Seamus Dunphy


About Author: 

Seamus joined NewsBank in 2006 as an indexer for the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994. He received his BA in History from Marlboro College and continues to study political science and economics. His passion for organic gardening stems from the lessons of hard work and sustainable living he learned on his family’s farm.

Posts by this Author

Beer and Loafing in Niagara Falls: Sarcastic Shenanigans from Q.K. Philander Doesticks

“The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse

While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway...”

—Walt Whitman (from an unpublished poem)

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A century before gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and his antihero Raoul Duke there was Mortimer Thomson and his fictional persona Q.K. Philander Doesticks. One of the “bohemian” gang who gathered at Pfaff’s Beer Cellar in Manhattan, Thomson published jaunty anecdotes under his unusual penname in newspapers across America during the 19th century.

His own creation—full name Queer Kritter Philander Doesticks, P.B. (Perfect Brick)—quickly became a favorite reporter. In November 1854 a New York Evening Post article, likely written by Thomson himself, provides this biographical information on Thomson’s eccentric alter ego:

Beer and Loafing in Niagara Falls: Sarcastic Shenanigans from Q.K. Philander Doesticks

‘The Most Excitable Senator’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The February release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes examples of the use of pseudoscience to justify racism, a defense of Senator Sumner’s anti-slavery “Crime Against Kansas” speech, and more.


 

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Negroes and Negro Slavery (1853)

By John H. Van Evrie, M.D.

John H. Van Evrie (1814-1896) authored several books defending slavery and racism, edited the white supremacist newspaper Weekly Day Book, and owned a publishing company. He was referred to as the first professional racist in American history. Van Evrie often employed the pseudoscience of race biology to defend his beliefs, in this case his opposition to miscegenation.

‘The Most Excitable Senator’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Flying from Persecution’: Highlights from Supplement 1 to Early American Imprints, Series II

Michaux Sugar Maple sm.jpgThe February release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 1 from the American Antiquarian Society includes many scarce printings, including a history of the Colony of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson, a description of the wide array of forest trees in North America, an affidavit attesting to a sea monster sighting, and an advertisement for an act of acrobatics.


 

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Notes on the State of Virginia (1803)

By Thomas Jefferson

The third president of the United States prefaces his work with a letter written in late February 230 years ago:

The following Notes were written in Virginia, in the year 1781, and somewhat corrected and enlarged in the Winter of 1782, in answer to queries proposed to the author, by a foreigner of distinction, then residing among us. The subjects are all treated imperfectly; some scarcely touched on. To apologise for this by developing the circumstances of the time and place of their composition, would be to open wounds which have already bled enough.

Jefferson writes about many topics, including early religious intolerance in the Colony of Virginia:

‘Flying from Persecution’: Highlights from Supplement 1 to Early American Imprints, Series II

‘The Pitiful Plight of the Persecuted Minorities’: Exploring 20th-Century Immigration Policy in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

On September 21, 1945, Frantisek Jiri Pavlik illegally entered the United States at Boston, Massachusetts, as a stowaway and was immediately taken into custody by order of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. On November 29, 1945, the chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Michigan Representative John Lesinski, Sr., submitted a bill to Congress in which he tells the 25-year-old Czechoslovakian’s story:

He had applied to the United States consul in Prague for a visa to come to the United States but was unsuccessful because the Germans would not permit anyone to leave the country. In May 1939…he smuggled his way into Germany and proceeded to Hamburg in a further attempt to come to the United States. He was again unsuccessful in his efforts and returned to Prague. In 1940, through the means of a prohibited radio, he learned that a Czechoslovak legion was forming in north Africa and again left his home. He was apprehended by the Gestapo and sentenced to be hanged. He was sent to the concentration camp at Dachau and was held there as a political prisoner. He remained there from March 1941 to July 1944, at which time he was transferred to another camp in Germany, and in January 1945 managed to make his escape. He worked himself through the German lines to the American side and contacted American Infantry troops. He was placed under investigation and questioned thoroughly by the United States Army and states he furnished valuable information to them….He fought with the American troops for about 1 month and subsequently was hospitalized, having been wounded twice.

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‘The Pitiful Plight of the Persecuted Minorities’: Exploring 20th-Century Immigration Policy in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

‘Wild Men of the Woods’: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The January release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes three nineteenth-century tales of African exploration and discovery told by an Englishman, a French-American, and an American.


The Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South Africa (1853)

By Francis Galton, Esq.

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Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) was an English polymath whose areas of knowledge included statistics, sociology and psychology, and anthropology and eugenics. Galton’s curriculum vitae also includes tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, and meteorologist. Among his many “firsts: were creating the statistical concept of correlation, coining the phrase “nature versus nurture,” devising a fingerprint classification method, and mapping the previous day’s weather. His wide array of interests ranged from researching the power of prayer (he concluded it had none) to discovering the optimal manner of making tea.

However, Galton was limited in his beliefs toward the peoples of Africa. In describing the Damara, his prejudices are difficult to overlook:

‘Wild Men of the Woods’: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Arch_Street_Ferry 2.jpgThe January release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes:

♦ a description of the first major yellow fever epidemic in the United States

♦ a collection of verse by an African slave who became a leading American poet 

♦ and W.E.B. Du Bois' first scholarly book—a history of the slave trade based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation.


Jones Title Page.jpgA Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793 (1794)

By Absalom Jones and Richard Allen

Absalom Jones (1746-1818) and Richard Allen (1760-1831) were both born into slavery and through various transactions were subsequently separated from their families. They were also both clergymen; Jones, in 1804, became the first African American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States, and Allen, in 1794, founded the first independent black denomination in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In this jointly-written narrative they describe the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic and respond to criticisms of African Americans who assisted in caring for the sick.

They write:

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

‘Catch the Itch’: Three Newly Digitized Works from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The January release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a 17th-century report on the British territories across the Atlantic, an 18th-century essay on diseases of the West Indies and their remedies, and a 19th-century collection of casually racist drawings.


 

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The Present State of His Majesties Isles and Territories in America (1687)

By Richard Blome

Richard Blome (1635-1705) was an English author and cartographer. His report on the American Territories is accompanied by maps, astronomical charts, and “a table by which, at any time of the day or night here in England, you may know what hour it is in any of those parts.”

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In addition to charts and tables, Blome’s book contains thrilling descriptions of the natural world of the Caribbean. Here’s his account of dangers beneath the surface of the seas around Antigua.

‘Catch the Itch’: Three Newly Digitized Works from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Included in the January 2017 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia are several works that provide insight into the conditions under which many African Americans lived in Antebellum America.


The Farmer’s Accountant and Instructions for Overseers (1828)

By Pleasant Suit

Pleasant Suit, the author of this bookkeeping guide for farmers, notes that he has “been in the habit of keeping Books upwards of thirty years, part of the time in the largest importing and exporting Mercantile house in Virginia.”  He illustrates his method of accounting for African Americans among other “stock accounts” with charts like this:

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Entries in the book’s “F.A.Q.” section include:

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Q. Why do you debit Negro account to Stock account?

A. Because it is a component part of it, and it enables you at all times to know how many you have, by comparing the debtor’s side with the credit: If any are sold you credit the account by what you receive, and if one or more dies you credit the account by Profit and Loss for the valuation; and if your women should have children, you debit this amount to Profit and Loss for the number and value of them.

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Lifeless in the snow’: The Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888

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On January 12, 1888, an unexpected blizzard rushed across the American Northwest. The storm arrived on a relatively warm day and many people were unprepared when the temperature plunged that afternoon. Under the headline, “Midnight at Noon,” the Boston Daily Advertiser reported:

At Fargo…mercury 47’ below zero and a hurricane blowing….At Neche, Dak. the thermometer is 58’ below zero.

Reports in Early American Newspapers include many accounts of adults and children caught in the lethal blizzard. Although relatively few of its victims were schoolchildren, the historic event is now commonly referred to as the Schoolhouse or Schoolchildren’s Blizzard. The plight of schoolchildren was an immediate focus of the reporting. On Jan. 13, the Duluth Daily News wrote:

“The storm came up suddenly and it is feared that many school children who were out on the prairie are lost. Whistles were kept blowing all day as signals to the unfortunates.”

On the same day, the Boston Daily Journal added more details:

‘Lifeless in the snow’: The Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888

‘A new species of Monster’: Newly Digitized Items in Early American Imprints, Series II

GerryMonster 4.jpgThe December release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 1 from the American Antiquarian Society includes rare broadsides on health, politics, and entertainment. This release, which also contains a scarce atlas mapping the West Indies, is the final major release of this collection.


 

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Indian Medicines: Recommendations and Directions (1805)

By Charity Shaw

Early nineteenth-century America saw the commercialization of many aspects of American Indian culture, including the use of therapeutic herbs and other approaches to popular medicine. Charity Shaw offers an array of remedies for a wider range of maladies, writing:

Indian Medicines, composed of roots and herbs only, adapted to almost every complaint, so rapid in their progress, that one week will decide their power and efficacy. Indisputable testimonies can be produced, of their curing numbers of the Dysentery (in three days,) Canker, Tooth Ache, Rheumatism, contracted Sinews, callous Swellings, Gravel, Tape-Worm and all others in old and young, Scrofulous Humours, Cancers, Itch, Hooping Cough, Consumptive and Liver Complaints, Leprosy, Sciatica, Dropsy and Fevers, since May last.

One such testimonial is offered by Freelove Boyden:

‘A new species of Monster’: Newly Digitized Items in Early American Imprints, Series II

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