Archive of Americana


‘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

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

The United States Enters World War I: 28 Newspaper Front Pages from 100 Years Ago Today

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On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on the German Empire. Although public opinion had been mixed, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson stood before a special joint session to make the case that “armed neutrality…is impracticable.” “The wrongs against which we now array ourselves,” he said, “are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.” The Senate passed Wilson’s war resolution 82 to 6; the House voted 373 to 50.

The following front pages—representing more than 20 states and 25 cities—capture the momentous American decision to join the Allies in a “war to end all wars.” Each was published a century ago today and can be found in Early American Newspapers, Series 1 to 13, 1690-1922.

From Alaska

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From Arizona

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From California

The United States Enters World War I: 28 Newspaper Front Pages from 100 Years Ago Today

‘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 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

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