of Pollard’s work into the nineteenth century by Charles Benson, retired keeper of rare books and special collections at TCD.

This meeting was an excellent chance to exchange ideas and share plans for linking these vast sets of biographical data on what Lisa Maruca has termed the “protagonists of print.” I look forward to thinking more about how the Printers’ File project and prosopographies generally can relate to bibliographic data on the “Digital Histories of the Book in America” panel at the Modern Language Association in New York in January 2018. The panel will feature the exciting work Jacqueline Goldsby and Meredith McGill have been doing on black bibliography, as well Mike Kelly’s work with the astounding Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection at Amherst College.

Upcoming Exhibition on McLoughlin Brothers is “Radiant with Color & Art”

From December 6 through February 3, highlights from AAS’s stunning collection of some three thousand McLoughlin Brothers books, games, and artwork will be out of the stacks and on display at the famous Grolier Club (47 E. 60th St., New York) in the exhibition Radiant with Color & Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858–1920. The exhibition, which draws on the combined forty years’ experience at AAS of Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts Lauren Hewes and myself, will focus on the long-neglected history of the New York publishing house that gave us mass-produced picture books nearly a century before Golden Books. With the firm’s investment in cutting-edge technologies like steam-powered color printing, its sophisticated marketing strategies targeting every possible constituency through a range of price points (from one cent to three dollars), and its sharp use of artistic talent like Thomas Nast to popularize visual icons such as Santa Claus, the tale of McLoughlin Brothers is quintessentially an American story of ingenuity, creativity, and risk.

This exhibition will illuminate the international connections in the late nineteenth-century picture book market, including the American and European picture books that McLoughlin aggressively copied, produced, and sold at a fraction of the cost of the foreign original. It will also tell the little-known story of McLoughlin’s collaboration with fellow New York publisher D. Appleton & Company to manufacture Spanish-language picture books for the Latin American market. Non-book material, including paper dolls, board games, and blocks, will also be included in the exhibition to show how the McLoughlin brothers—John Jr. (1827–1905) and Edmund (1833/4–1889)—widened their market and promoted their products over time.

Sarah Noble Ives, “Cinderella,” for McLoughlin Brothers, ca. 1912

Disorderly Girl,” ca. 1867

Besides documenting the history of this understudied firm, Radiant with Color & Art will be a feast for the intellect and the eye. Proof copies, uncut sheets, mock ups, and illustrator’s drafts—many never before exhibited—will be used to explain the book-making process, the progression of the firm, and the history of the children’s book business in general. Working in consultation with AAS Conservator Babette Gehnrich, Lauren and I have carefully selected two hundred exhibition pieces (most of them from the AAS collections) for their relevance, rarity, condition, and presentation. The great proscenium and pop-up books from the end of the century will be featured alongside paper dolls depicting subjects as diverse as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and suffragettes, as well as artwork by professional women artists such as Sarah Noble Ives and Frances Bassett Comstock, who included McLoughlin Brothers among their many commissions.

Christmas Alphabet,” 1899

A full-color exhibition catalog is now in press and will provide permanent documentation (and eye candy!) for this marvelous show; it will be available for purchase at the Grolier Club, at AAS, or through Oak Knoll Books at the affordable price of $30. (Keep an eye out for information about the release of the catalog.)

AAS has also just released a set of holiday greeting cards featuring images from McLoughlin Brothers’ rich Christmas-related works to coincide with the exhibition. These are now available for purchase and are the perfect greeting for any book-loving family and friends.

Most importantly, come to New York and discover McLoughlin in person!

Feelin’ Blue: Cyano-HYPE at AAS

Ali Phaneuf is a junior at Fairfield University and was a page in the Reader’s Services Department this past summer. As a journalism major and a studio art minor, Ali has always been an avid book reader and art enthusiast, and her love of books and creativity was able to grow through her experience at AAS.

As a Studio Art minor, I’m fortunate enough to be constantly exposed to new and unique art courses at Fairfield University. A class I took in the spring of my sophomore year proved to be one of my most challenging thus far, as I was thrust into a time machine that took me back to the art of nineteenth-century photography—well, for the most part. Throughout the semester I had the opportunity to create prints in nineteenth-century styles, including cyanotype, kallitype, and albumen; however, we simulated these nineteenth-century processes using digital technology.

When I returned to AAS after completing my sophomore year at Fairfield, I showed some of my prints to fellow co-workers in the Readers’ Services Department, who then directed me to photo albums of cyanotype prints in the AAS collections. Thanks to the help of Ashley Cataldo, assistant curator of manuscripts, and Lauren Hewes, curator of graphic arts, I was able to view the album of Lyford J. Chauncey and photos contributed by the Worcester Natural History Society. The AAS photo album of Lyford J. Chauncey includes 101 cyanotypes. Each cyanotype has a caption written underneath the mount, and most of the images are landscape views of locations in Spencer and Worcester, Massachusetts. These beautiful images inspired me to create some of my own cyanotypes as they would have been created during the nineteenth century.

Anna Atkins, part XII, Plate III, entitled “Alaria Esculenta,” from her collection of “Photographs of British Algae.” As seen in Carol M. Armstrong, “Scenes In a Library: Reading the Photograph in the Book, 1843-1875” (Cambridge, Mass, c.1998).

Another book at AAS that was particularly interesting to me included the work of Anna Atkins, one of the first cyanotype artists. Rather than using cyanotype to develop a negative, Atkins used it to showcase botany through photographs. She would take flowers and plants and place them on the paper coated with the cyanotype chemicals. She then placed the contact frame outside in the sunlight, just as photographers would when developing a negative. After the print had reached its prime exposure time, Atkins would remove the plants from the frame and rinse the cyanotype under cold water to develop an image showing the shape of the flower or plant. Atkins’s creativity and ingenuity contributed to my enthusiasm for the cyanotype process.

Many people are familiar with the term “camera obscura,” which literally means “dark room”, as explained by A History and Handbook of Photography by Gaston Tissandier, held at AAS. The concept of the camera obscura was first used in the later part of the sixteenth century by philosophers who discovered that making a small opening in the shutter of a window—which was so tightly closed no other light could get through—allowed the rays of light to penetrate through the small hole and project onto a white screen a reverse image of exterior scenery or objects.

An illustration of the original “dark room” camera obscura in which photographers would trace the displayed image projected through a small hole onto a white screen. From Gaston Tissandier, “A History and Handbook of Photography,” 1877.

Early photographers would use the camera obscura to then trace the image reflected into the room to create a dimensionally accurate illustration of the outdoors. Camera obscuras were later used in a portable manner. Eventually, light-sensitive material adhered to glass or fiber-based paper were used within the camera obscura to retain an image.

I created my own camera obscura by painting a shoe box completely black. I then used an X-acto knife to cut out a small square on one side of the shoe box, which I then filled with aluminum foil. To make my small hole in the camera, I poked a minute opening through the foil with a thumb tack. I had my own nineteenth-century portable camera obscura, also known as a pinhole camera.

My homemade camera obscura.

Before I could work with the light-sensitive paper, I had to somehow create a low-cost dark room. The place in my home with the fewest windows and the least amount of light is my dad’s basement workroom. There is only one small rectangular window, which I covered with a black trash bag to make the room completely dark. I unpacked the desk lamp I use at college and put a red light bulb in it so that I could see what I was doing while in my makeshift darkroom. I was finally ready to get started.

For light-sensitive photo paper, I used Ilford Multigrade black and white glossy paper and taped a piece to the inside of the shoebox opposite the hole. I then closed the box and covered the hole with a piece of black electrical tape so that light would not shine into the box prematurely. I went outside on a clear sunny day and set up the camera in my backyard. I removed the tape for a little less than one minute, placed it back on, and then went downstairs into my dark room. In order for the image to appear and remain permanent when in sunlight, I had to remove the paper from the camera and insert it into a tray filled with liquid developer composed of  water, sodium carbonate, sodium sulfite, hydroquinone, and (methylamino) phenol sulfate. I then continued to put the print through a second tub of water, followed by a water, sodium thiosulfate, sodium metabisulphite, boric anhydride, and sodium tetraborate fixer. I then finished by rinsing the print off with more water. The results from my first attempt using a self-made camera obscura were less than underwhelming—a solid black image is what appeared.

The above image shows negative print of a chair and flower pot in my backyard, taken via my own camera obscura.

This could mean one of two things: I exposed the image for too long, or my camera obscura was not sealed tightly enough and extra light was coming in through the sides. I decided to focus my energy on the latter issue. For my second attempt, I sealed my box tighter, wrapping all sides with black electrical tape. However, the results were yet again a solid black image. I then decided to shift my focus towards timing. I cut my exposure time in half and left the pinhole open for about thirty seconds. This time I finally started to see some sort of dull image. Then, I tried shooting my images from the shade, rather than from the direct sunlight. After opening the pinhole for about thirty seconds in the shade, I finally received a clear Image of my backyard — yes, this means I actually took a picture using a shoebox!

So, how does it work? Each point of the scene that the camera is angled towards emits light, which passes through the pinhole and creates a point of light on the back of box (onto the light-sensitive paper). The light-sensitive paper records the image that is projected onto the back of the box, which is how the picture is created.

This diagram, found in Henry Hunt Snelling’s “The History and Practice of The Art of Photography,” c. 1849, shows how an object is reflected onto the back of a camera obscura. 

When light shining through the pinhole hits the Ilford photo paper, it causes a chemical reaction with the silver-halide crystals in the paper. This reaction causes the crystals to turn black when processed with developing chemicals, thus the parts hit with the most light (the brightest parts of the scene) turn the blackest. This inverted image is referred to as a negative. In order to make this negative image into a positive image, photographers would take the negative and develop it using an alternative process. I chose to use the cyanotype process.

The cyanotype process was first invented by Sir John Hershel in 1842 and requires the use of natural fiber paper (I used watercolor paper). Hershel’s formula requires one mixture of 20g of ammonium citrate with 100ml of water and a second mixture made up of 16g of potassium ferricyanide with 100ml of water. The process then requires the artist to mix these two formulas together in a 1:1 ratio in an amount that’s only required to saturate the paper (for example, I used about 12 drops of each solution to make a small mixture). I then poured the solution that I mixed onto the watercolor paper and brushed it over the paper using a foam brush (the combination of the two formulas should result in a greenish color on the paper). I let the paper dry overnight, and the next day I was ready to print my image. I placed the negative image face down on top of the paper coated with the cyanotype mixture and put the two papers into a glass picture frame to press the two papers together, which I then laid outside in direct sunlight like so:


The above images shows the cyanotype-coated papers after they and the negatives were removed from the frame, inserted into cold water, and fixed with lemon juice.

When placing the negative image on top of the cyanotype, values are reversed to their original state as they appeared in “real life.” When light shines through the negative, the dark parts block the most light. This blocking of the sun results in those spots remaining the greenish color, whereas the rest of the image should appear dark silver. Once you see this silver color appear on your print, you can take the print inside to be developed. Unlike developing the negative, developing the cyanotype is a lot less complicated. I simply went back into my darkroom and put the print into a bin of cold water. The greenish color washed away (making those areas white) and the silver colors became blue. Once rinsed in water, the print is safe to bring back into the sunlight. As the print is exposed to light longer, the chemistry becomes darker and the tonal ranges intensify. To gain a greater Prussian blue, cyan color, I inserted the print into a wash of lemon juice to achieve my final product.

Lyford J. Chauncey’s photos were printed during the years 1885 to 1900, meaning that Chauncey may have used a camera that didn’t differ too much from my shoebox. Chauncey most likely used some sort of box camera composed of wood and metals. There were many different types of box cameras that emerged after 1880, including the Change-Box Camera, Magazine Camera, and Reflex Camera. The key difference would have been that Chauncey used a lens with his camera rather than a simple hole, which would have resulted in clearer images. It is also possible that Chauncey used a glass negative or even film, rather than the photo paper I used. However, after looking through the album, Chauncey’s work demonstrates some of the same struggles that I faced. Some of his images appear very dark—a result from a large amount of chemicals being used to saturate the fabric paper or overexposure in the sunlight—while other images appeared very faint—a result of not enough chemical solution or not enough exposure to the sunlight. Below are some Chauncey images that inspired my own cyanotypes.

Four images from the album “Pictures of Early Worcester” taken by J. Chauncey Lyford, beloved and long-time principal at Windsor Street School at the turn of the century. Taken between 1887 and 1890.

The above picture is the cyanotype print I created of myself.

I even made an attempt at a nineteenth-century “selfie.” I had to set up my shoebox on a milk crate in order for the pinhole to be the right height and have my face in view. Then, I quickly removed the black electrical tape from the pinhole, ran into place, held my pose for about one minute, and then ran back to the camera to re-cover the hole. I appear a bit blurred in the image because of my racing to uncover and recover the hole in the camera.

Throughout the summer I learned that photography is a complicated process that comes in many forms, styles, and appearances. From using a small portable box to not using a camera at all, photographs can be made with almost anything. Chauncey used a photographic process to capture the beauty of his surroundings, while Atkins worked to preserve the natural form of botany through this same process. How a photographer or artist hopes to preserve certain scenes, objects, or memories is an individual decision, which can allow their own thoughts to radiate through their work. I’ve learned that many factors went into nineteenth-century photography. Such elements as the chemical mixture, sunlight density, and exposure time all made these alternative processes a somewhat tedious, yet fascinating art form. This summer I was lucky enough to discover the beauty in practicing something old to create something new with the help of something blue.

Cross-Dress and Gender Expression: Re-Considering Amelia Bloomer

The second 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. Please find their first post here.


During our search for transgender-related materials in the archives of the American Antiquarian Society, we came across over 140 pieces that depicted cross-dressing in public. Unsurprisingly, the reception to cross-dressing in the nineteenth-century records we identified appeared overwhelmingly negative. Time and time again, we encountered police reports that equated cross-dressing with sexual deviance and spectacle, and sensationalist newspaper accounts that berated individuals for their aberrance from gender norms.

We found many of the sources that featured depictions of cross-dressing expressed social anxieties over the shifting role of white women in society. The voices of these concerns often characterized women who “masqueraded as the other sex”— who bent traditional gender norms through dress—as attempts to transcend gender roles, part and parcel of the fundamental threat facing the patriarchal structure of the emerging American democracy. One lithograph in particular, The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champions Belt (1851), shed new light on some of these negative public reactions.

The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champion’s Belt (1851)

The focal point of the lithograph is a caricature of Amelia Bloomer, social activist for women’s rights, editor of The Lilythe first periodical published for women, by women—and fashion icon. For all her roles in American political culture, many recall Bloomer for her contribution to female apparel: bloomer trousers.

Masthead of The Lilly: Devoted to the Interests of Women

Bloomer trousers were loose-fitted pantaloons often paired with an overdress, worn by women and children. While many praised bloomers only as a less-constrictive clothing alternative for women, others embraced the bloomer-trouser style as a symbol of the literal movement for female mobility and equality in the public sphere. The Lily cited bloomers a political issue “too intimately connected with the elevation of women to be neglected.”[1]

The Lily, and other publications like it, were not without criticism. Many opposed bloomers as the vehicle for disruption to established social order. In this line of argument, women who wore bloomers did so to appear male and acquire the power naturally held by men in society. “Her Bicycle Clothes Didn’t Suit” (The Illustrated Police News, 1898) follows such narrative— the article detailed the story of Maggie White, who wore “men’s clothing in too extreme a style to suit the critical eye of the police” and was arrested for it. According to the apprehending officer, Sergeant Connealy, “[White’s] black coat was cut like a man’s; but the things she wore on her legs were too tight for the taste of any man.”[2] Connealy acted on his suspicions, and followed White for several blocks before arresting her on New York City’s Sixty-eighth street. The charge? Disorderly conduct. White donned pantaloons— likely bloomers—that closely resembled knickers (short pants worn by men).

Though published thirty years’ prior, The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champions Belt reflects concerns similar to those expressed in “Her Bicycle Clothes Didn’t Suit.” The piece features a larger-than-life Bloomer engaged in a bare-knuckle boxing match, dressed in the pants that came to bear her name. A crying woman (also appareled in bloomers) frames Bloomer to her right, and sits on the knee of a male figure. On Bloomer’s left, a second kneeling man holds a bottle of alcohol in one hand and offers Bloomer the “Champions Belt” with his other.

In the piece, bloomers offer a visual clue to the absurdity of a woman who wants to act as a man. Though Bloomer shares the frame with three others, including two men, she towers over them, her body disproportionately large. Bizarrely, Bloomer appears both masculinized and hyper-feminized all at once— though with long limbs and macho stance, the artist depicts Bloomer with perfectly coiffed and curled hair. She wears a tight white shirt, her features clearly defined and her breasts emphasized.

The caption of The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champions Belt offers a further critique of cross-dressing in society. Bloomer flaunts victory in the caption, and requests another challenger— specifically, Tom “Young America” Hyer. Hyer, a famous bare-knuckle boxer, beat the Irish-born James Sullivan in 1849 (two years prior to circulation of this lithograph). Though bare-knuckle boxing was illegal, the widely-publicized fight was one of the first organized boxing championship bouts in the United States.

The threat of disorder to society is the core theme of this lithograph— the two women in bloomers and the alcohol bottles held by the men make for a clear and deferential critique of low society. But, perhaps more compellingly, we see the suggestion that Bloomer is trying to become a man by participating in bare-knuckle boxing— an illegal sport in a distinctively male sphere. With her nipples exposed, Bloomer resembles male boxers— like Hyer and Sullivan—but her appearance becomes offset by the exaggerated femininity of her breasts and hair.[3] The intended effect of this portrayal— a larger-than-life woman who towers over the men frame— is a clownish figure, one which resembles both a man and a woman.

The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champions Belt reaches further than just an aversion to cross-dressing. In the piece, we see the suggestion that Bloomer’s gender boundary transgression— wearing bloomers—bends gender norms in a way emblematic of a greater deterioration to American society. Bloomer suggests a corruption of American society. The creator of The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champions Belt relied on the symbolic threats of amalgamation—alcohol-fueled fights and boxing as corruptive low-society influences to American sensibilities— to illustrate the danger of a woman who dressesand acts like a man. With this understanding, we may begin re-consider The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champions Belt as more than just a critique of bloomers.


[1] THOMAS, MARY F. “DRESS REFORM.” Lily: Devoted To The Interest Of Women 4, no. 8 (August 1852): 70-71. American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 3, EBSCOhost (accessed July 25, 2017) and “LATEST FASHION.” Lily: Devoted To The Interest Of Women 4, no. 8 (August 1852): 71. American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 3, EBSCOhost (accessed July 25, 2017).

[2] “Her Bicycle Clothes Didn’t Suit.” Criminal Columns section of the Illustrated Police News, 16 July 1898, p. 6. Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture 1790-1920, Accessed 11 July. 2017.

[3] “The Great Fight.” From Underbelly, The Maryland Historical Society Library.  March 27, 2014, accessed 27 July 2017.