Historical Imprints


‘Vegetables for the well men’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was created by Congress in 1861 as a private agency to care for sick and wounded Union troops, but it also provided supplies and creature comforts to many other U.S. Army soldiers. Women assumed a prominent role in its efforts, and the USSC raised the equivalent of almost 400 million dollars today. The current release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes three imprints that focus on the Commission’s work and related Sanitary Fairs.


 

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Catalogue: Arms, Trophies, and Curiosities (1865)

During the course of the Civil War, volunteers staged numerous Sanitary Fairs throughout the North. These ambitious and elaborate events were instrumental in raising money for the USSC. This imprint details war-related items on exhibition at a Chicago fair. The extensive catalogue includes these entries:

Bed Quilt made by the children of the Freedsman’s (sic) School, Huntsville Alabama, expressly for this Fair. Names of the children written on the white block.

Bed Spread, from Appotomax (sic) C.H.

Bushwhackers’ saddles.

Ring from the body of Capt. Stennbere, 23d Rebel Tenn. Regt. from 21st regt.

Gourd dish, from a plantation in South Carolina.

Confederate spelling book.

‘Vegetables for the well men’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

‘Docile attention and cheerful obedience’: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Second Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker

Elmina Cuts_Page_3 dance.jpgThe March release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society includes a rare description of a “Juvenile Seminary” in New York City; a discourse delivered to the New-York Historical Society in 1809 marking the 200th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the region; and a whimsical, illustrated story for young women.


 

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A Discourse Designed to Commemorate the Discovery of New-York by Henry Hudson; Delivered before the New-York Historical Society, September 4, 1809; Being the Completion of the Second Century Since that Event (1810)

By Samuel Miller, D.D., one of the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New-York, and member of the Historical Society

In his opening remarks, Miller recognizes the importance of the date of his delivery:

‘Docile attention and cheerful obedience’: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Second Supplement to Early American Imprints: Shaw-Shoemaker

‘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

‘The Sun of rebellion disappears behind the bulwark of Loyalty’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The newest release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a treatise on the rights to land, labor, and education; a very personal account of one Union soldier’s war; and a detailed account of the fate that befell soldiers from a small town in northern Vermont.


 

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The American Crisis; or, Trial and Triumph of Democracy (1865)

By Warren Chase, author of “Life line of the lone one,” “Fugitive wife,” etc.

The title page of this imprint includes a quote from Shelley:

“War is the statesman’s game, the lawyer’s jest,

The priest’s delight, and the hired assassin’s trade.”

and the unattributed declaration:

We will defend the government that secures to all its children land, labor, and education.

Warren Chase (1813-1891) was an American idealist who associated himself with the philosophy of Charles Fourier of France. Fourier was an advocate of “utopian socialism” which was the impetus for the development of several intentional communities in the U.S., including Brook Farm in Massachusetts, a transcendentalist community founded by Nathaniel Hawthorne and others. In the 1840s, Chase was involved in establishing the Wisconsin Phalanx—an intentional community which subsequently evolved into the village of Ceresco, later annexed by the city of Ripon.

‘The Sun of rebellion disappears behind the bulwark of Loyalty’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

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

‘The Bullet Splintered Tree’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

5350 illus_Page_01 sm inset2.jpgThe current release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a scathing editorial from “The Atlantic Monthly” excoriating President Andrew Johnson and the National Union Party, an illustrated copy of a song celebrating the rescue of a besieged Union force by General William Tecumseh Sherman, and a catalogue of war relics on display in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the 1880s.


 

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The Johnson Party: From The Atlantic Monthly, September 1866 (1866)

‘The Bullet Splintered Tree’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

‘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

‘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

Histories of Union Regiments: Amateur Historians and the American Civil War

CW Jan 3a inset.jpgThe current release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a number of histories of Union regiments each written many years after the end of the war by amateur historians. In each instance, the author describes the challenging task in his preface and admits to his perceived shortcomings. We can see that these various accounts deviate from any established norm. And yet, each is similar in its description of the general experience of so many young men, even boys, whose lives were upended by the war and, in many instances, forever changed.


 

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History of the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers: From its Organization to Appomattox; to which is Added Experiences of Prison life and Sketches of Individual Members (1898)

By Thos. (Thomas) D. Marbaker. Sergeant Co. E.

Thomas D. Marbaker describes his process of determining how best to write the history of the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers:

Histories of Union Regiments: Amateur Historians and the American Civil War

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