Friday, July 25, 2014

Today in History: David B. Douglass Papers Addition and the Battle of Lundy's Lane

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Manuscripts Division Curatorial Assistant 

In the late evening hours of July 25, 1814, one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 commenced, continuing until after midnight. Unplanned and fought in the dark of night, the Battle of Lundy's Lane claimed over 250 fatalities and 1,700 casualties across both British and American troops. While American forces had recently defeated the British at the Battle of Chippawa and were continuing their advance into Canada, the Battle of Lundy's Lane halted their forward progress. The Americans instead retreated to Fort Erie. Despite the heavy losses, neither side could claim a decisive victory.[1]

Battle of Niagara, in The Port Folio, Third Series, vol. 6, no. 3 (September 1815), p. 220.

Here at the Clements Library, we have multiple manuscripts collections that shed light on the Battle of Lundy's Lane. Our War of 1812 Collection, the William Williams Family Collection, and our David B. Douglass Papers, for example, contain materials that touch upon this military encounter. Recently, the Library received a generous donation of over 430 Douglass family letters, nearly doubling the size of its existing David B. Douglass collection. This incredible array of personal correspondence includes letters written during Douglass's march to the Niagara battlefield and immediately following the bloody engagement at Lundy's Lane.

David Bates Douglass served in the 1814 Niagara Campaign during the War of 1812 as a second lieutenant of engineers, having recently joined the army after his graduation from Yale. Following the war, Douglass accompanied various surveying parties, including the Lewis Cass expedition in 1820, and led a successful teaching career at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The Clements Library's original Douglass collection includes a bound volume of his lecture notes, wherein he recalls the July 25th battle, and a copy of his journal documenting his march to the front. The recent addition of Douglass's personal letters provides an exceptional counterpart to these materials relating to Douglass and the War of 1812.

Lieutenant Douglass described his impressions of the British forces seen from Queenston Heights preceding the Battle of Lundy's Lane in his lecture notes, Reminiscences of the Campaign of 1814, first delivered in 1840. "[Y]onder in plain sight are the colors of the Enemy waving proudly over the ramparts of Fort Niagara and Fort George, and a straggling ray now and then reflected tells of bayonets fixed there too... This, then, was no mere parade, -- no stage play for effect; it was a simple and sublime reality—it was war."[2]  Written decades after the war with a public audience in mind, Douglass's lecture has a theatrical ring to it. In our recent addition to the collection, we have several more candid letters penned by Douglass while he was at Queenston in mid-July 1814. In one, he apologizes for the state of his handwriting, explaining, "I am sitting on the ground and writing on the soft top of a leather Trunk, and added to this, my right thumb is just beginning to recover from a most painful sprain which I got for it at Canandaigua." On July 16, 1814, Douglass wrote to his future wife, Ann Eliza Ellicott. In it he writes of his recent purchase of a locket in Albany, where he knotted together locks of their hair, "It hangs round my neck by the cord you made—a charm to shield me from danger and spur me to noble deeds." With the addition of these incredible personal letters, our David Bates Douglass collection now reveals these compelling, intimate details. We see a lovelorn man suffering from the everyday trials of camp life that complements our understanding of him as a renowned engineer and military figure.

Loring Austin ALS to Jonathan Austin, Queenston Heights, July 23, 1814. William L. Clements Library. Seen here is a first-hand depiction of the view from Queenston Heights. For more on the Clements Library's War of 1812 holdings, including the full text of this letter, see our online War of 1812 exhibit.

Two letters in the new addition directly precede and follow the Battle of Lundy's Lane. One written by David Bates Douglass' mother is dated July 19, 1814. She wrote a scathing letter to her son, lamenting his lack of correspondence. "I beg and bese[e]ch you never let a new moon ap[p]ear without writing if tis but a few lines to your parents," she writes, underscoring a family's fear and anxiety for a son serving actively during wartime. The first letter written after the battle is from Douglass to his beloved Ann Ellicott, written on July 29, 1814, assuring her of his safety. He described the Battle of Lundy's Lane and his role in it, also including small details that can escape narratives of military events. The battle was long-fought and upon its conclusion Douglass took a brief rest, "(if rest it could be called to lay coiled up on spades & shovels in an implement Wagon)," before rising again to prepare his company to move. As he worked, he defied other officers' expectations of what could be accomplished. In writing to his future wife, he allowed himself these small moments of triumph, aware that she would be "gratified to hear them, but to any one else it would be egregious vanity." In these private letters, then, we gain a personal perspective on Douglass and the Battle of Lundy's Lane. In official accounts, both in the Clements Library's collections and beyond, we see Douglass as a competent, respected officer. Through this new addition, we see him also as very human—enamored, tired, proud.

David B. Douglass ALS to Ann Elicott, Camp at Fort Erie, July 29, 1814. David B. Douglass Papers, William L. Clements Library.

Military history is enriched by these details—a mother chastising her son on the eve of a battle; a man walking into combat with a locket at his breast to give him courage; a prominent historical figure sleeping amidst shovels. These personal glimpses give breadth and texture to the story, and we are grateful for the recent donation that will enliven and deepen our research.

The addition to the David B. Douglass Papers contain letters and content pertaining to his multifaceted career as a War of 1812 officer, an educator at West Point, a surveyor and civil engineer, and a president of Kenyon College. Equally important are additional letters of his wife Ann Ellicott Douglass; his siblings Julia Douglass and Marcus Douglass; his daughters Sarah, Ellen, Mary, and Emily; and sons Andrew, Charles, Malcolm, and Henry. We anticipate processing the collection and making it available for research later this year.

  1. "Battle of Lundy's Lane," Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition, accessed 15 July 2014. For a detailed account of the events leading up to and during the Niagara Campaign and the Battle of Lundy's Lane, see Donald E. Graves, The Battle of Lundy's Lane on the Niagara in 1814 (Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company of America, 1993). 
  2. The notes for this lecture were subsequently published in the Historical Magazine 3.1 (July, 1873), 1-12.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Latest Quarto: Forgeries, Facsimiles, Follies, & Phonies

Forged Remington watercolor in Boots and Saddles (1885). 
The Spring-Summer 2014 Quarto is now available. The Quarto is a semi-annual magazine published by the William L. Clements Library and sent to members of the Clements Library Associates. This issue of The Quarto focuses on the Clements Library collections related to forgeries and facsimiles.
  1. "Forgeries, Facsimiles, Follies, & Phonies," by J. Kevin Graffagnino, Director of the Library.
  2. "Ferreting Out the Fakes," by Emiko Hastings, Curator of Books & Digital Projects Librarian. Confederate wallpaper newspapers, a forged Remington watercolor, Columbus' secret log book, and Chief Pontiac's bookplate. 
  3. "Curator, Researcher, and Buyer Beware," by Cheney J. Schopieray, Curator of Manuscripts. Forged manuscripts and historical evidence. 
  4. "Declaration Wars," by Clayton Lewis, Curator of Graphic Materials. Facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence. 
  5. "Questionable Cartography," by Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Associate Director & Curator of Maps. Fakes and misconceptions in the map collection. 
  6. "Preserving a Roman Road Map," by Mary Sponberg Pedley, Assistant Curator of Maps. An Ortelius facsimile. 
  7. "Developments," by Ann Rock, Director of Development. Acquisition of the Henry Burbeck papers. 
  8. Announcements
  9. Calendar of Events
Read past issues of The Quarto online. Members of the Clements Library Associates will receive the current copy in the mail. If you would like more information about membership, please contact Ann Rock at or 734-358-9770.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Graphics Division Resources Available

The Clements Library is pleased to announce new resources now available to researchers, both related to the David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography.

The acquisition of this collection was made possible by David B. Walters, who wished to honor Harold L. Walters, University of Michigan class of 1947, Engineering, and Marilyn S. Walters, University of Michigan class of 1950, LSA. Subsequent donations to the collection have also been made by David Tinder himself, his friends, and family members.

Online Finding Aids

The Clements Library Graphics Division has started a project to convert its finding aids to Encoded Archival Description (EAD). To use the new finding aids, visit the Graphics Division Finding Aids site.

The new finding aids describe portions of the David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography, a landmark collection that contains examples of virtually every photograph format in use in the Great Lakes States during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cartes de visite, cabinet photographs, tintypes, stereographs, real-photo postcards, and mounted and un-mounted paper prints. When fully available, the David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography at the Clements Library will contain approximately 100,000 images. The collection is only partially open for research at this time.

Directory of Early Michigan Photographers

By David V. Tinder, edited by Clayton A. Lewis (Clements Library, 2013).
2850 pages. Available as a free download (pdf).

The Directory of Early Michigan Photographers, compiled over several decades, identifies virtually every known commercial and significant amateur photographer that worked in the state of Michigan from the first known appearances in the 1840s into the early twentieth century. The author, David V. Tinder, is recognized as the top authority on early Michigan photography. With over 8,000 records, the Directory stands as an unsurpassed resource for historians, collectors, curators, archivists, genealogists, and anyone interested in the early history of photography in the United States.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Toledo Museum of Art Exhibit: In Fine Feather, April 25-July 6, 2014

This week, an exhibit called In Fine Feather: Birds, Art & Science opens at the Toledo Museum of Art. The exhibit, coinciding with the Biggest Week in American Birding, highlights the intersection of natural science and art in the pursuit of describing and identifying birds, from a medieval treatise on falconry to John James Audubon’s Birds of America to the modern field guide. The exhibition features works by noted bird artists and illustrators including Audubon, Alexander Wilson, John Gould and Roger Tory Peterson.

The Clements Library holds several publications by Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), a Scottish-American poet and naturalist. Our holdings include an 1828 set of American Ornithology (3 vols.), accompanied by hand-colored plates illustrating American birds. Four of these plates are currently on loan to the Toledo Museum of Art for this exhibit. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From the Stacks: Looking Forward to Spring at the Clements Library

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Reading Room Supervisor

We may have gotten several inches of snow in Ann Arbor Monday night, but at the Clements Library we are looking to our collections to get us in the spirit of spring. Flowers are not fully in bloom in Michigan, but they are represented beautifully in the William L. Clements Library’s holdings.

The Charles E. Flandrau Letters in the Manuscripts Division includes a short note that Flandrau, a lawyer who had recently moved to Minnesota, sent to Fanny on April 18, 1855. “Accept the first flower of spring that bloomed on my prairie,” Flandrau wrote, “with the kindest wishes of your old friend and admirer.” This lovely floral token still accompanies the letter, hinting at the longstanding joys that spring’s early blossoms bring each year.

Charles E. Flandrau to Fanny, April 18, 1855, from the Charles E. Flandrau Letters, William L. Clements Library. 

The Hopkins Family Papers contain some beautiful botanical illustrations from the Vermont Flower Book, hand-colored in 1834 by Bishop John Henry Hopkins, the first bishop of Vermont, and his children. The collection also includes watercolors of flowers painted by Hopkins’ mother, Elizabeth Fitackerly. Even if nature has not offered up a full bouquet of blossoms yet, you can still find some lovely floral displays in our Manuscripts Division.

For a wonderful array of pressed spring flowers, look to the Lily Frémont Flower Album in our Graphics Division. Lily Frémont, the daughter of explorer, politician, and army officer John C. Frémont, compiled this album in 1859 while living on the family estate in Mariposa, California. She preserved and mounted the flowers and often provided details about where they grew. A sample of Wild Larkspur comes with a description of its poisonous qualities that caused cattle to graze elsewhere. She noted, “It grows so close together that as you ride along it makes the effect of a blue plain.” As spring advances, the promise of the landscape’s colorful transformation can help spur us through the season’s cold snaps.

Entry number 39, Lily Frémont Flower Album, William L. Clements Library. 

The Clements’ Book Division has a variety of texts about botany and gardening, and it also includes some lovely illustrated books. Take, for example, Emma C. Embury’s American Wild Flowers in their Native Haunts, published in 1845.

Plate from Emma C. Embury, American wild flowers in their native haunts, by Emma C. Embury. With twenty plates, carefully colored after nature; and landscape views of their localities from drawings on the spot, by E. Whitfield (New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1845). 

With lushly colored plates depicting flowers blooming in front of various landscapes, the book reminds us of “Nature’s Gems” that are about to reappear… once the snow melts.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Today in History: Black History Month

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Reading Room Supervisor

Here at the Clements Library our collections continue to expand in new and exciting ways. With acquisitions and donations, established collections grow and new ones are formed. The manuscripts division acquires many individual letters and documents, which we incorporate into subject-specific collections. One letter that will soon be interfiled in the African American History Collection was penned by Paris Arthur Wallace (1870-1952), an African American man who would later become an A.M.E. Zion bishop. Paris Wallace graduated from Maryville College in Tennessee in 1895, and in late July of 1902, Wallace wrote to Samuel Ward Boardman whose family had connections to the College. Wallace updated Boardman on the other “Maryville College boys,” six other black recipients of bachelor’s degrees, and their successes in ministry, education, and government work. As an early example of integration at the college level, Wallace’s letter provides a lovely snapshot of the accomplishments that African Americans’ dedication and perseverance yielded from one institution’s cohort.

Paris Wallace’s letter does not stand alone in the Clements Library in testifying to the struggles and triumphs that black men and women faced as they pursued education in the nineteenth century. The Manuscripts Division has a number of collections that illustrate efforts to establish schools for freedmen and women following the Civil War. The Caroline F. Putnam Papers and the Louise Gilman Papers are two wonderful examples of white women’s work in such schools. While they reflect a racial and gendered perspective particular to the Northern white women who penned them, they also give glimpses of African American students and teachers striving in a tremendously difficult period to change their circumstances and the world around them.

In November of 1868, Caroline Putnam had begun teaching at the newly opened Holley School in Lottsburg, Virginia. When cold weather passed through the region, the roughly-finished building proved ill-equipped to handle the chill. “Winter swooped down on us yesterday, & for the first time I wondered how this school was going on so in frozen weather,” Putnam wrote on November 21, 1868. She noted “wind pouring in at every crack that shows the out door light,” but the thirty adult students attending school “sat patiently in their seats with numb fingers tracing out their names on the slates—How their feet must have ached with the cold!” After years of being refused access to education, cold would not deter these freedmen and women. Putnam captured the sentiments of Brother Downing who addressed a nighttime meeting, “I was looking out last evening, & said, (seeing it was going to rain), the children are coming home from school now- & then I thought how strange that did sound, for whenever before, any thing was said about school children it did not mean of our color.” The Caroline F. Putnam Papers help capture this watershed moment in Black history.

Similarly to Caroline Putnam, Louise Gilman also traveled to the South following the Civil War. She taught at the Hampton Institute in Virginia for several months in 1869 under the auspices of the American Missionary Association. While she had her own social prejudices like many white Americans in her age, Gilman provided rich descriptions of the freedman schools and commented on the physical danger surrounding black students and teachers during Reconstruction. In February 1869, she told how General Samuel C. Armstrong of the Freedman’s Bureau encountered several African American women “who were teaching in some country place where they met with opposition from the whites[.] Their school house was burned down last summer.” In the face of violence, however, the local African American community refused to yield. Instead, “They nailed their blackboard to an elm tree & kept on teaching till some time in December when the cold forced [them] to give up.” Black Virginians faced white retribution, but held fast to new educational opportunities.

Our Graphics Division compliments these manuscript descriptions of post-Civil War black education. One photo album features images of Hampton, Virginia, taken ca. 1891-ca. 1896. Along with pictures of the Hampton Institute’s academic buildings, there are photos of young African American children arranged in a circle, possibly in a schoolyard.

[School-age African American children], ca. 1891- ca. 1896. [Smith College. Hampton, VA, & Area], Photo album. William L. Clements Library.

Another album includes an image of an unidentified African American schoolroom taken ca. 1895.

[Interior of one-room African American school], ca. 1895. [Civil War Veteran’s tour of battlefields], Photo Album. William L. Clements Library.

We also have pictures taken around 1891 of the Boydton Academic and Bible Institute, open in Boydton, Virginia, from 1879 to 1935. Showing the buildings and some students, the pictures help bring the history alive. Some of the photos depict a “mock auction.” The story behind these photos is lost, but the images and the questions they raise remain. Depicting African American students “auctioning” each other off at a black school, including an attempt to examine one man’s teeth, the photos show smiling young men. With the experience of slavery still close at hand but the memories removed enough to allow space for jest, these images carry a dense history calling for further exploration.

[J. R. Hoffman], “Mock Auction, Boydton Institute” and “Frank Insists on Seeing His Teeth.” Albumen photoprints, 1891 April 16, Hoffman Collection. William L. Clements Library.

The incredible materials in the William L. Clements Library help us discover and unpack these complicated stories of the African American past. The courage and endurance necessary to overcome overt and subtle racism, to confront the legacies of slavery, and to forge forward as a community are all present in our holdings. Alongside the struggle also came a lot of joy, love, and laughter, and that, too, can be found in our collections. While the majority of our holdings pre-date 1900, we have four of Lt. John Edwards’ wonderful photo albums featuring images of Tuskegee Airmen. Serious students and accomplished servicemen, their pictures also show a lighter side as well. Images of the airmen laughing with family and friends, socializing together both in and out of uniform, highlight that special combination found in black history-- resistance to unjust restrictions accompanied by a celebration of the bonds that sustained the efforts.

Picture of a Tuskegee airman and the album that houses it. [John Edwards—Tuskegee Airman album, 1943-1952], Photo album. William L. Clements Library.
As Black History Month winds to a close, we extend an open invitation to researchers to come and continue the work of bringing these histories into greater clarity.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Latest Quarto: Move Accomplished

The Great Moving Day (1888). 
The Fall-Winter 2013 Quarto is out! The Quarto is a semi-annual magazine published by the William L. Clements Library and sent to members of the Clements Library Associates. This issue of The Quarto focuses on the library collections move that took place in August 2013.
  1. "Move Accomplished," by J. Kevin Graffagnino, Director of the Library. 
  2. "A Moving Experience," by Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Associate Director & Curator of Maps. An overview of the move process from start to finish. 
  3. "Moving and Sorting," by Clayton Lewis, Curator of Graphic Materials & Head of Reader Services. Reflections on the changes brought by the move, opportunities to sort and reunite collections. 
  4. "Moving the Map Division," by Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Associate Director & Curator of Maps. How we moved the large green map cabinets from the reading room. 
  5. "Serendipitous Hints of History," by Diana Sykes, Information Resources Assistant. Judging a book by its cover. 
  6. "Moving the Books," by Emiko Hastings, Curator of Books & Digital Projects Librarian. Standardizing and reuniting the book collection, coordinating the collections move. 
  7. "Developments," by Ann Rock, Director of Development. Fulfilling the mission of the Clements Library. 
  8. Announcements. 
  9. Calendar of Events. 
Read past issues of The Quarto online. Members of the Clements Library Associates will receive the current copy in the mail. If you would like more information about membership, please contact Ann Rock at or 734-358-9770.