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

‘Very important, if true’: Lunar Quadrupeds, Biped Beavers, and Man-Bats

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Reports of life on the moon, first published in The Sun in late August 1835, were republished quickly by many New York-area newspapers. On August 27, 1835, the Newark Daily Advertiser reprinted an initial report quoting an alleged astronomer who claimed to have “beheld continuous herds of brown quadrupeds” on the surface of the moon. He continued:

The next animal we perceived would be classified on earth as a monster. It was of a bluish lead color, about the size of a goat, with a head and beard like him, and a single horn, slightly inclined forward from the perpendicular. The female was destitute of the horn and beard, but had a much longer tail. It was gregarious, and chiefly abounded on the acclivitous glades of the woods. In elegance of symmetry it rivalled the antelope, and like him it seemed an agile sprightly creature, running with great speed, and springing from the green turf with all the unaccountable antics of a young lamb or kitten. This beautiful creature afforded us the most exquisite amusement.

On August 29 the New York Evangelist provided additional reporting under the headline “Wonderful Astronomical Discoveries”:

The New-York Sun has for the last three days, 25th, 26th and 27th, electrified its readers by publishing extracts from the supplement to the last Edinburgh Journal of Science, giving an account of the wonderful discoveries recently made by Sir John Herschel, with his new and improved telescope, at the Cape of Good Hope.

‘Very important, if true’: Lunar Quadrupeds, Biped Beavers, and Man-Bats

‘The Demagogue and His Recital of Imaginary Wrongs’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes unique accounts of the war by two Union surgeons and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.  


 

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Three Years in the Sixth Corps (1879)

By George Thomas Stevens

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George Thomas Stevens (1832-1921) served as a surgeon in the 77th Regiment of New York Volunteers. He draws on his own contemporaneous notes, official reports, and letters from officers to write “a concise narrative of events in the Army of the Potomac from 1861 to the close of the rebellion, April, 1865.”

Stevens describes his regiment’s march to Gettysburg, writing:

‘The Demagogue and His Recital of Imaginary Wrongs’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘The Scum of the Infernal Pit’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The June release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a clergyman’s critique of Thomas Jefferson’s candidacy for the presidency, a Quaker’s message to slave-owners, and an abolitionist’s speech from the floor of the House of Representatives.


 

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Serious Considerations on the Election of a President (1800)

By William Linn

Reverend William Linn (1752-1808) served as a chaplain in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and was the first Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives. Linn opposed Thomas Jefferson’s presidential run for religious reasons.

…my objection to his being promoted to the Presidency is founded singly upon his disbelief of the Holy Scriptures; or, in other words, his rejection of the Christian Religion and open profession of Deism.

Linn turns to Jefferson’s writings to prove he is not a Christian. Linn quotes Jefferson casting doubt on a global flood and making reference to an age of the earth greater than 6000 years. He then quotes Jefferson’s musings on various races of people and how they compared:

‘The Scum of the Infernal Pit’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘This Execrable Commerce….This Assemblage of Horrors’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The May release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several editions of Henry Home, Lord Kames’ Sketches of the History of Man, a fictional account of the American South, and an extensive collection of Thomas Jefferson’s writings.


 

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Sketches of the History of Man (1775)

By Henry Home, Lord Kames

Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) was a Scottish judge, philosopher, and writer. A central figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, he boasts David Hume, Adam Smith, and James Boswell as protegees. Introducing this multi-volume work, Home writes:

Whether there be different races of men, or whether all men be of one race, without any difference but what proceeds from climate or other accident, is a profound question of natural history, which remains still undetermined after all that has been said upon it.

In attempting an answer Home argues against the then speculative idea of evolutionary change over time and Carl Linnaeus’s earlier recognition of the hierarchical nature of species. Home shares with Linnaeus, however, the notion species are fixed according to Providence. Attempting to support his assertion, Home conflates species, breed, and kind before turning to special pleading.

‘This Execrable Commerce….This Assemblage of Horrors’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

'Caution!! Colored People of Boston, One & All': Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several histories of the American colonies and the United States from both sides of the Atlantic. All offer important insight into the African American experience, including slavery.


 

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An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the Colonies of South Carolina and Georgia (1779)

By Alexander Hewatt

Alexander Hewatt (1739-1824) is recognized as the first historian of South Carolina and Georgia. He was born in Roxburgh, Scotland, and emigrated to South Carolina in 1763. Hewatt remained loyal to the Crown during the American Revolution and was expelled from the U.S. in 1777.  Introducing this two-volume work, Hewatt states his motivation arose “from an anxious desire of contributing towards a more complete and general acquaintance with the real state of our colonies in America.”

Hewatt justifies using African laborers, writing:

'Caution!! Colored People of Boston, One & All': Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘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

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