Seamus Dunphy


About Author: 

A Readex Editorial Content Analyst, Seamus joined NewsBank in 2006 as a U.S. Congressional Serial Set indexer. 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

‘Every Man His Own Doctor’: Probing Public Health and Medical Quackery in U.S. Historical Newspapers and Government Publications

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On February 3, 1920, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on a surgeon who was “grafting the intestinal glands of a goat into human beings to cure those treated of sterility.” The report continues:

Within the past two years, by means of such operations, Dr. Brinkley has made it possible for three men and one woman to become parents. In all four cases the glands of a male goat were used. In each instance a baby boy was born.

In his most recent case Dr. Brinkley used the gland of a female goat.

“I do not say this woman will have a girl baby,” said Dr. Brinkley today, “but I am experimenting. It may be merely a coincidence that all the babies so far have been boys.”[1]

 

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The notorious career of medical mountebank John Brinkley—including years of goat-gland experiments—can be traced through hundreds of articles in Early American Newspapers. Three days after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram story appeared, Brinkley, who had no formal medical education, expanded his claims, as seen in The San Diego Union and Daily Bee:

‘Every Man His Own Doctor’: Probing Public Health and Medical Quackery in U.S. Historical Newspapers and Government Publications

‘The Vicious Qualities of Mankind’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Darton Tobacco smest.jpgFound within the March release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia are several multi-volume works including a collection of children’s stories, one of which answers, “What makes some people black?”; an American travelogue denouncing slavery by the British author of The Pickwick Papers; and a history of the American Civil War which discusses how “the name negro gave way to the new term contraband.”


 

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Little Truths Better than Great Fables (1800)

By William Darton

William Darton (1755-1819) was a London-based children’s book publisher and author. He introduces his two-volume work of juvenile literature, writing:

‘The Vicious Qualities of Mankind’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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

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