American History


‘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

The Russia Connection: Historical Proposals to Reestablish a Land Link across the Bering Strait

There’s general agreement that as recently as 11,000 years ago the Asian and North American continents were connected by a land bridge over which hominids and other animals crossed. Today, the Bering Strait is only about 50 miles wide at its narrowest point, and less than 200 feet deep.

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Two small islands are situated midway between the continental land masses. Big Diomede Island belongs to Russia; Little Diomede Island belongs to the United States. The islands are separated by approximately two miles—and the International Date Line.

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For reference, the English Channel, between the United Kingdom and France, is about 20 miles wide and similar in depth to the Bering Strait. An undersea tunnel was proposed there during the 19th century, and has since been completed. The Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean, was built in 1869. The Panama Canal was completed in 1914. In keeping with these ambitious projects, some structure across or beneath the Bering Strait has long been suggested as both practical and possible.

The Russia Connection: Historical Proposals to Reestablish a Land Link across the Bering Strait

‘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

‘Sublime and Important Subjects’: Highlights from an American Antiquarian Supplement to Early American Imprints, 1801-1819

The April release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society includes an extremely rare speller “for the improvement of youth,” an official record of the deaths and their causes in New York City in the early years of the 19th century, and an instruction book on reading for young children.


 

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A Spelling Exercise, for the Improvement of Youth (1813)

Selected by Charles Keyser, teacher at the German-Hall Seminary

In his preface, Keyser describes the problem that his 19 years of teaching have revealed to him. Of his students, he writes:

…I have found, by experience, that too many are deficient in the rudiments of a good English education, particularly in SPELLING. Very many are unable, at the first trial, either to spell or define words of one, two, or three syllables, which are sounded alike, but differently spelled, as: ware, merchandize; wear, to use; were, plural of was; and where, in that place: wherefore, to facilitate the scholar’s improvement in spelling, and for my own pleasure in teaching, I have collected nearly all the words of this class and arranged them alphabetically in lessons, containing fourteen or fifteen words each.

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‘Sublime and Important Subjects’: Highlights from an American Antiquarian Supplement to Early American Imprints, 1801-1819

“Chiseling the monuments”: Lafcadio Hearn Observes the Statues of Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson in 19th-Century New Orleans

In light of the current spectacle of statues of Confederate leaders being removed from the streets of New Orleans in the dead of night by masked workers, here is journalist Lafcadio Hearn commenting upon two other statues in that city in his article “New Orleans in Wet Weather” published in the Cincinnati Commercial on December 22, 1877.

…shortly after my arrival in the city I paid a visit to the venerable statue of Henry Clay, on Canal street. It stands in the center of the grand thoroughfare, and is inclosed (sic) by a railing. On the eastern face of the quadrangular pedestal I observed following inscription, deeply cut into the stone and blacked. At least two-thirds of the inscription had been well nigh erased by the removal of the black pigment of the letters, but the phrase “deepest stain” was wonderfully distinct, and the word “SLAVERY” as black as the changeless skin of the Ethiopian:

“IF I COULD BE INSTRUMENTAL IN ERADICATING THIS DEEPEST STAIN, SLAVERY, FROM THE CHARACTER OF OUR COUNTRY, I WOULD NOT EXCHANGE THE PROUD SATISFACTION OF WHICH I SHOULD ENJOY FOR THE HONORS OF ALL THE TRIUMPHS EVER DECREED TO THE MOST SUCCESSFUL CONQUERORS.—HENRY CLAY.”

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“Chiseling the monuments”: Lafcadio Hearn Observes the Statues of Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson in 19th-Century New Orleans

Serve It Up: Works on Cookery and Household Management in America’s Historical Imprints

3a30207r.jpgAmerica’s Historical Imprints features dozens of valuable books on cookery and household management which provide essential insight into the diet and etiquette of earlier times. Contemporary readers may find some of the recipes disconcerting although advocates of the nose-to-tail movement should applaud the economy of our forebearers. They wasted little when slaughtering animals, making use of lungs, brains, thyroid glands, heads and other parts which are not so widely regarded as desirable now.

 


 

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The experienced English housekeeper, for the use and ease of ladies, housekeepers, cooks, etc. Written purely from practice, and dedicated to the Hon. Lady Elizabeth Warburton. Whom the author lately served as housekeeper: consisting of near nine hundred original receipts, most of which never appeared in print (1801)

By Elizabeth Raffald

Turtle was a popular dish in earlier times. Most of the cookbooks include instructions for preparing them. Here are excerpts from the elaborate recipe Raffald provides:

To dress a TURTLE of a hundred weight

Serve It Up: Works on Cookery and Household Management in America’s Historical Imprints

'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

‘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

‘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

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