American Literature


Signing Jackie Robinson, Malpractice in South Africa, An American Bohemian: The Readex Report (March 2017)

In this issue: the seminal inking of an African American baseball legend, Apartheid-era doctors under fire for neglect, and the unexplained loss of a literary luminary.


The Robinson Interregnum: The Black Press Responds to the Signing of Jackie Robinson, October 23, 1945-March 1, 1946

Thomas Aiello, Associate Professor of History, Valdosta State University

jackie 2.jpgThere is little about the life of Jackie Robinson that historians do not know. Each part of his saga has been analyzed time and again. Among the periods sometimes given short shrift, however, is the time between the seminal event of his signing with the Montreal Royals, AAA farm team of Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers, in October 1945 and his arrival in Sanford, Florida, for his first spring training in an unapologetically racist South….Each of those accounts uses major black weeklies to create a picture of Robinson’s actions and the black response, but looking at smaller black weeklies, less trumpeted than the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender, a more nuanced picture of that response helps color the solid scholarship that already exists. > Full Story

Signing Jackie Robinson, Malpractice in South Africa, An American Bohemian: The Readex Report (March 2017)

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—Walt Whitman (from an unpublished poem)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

‘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

‘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

Disastrous Events, Sorrowful Sam and a Wayward Fish: Early 19th-Century Tales for Children

December’s release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society includes several instructive stories designed to set children on a worthy path in life. Some are prose while others are poetry, and some are illustrated. All are rare.


 

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The Disastrous Events which Attended Joe Dobson: Illustrated with Sixteen Elegant Engravings (1817)

This imprint was published in Philadelphia in 1817 and sold for twenty-five cents. The National Library of Australia provides the only citation on-line other than the American Antiquarian Society. It states that it was “First published in London with title, Cobler [sic], stick to your last, or, The adventures of Joe Dobson / by B.A.T.” The AAS citation also refers to the earlier London publication noting that it appeared in 1809. The complete manuscript appears to be unique to this collection.

Each page of text is illustrated with an engraving, each of which is clearly reproduced. It begins:

Joe Dobson was an Englishman

     In Days of Robin Hood

A Country Farmer, eke was he

     In forest of Sherwood

 

Joe Dobson said unto his Dame,

     I vow that I could do,

More household work in any day,

Disastrous Events, Sorrowful Sam and a Wayward Fish: Early 19th-Century Tales for Children

‘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

Top Ten: The Most Popular Readex Blog Posts Published in 2016

Here are the most-read posts published on the Readex Blog during 2016:

180px-Hubbardton-Battlefield-Monument sm.jpg1. “My knees then smote one against the other”: Highlights from Supplement to Early American Imprints, Shaw-Shoemaker

This month’s release of new material in the Early American Imprints Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society includes a biographical account of a young American rebel who was wounded... More

Elmira%20barrel sm c2.jpg2. Captured! Firsthand Accounts of Prisoners of War from The American Civil War Collection

Opinions on prisoners of war and prisoner exchanges have dominated recent news cycles. The June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian... More

Top Ten: The Most Popular Readex Blog Posts Published in 2016

‘Idle Amusements’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

November’s release of Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, contains more than two dozen rare broadsides covering a wide variety of topics. They range from legislative acts regarding taxation of theatrical exhibitions and regulations for New York Harbor to advertisements from an assortment of early 19th-century businesses. Also found in this release is a diverse array of scarce juvenile literature, including collections of poems, prayers, and short stories; instructional primers such as spellers, alphabet books, and grammars; and works containing nursery rhymes, riddles, and Bible stories.


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An Act, To Regulate and Tax Theatrical Exhibitions in the City of New York, and for other purposes therein mentioned (1802)

By the Legislative Assembly of the State of New York

WHEREAS Theatrical Exhibitions and the like idle amusements have a tendency to corrupt the morals of Youth in general, and frequently prove a source of distress to families: Therefore, BE IT ENACTED by the People of the State of New-York, represented in Senate and Assembly, That it shall be lawful, from and after the passing of this Act, for the Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty of the city of New York, and they are hereby authorized and directed to levy and collect a tax of [   ] per cent, on all Tickets, to be issued by them, for Theatrical Exhibitions within the said city.

‘Idle Amusements’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

‘Deceive and Distress Your Adversaries’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

The first release of Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819 includes a two-volume compilation of an 1808 magazine parodying culture and politics, a book of rules and improvements to various recreational pastimes, and “a new and complete system of fortune telling” published in 1817.


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Salmagundi (1808)

Salmagundi, subtitled The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. and Others, was a satirical periodical lampooning New York City culture and politics. The authors, Washington Irving, his brother William, and James Kirke Paulding, produced 20 issues between January 24, 1807, and January 15, 1808, before the magazine was discontinued due to a disagreement between the writers and the publisher. Articles appeared under a variety of pseudonyms including Will Wizard, Launcelot Langstaff, Pindar Cockloft, and Mustapha Rub-a-Dub Keli Khan.

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Each issue begins with the following lines of mock Latin and their translation:

In hoc est hoax, cum quiz et joksez,

Et smokem, toastem, roastem folksez

Fee, faw, fum.

‘Deceive and Distress Your Adversaries’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

Students Becoming Scholars: Using Digital Archives to Create a Powerful Primary Source Assignment [Webinar on Demand]

In a recent webinar, Dr. Julie Voss, Associate Professor, Department of English, Lenoir-Rhyne University, shared her experience using a digital archive of 18th-century books, broadsides and pamphlets to fascinate and challenge an undergraduate class of English majors. Using the Readex Early American Imprints collection, she asked her students to select an out-of-print text and then create an original modern edition of the work. Throughout this process, they experienced the joys and frustrations of working with rare old books, expanded their repertoire of research skills, and, in the end, began to see themselves as legitimate scholars.

Attendees told us they were hoping to:

  • Gain new ideas for engaging students in research using primary sources
  • Learn practical ways for using this kind of assignment in the classroom
  • Hear about collaboration between faculty and librarians

According to our follow up survey, their expectations were met!

“I especially appreciated learning new ways of assessing students’ knowledge. I knew a standard English research paper was not appropriate, but didn't know how to design a project.”

“Prof. Voss's project has given me ideas for expanding current student projects.”

And attendees left with ideas for implementing primary source research at their institutions:

“We look forward to expanding this project to include not only items from digital archive databases, but documents and manuscripts from our physical archives.”

Students Becoming Scholars: Using Digital Archives to Create a Powerful Primary Source Assignment [Webinar on Demand]

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