Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Printing and Painting Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie

Nestled in the Clements Library's Oliver Hazard Perry Papers are remarkable documents detailing the commodore's naval career, with some 200 pieces highlighting his service in the War of 1812. In September of 1813 he famously won the Battle of Lake Erie, a victory that secured American control of the Great Lake and ensured their claims to the surrounding region following the end of the war. Such an important naval battle garnered much recognition in the immediate aftermath, catapulting Perry to fame.

On September 15, 1813, just a few short days after the battle itself, Perry wrote to his wife, Elizabeth, to whom he'd been married only two years.
"My dear and beloved friend, you will easily conceive how constantly and entirely my time is occupied. I have hardly allowed myself to sleep since the action. Securing the prizes & prisoners, has required the greatest exertions... It is considered the war is nearly to an end in this quarter-- nothing shall detain me from home, after I have seen every thing properly disposed of, it will take me some time however. -- With what rapture shall I return to those domestic enjoyments, how I long again for that happiness that is only to be found at my home."
Weary from the battle, Perry longed for a reprieve. National interest in the dramatic event, however, would continue to demand his attention long after the affair was settled. Famed artist Thomas Birch stimulated public interest by producing impressive oil paintings of the Battle of Lake Erie, depicting British and American ships clashing amidst waving flags and the theatrical haze of cannon smoke.

This nineteenth century print, Perry's Victory on Lake Erie, was engraved by Alexander Lawson after one of Thomas Birch's paintings of the battle. Joseph Delaplaine was a known publisher of this print.

Birch was already busily working on one canvas by early November 1813, as indicated by a letter in our Perry Papers. Joseph Delaplaine, Philadelphia publisher, wrote on behalf of Birch,
"I have already taken the liberty of writing to you on the subject of an intended representation of the victory on Lake Erie under your command, to be executed by Thomas Birch Esqr., who is confessedly the most eminent marine & Landscape painter in America. I am still without your reply. 
The canvas is already prepared & Mr. Birch is engaged in the execution of the picture. Instead of having it Eight feet long by five feet and a half high as we originally intended, it will appear including the frame Thirteen and a half feet long, by Nine feet high. The top of the frame will be ornamented on a piece... to be gilt, on which Mr. Birch will paint trophies in Brown colour. The picture to rest on cannon Balls gilt."
Delaplaine included a sketched map of the ships as they appeared during the battle, asking Perry to verify their positions to ensure Birch's painting (and the subsequent engraving of it that Delaplaine would publish) would be as historically accurate as possible. Delaplaine wrote again on November 20th, his fourth attempt to elicit a response from Perry on the matter. "I need not inform you that the picture in its progress excites public attention, and the Citizens of Philadelphia at large have expressed much desire to see its perfect completion which will be effected as soon as I am honored with a letter from you."

We do not have Perry's answer to these inquiries at the Clements, but his prolonged silence to Delaplaine's requests certainly speaks to the tension between a naval commander fighting a war and a newfound hero confronting his status as a public figure. The holdings at the Library give a fascinating glimpse into the Battle of Lake Erie and its impact on the commodore that orchestrated its victory.

Jayne Ptolemy
Assistant Curator of Manuscripts

Thursday, October 25, 2018

William L. Clements Library Research Fellowships for 2019


After visiting the Clements Library, one of our fellows had this to say about the experience:
“The Clements Library not only has an amazing variety of rich collections but also an incredibly helpful, professional staff. During the approximately two and a half months I spent as a Fellow at the William L. Clements Library, I was able to make significant progress on my book manuscript. I made extensive use of the library's rich collections of manuscripts, rare books, maps, and graphic materials. Over the course of ten weeks I was able to review approximately forty individual and manuscript collections, fifty-five rare books, peruse the entire map collection related to the western portion of what would became the United States, and explore a great variety of graphic materials, ranging from family photo albums to railroad and auto tourist brochures.”

Scholars from across the globe visit us to work on books, articles, dissertations, creative projects, and more. To help encourage use of our rich historical sources on early America, the Library offers a number of fellowships, both long-term and short-term, available to graduate students, junior and senior faculty, and independent researchers traveling 200 miles or more. In 2018 we welcomed 15 fellows. Fellows are encouraged to present a brown bag talk or write a guest blog post related to their research.

Visit our website for more information and instructions on how to apply as well as to view a list of previous fellows and their projects. If appropriate, please consider posting fliers advertising these fellowships to interested researchers.  For questions, please email clements-fellowships@umich.edu.

William L. Clements Library Fellowships for 2019:

Fellowship for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in American History supports research at the Clements Library by graduate students or junior faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities who are undertaking a research project that examines topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion or who demonstrate a commitment to diversity in the field of American History. The award will be based largely on the significance of the Clements’ collection to the applicant’s research. Grants are for $1,000 and require a minimum visit of one week.

*NEW* Brian Leigh Dunnigan Fellowship in the History of Cartography is funded through donations honoring 22 years of service at the Clements Library by Brian Dunnigan, who served as Map Curator and Associate Director. During his tenure, Brian oversaw the fellowship program and mentored many fellows during their stay in Ann Arbor. The fellowship supports research utilizing the Clements Library’s cartographic collections. Grants are for $1,000 and require a minimum visit of one week.

Earhart Fellowship on American History was originally funded through a grant from the Earhart Foundation and now through an estate gift by Vera Wolfe. The Earhart fellowship provides $10,000 for scholarly research on any aspect of American history prior to 1901. Successful applicants are expected to spend a minimum of two months at the Clements. This is a post-doctoral fellowship that requires a completed Ph.D. or equivalent qualifications at the time of application.

*NEW* Richard and Mary Jo Marsh Fellowship has been provided by Clements Library Associate Board of Directors member Dick Marsh and his wife Mary Jo to fund any project supported by the Clements collections.  Grants are for $1,000 and require a minimum visit of one week.

Howard H. Peckham Fellowships on Revolutionary America is a post-doctoral fellowship requiring a completed Ph.D. or equivalent qualifications at time of application.  Longtime Clements Library Associates Board of Governors member Bill Earle created the fellowship for three reasons.  1) To honor the second director of the Clements Library, Howard Peckham  2) To memorialize his parents, George and Ruth Earle, who knew and supported Howard Peckham and 3) To provide funding for research projects studying early America from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812 (1764-1815).  Bill encourages other donors to contribute to the Peckham Fund to help provide even more fellowships.

The long-term Peckham fellowship requires a residence of two months or more with an award of $10,000 and *NEW*  this year is the option to apply for a short-term fellowship which requires a residence of one week or more and provides an award of $1,000.

Jacob M. Price Visiting Research Fellowships were established to honor Professor Jack Price after his retirement as a distinguished member of the history faculty at the University of Michigan.  Since 1995, over 200 early-career historians have received Price Fellowships, with many going on to splendid careers of their own, such as 1997 Price Fellow Dr. Elizabeth Fenn, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize. Graduate students and junior faculty may apply with projects on any topic of American history that is supported by the collections. Grants are for $1,000 and require a minimum visit of one week.

Reese Fellowship in the Print Culture of the Americas, funded by the William Reese Company, encourages research in the history of the book and other print formats, bibliography, and other aspects of print culture in America, including publishing and marketing, from the sixteenth century to 1900. The Reese Fellowship provides $5,000 to support one month of in-residence study in the Clements Library collections. This is a post-doctoral fellowship requiring a completed Ph.D. or equivalent qualifications at time of application.

*NEW* Mary G. Stange Fellowship, funded by the Mary G. Stange Charitable Trust, offers $1,000 to support research on any topic of American history supported by the collections for a minimum visit of one week. Unique projects are encouraged.

Norton Strange Townshend Fellowship, established by the Avenir Foundation, offers $10,000 in support of scholarly research on diversity, equity and inclusion in American history during the nineteenth century. Successful applicants are expected to spend a minimum of two months at the Clements. This is a post-doctoral fellowship that requires a completed Ph.D. or equivalent qualifications at the time of application.

Friday, October 5, 2018

What's in Your Attic? Treasures Big and Small

The William L. Clements Library invited members of the public to join us on Sunday, September 30, 2018, for an event we called "What's in Your Attic?"  We encouraged attendees to bring their own paper treasures, such as letters, journals, photographs, prints, books, and maps, for discussion with Clements Curators and guest Americana collectors.  Our intentions were to garner enthusiasm for the Clements Library, gain some knowledge of exciting materials currently stewarded by private owners, learn more about our friends, build new relationships, and above all have a pleasurable time sharing fascinating stories buried in old paper.  This informal gathering took place in the beautiful Avenir Foundation Reading Room.  Families, collectors, aficionados, and colleagues came to the event for conversations about donation, storage and conservation, family history, and mutual interests.

Often, visitors express surprise that in addition to papers of Great Public Figures, the Clements Library acquires and collects the letters, diaries, documents, photographs, and other papers of everyday persons living everyday lives in Colonial America and the United States.  Not only do we care for over 100 of General George Washington's original letters, but also the correspondence of struggling farming families, social and religious activists, immigrant families, and economic players of all kinds.  Not only do we preserve and protect the hand-drawn maps of highly accomplished Revolutionary War military cartographers, but also map exercises of schoolchildren.  The following two manuscripts, donated to the Clements Library during the "What's in Your Attic?" event, suggest the breadth our collection.

Manuscript 1:  The Adam Ludewig Diary

Dr. Angela Del Vecchio brought to the Library a charming 8 x 15cm, 1885 pocket diary, kept by A. Ludewig of Alpena, Michigan.  The diarist wrote daily entries for the full year, each offering only the briefest mentions of his activities, expenses, and the weather.  A typical entry, for example, reads, "All well in Store. / at Church & SS- / [at Church] in Eve with Paul. / at my Sisters. / all well. / Fine Day, but Stormy."  Although not descriptive, the regular daily contributions to this little book give us unique insight into the life and activities of its author, of daily concerns and events that were especially important for him to remember.  A few hours of research gave us enough information about the diarist to contextualize the manuscript and help determine the significance of the piece.  A. Ludewig was Adam Ludewig, born in April 1862 in Germany.  His family immigrated to the United States sometime prior to 1871.  They settled in Alpena, on the Northeast shoreline of the lower peninsula of Michigan around the time of the Great Michigan forest fire.  He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1884.  At the time of the diary, in 1885, he worked as a clerk in a bookstore; he later became a businessman and bookseller in his own right.

What information about 22 and 23 year-old Mr. Ludewig are we able to secure from his diary?  We know that Ludewig took painting lessons on Sundays and spent time learning French.  We know that he spent nearly every day at his bookstore; he attended morning and evening Congregational Church services and Sunday School meetings; he regularly visited, received calls from, and corresponded with several unmarried young women; he visited his parents and played chess with his father; he was engaged in the local Freemason Lodge; he offered financial support to the German Aid Society and the Arbeiterverein; and he read often.  He read Titcomb's Letters to Young People, Single and Married by Josiah Holland; Nature's Serial Story by Edward P. Roe; His Sombre Rivals by Edward P. Roe; Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott; Farm Ballads by Will Carleton; an unspecified life of Washington; The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Goethe; and much else.  In short, this unassuming and sparse diary will support research on young adulthood, the intellectual and artistic life of a man in his early 20s, German Americans in Michigan, family dynamics, and much else.

Manuscript 2:  Abraham Lincoln partially-printed DS to William Warner

When Dr. Elizabeth Bishop informed the Library that she wished to donate her ancestor William Warner's commission, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, we envisioned one of the many ornate military officer's commissions, partially printed on vellum (and, of course, we looked forward to seeing it).  On arrival, however, we were excited to find that the document was of a much rarer sort--an appointment for William Warner to serve on the allotment commission for the state of Michigan.  On December 24, 1861, the United States Congress approved an Act to provide for Allotment Certificates (12 Stat. 331), which authorized President Lincoln to appoint up to three commissioners from each state to manage a voluntary program, by which soldiers could assign a percentage of their pay to be disbursed directly to specified family and friends.  The commissioners were unpaid volunteers, who sought out the soldiers of their respective states and procured documents certifying for allotments to be drawn from their pay for the benefit of those at home.  William Warner's appointment bears the signatures of President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, and an embossed seal of the U.S. War Department.  The Bishop family preserved the document in an envelope of University of Michigan Librarian William Warner Bishop, marked as the property of University of Michigan Law School Professor William W. Bishop, Jr.  The envelopes still accompany the manuscript.

Cheney J. Schopieray
Curator of Manuscripts

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Announcing the Illustrated Manuscripts Project

One of the great joys about working at the William L. Clements Library is that while we preserve historical records and make them accessible for research, we also get to explore and discover the human experience across time. Stories of heartbreak and joy, historical drama and mundane family headaches fill our collections. Sometimes, if we're lucky, the writer will include a drawing to illustrate a point, making that moment all the more vivid to us centuries later.

Writing home from Shiloh, Tennessee, during the Civil War, Fairfield Goodwin drew this self-portrait of himself.

For over 15 years, as Clements Library staff have processed manuscript collections, read letters, and hunted for information, we've also been documenting the hand-made drawings that appear throughout the Manuscripts Division. To date we've identified over 2,500 images from nearly 500 separate collections. Scribbled in margins, sketched on envelopes, pasted into volumes, these illustrations are largely hidden within larger bodies of papers and therefore commonly uncataloged, their research value untapped. In January of 2018 we launched the Illustrated Manuscripts Project in the hopes of changing that. Kelly Powers, Digitization Technician, began the formidable task of scanning these illustrations, writing metadata for them, and uploading them to our Image Bank. As of September, we have over 880 images freely available online, highlighting some of the least-accessible visual materials in the archive.

The John Paulding Papers include illustrated letters from a young artist in training in late nineteenth-century Chicago. This street scene depicts a crowd watching a Salvation Army band.

Ranging from laymen's rough pencil sketches drawn within letters to trained artists' polished pieces of art, these manuscript illustrations provide a representative sampling of the American artistic vernacular. Subject areas of particular strength include the military and wartime experiences, travel and transportation, natural history, women and domestic life, racial minorities, commerce, humor, technical drawings, education, and children. The illustrations can be deeply moving and intimate or genuinely baffling, but all of them add depth to the historical record.

It's unclear what this undated children's drawing from our Abbot Family Papers represents, possibly a birds'-eye view or map of some sort.

In these subject areas, as well as in others, manuscript drawings help researchers understand the lived experience of history. Details of where people were, what they saw, how they communicated, and what was important to them, all come through in the visual materials they produced. Whether explaining the unusual or documenting the everyday, illustrations emphasize what historical actors found significant and worth sharing on a level beyond words. In contrast to photographs that capture everything placed before the camera, no matter how staged, manuscript illustrations are deliberately crafted, subjective pieces by their very nature. Everything that was consciously selected to appear in the image, then, carries additional weight. Studying these choices, in conjunction with what may have been intentionally omitted, can help illuminate the artist's underlying beliefs.

An 1862 interior view of a Colorado shop from the Blake-Colony Collection provides details of mercantile displays, room layout, and workspace.

The detail present in these drawings also reveals many of the ephemeral aspects of the past that were less likely to be recorded—information about dress, informal labor, and furniture arrangement, for example, can be found in these depictions. Manuscript drawings are also fruitful avenues to explore the often hidden world of imagination and emotion. How people connected to those geographically distant from them, how they visualized personal relationships and reactions to events, and how they drew the fantastic and absurd all provide information about people's internal and idiosyncratic views. The visual story complements the written archival record in meaningful ways, and having these hidden images brought to light and freely accessible online grants researchers another avenue to explore the past.

The Clark-McCreary Papers feature a dramatic... peanut horse race attended by peanut people. Humorous images are well represented in the project, as people wrote about what they found funny and aimed to entertain their readers as well. A goal they continue to achieve centuries later.

We invite you to explore the Illustrated Manuscripts Project through the Clements Library's Image Bank. Content will be added periodically. As friends of the Clements know, our holdings are rich and voluminous. We hope this offers one more avenue to delve deeply into them and learn more about our shared past.

Jayne Ptolemy
Assistant Curator of Manuscripts

Saturday, August 18, 2018

In Celebration of Bad Poetry Day

No commemoration of Bad Poetry Day would be complete without a nod to the (in)famous poet (and native Michigander) Julia A. Moore.  The Clements Library is the proud owner of several editions of her collected poems.

Born in Plainfield, Michigan, in 1847, Julia Moore found her poetic voice in recounting mostly local—and usually tragic—events. Known as the Sweet Singer of Michigan (after the title of her first published volume), Moore received much praise initially, but later became an object of ridicule. Below is an excerpt from the poem, “Libbie,” from her volume, A Few Choice Words to the Public (Grand Rapids, 1878). One must judge for oneself.

One morning in April, a short time ago,
Libbie was active and gay;
Her Saviour called her, she had to go,
E’re the close of that pleasant day. 
While eating dinner, this dear little child
Was choked on a piece of beef.
Doctors came, tried their skill awhile,
But none could give relief. 
She was ten years of age, I am told,
And in school stood very high,
Her little form now the earth enfolds,
In her embrace it must ever lie.

Although Julia Moore’s poetry is unrivalled in many respects, it shares with other 19th-century literature its mournful sentimentality and Christian piety. Moore often writes about death, which takes many forms in her verse. In addition to the insidious piece of beef, death arrives by drowning, by fits, by fire and yellow fever, in battle (Civil and Revolutionary Wars), and sometimes in sudden and mysterious swoons. The immediate experience of death was no doubt shared by many of Moore’s readers and contemporaries, but the public grew tired of her repetitive efforts.

While on tour, Moore drew crowds of mocking detractors (shades of present-day viral Youtube shaming). She initially interpreted their jeering as cheers. Belatedly realizing that the crowds had gathered to ridicule her, she is said to have stated, “You have come here and paid twenty-five cents to see a fool; I receive seventy-five dollars, and see a whole houseful of fools.” One has to admire her sangfroid if not her poetic talents.

A notch down (or up?) from the under-appreciated published poet is the professionally aspirational one. Louella Styles Vincent (1853-1924) re-located from Georgia to the town of Glen Rose, Texas, and offered her reflections on her rural upbringing and love of “goober peas” to the editors of The Current. Below is an excerpt from a poem she copied into a letter sent in December 1885, along with the comment, “The Current has rejected two of my Mss. but I intend to continue sending them until it recognizes my worth, or I am convinced of my worthlessness as a writer." Whether The Current ever recognized her talent is unrecorded.


[Transcribed]: 
Goobers! Yes I'll tek some, ef youre ra-al certing shore
That they come from back in Georgy whar weuns lived before;
Ole Georgy whar we first seed light, me sev’nty years ago
An Marthy an ther chillun some ten or twelve or so. 
I rickerlec them ole time days, when Mother hope ther hands
Ter hoe ther waggin loads er peas from ther pore ole sandy lands;
She uster fill our pockets full when we boys went ter school
They sarved ter pass erway ther time on ther long walk in ther cool.

Louella Vincent and her husband later started a private academy in Meridian, Texas, and Vincent later founded several journals which were vehicles for her poetry—they were short-lived.

Lastly we have the truly amateur attempts. Although they occasionally elicit a slight wince, they perhaps merit more tolerance from the (unintended) audience. These poems were often included in correspondence, frequently as light-hearted items intended for the amusement of the recipient. In the verse below, an unidentified poet described an unfortunate encounter by our hero, Poughie, with a mysteriously belligerent female while walking down the street on New Year’s Eve.

The victim Poughie on his way did walk
Harming no one by thought or talk
Never once thinking that this venomous snake
Was slipping up behind him his head to break.
She slipped along with the speed of light
As she gave him a blow with her bony right,
She never stopped, nor looked around,
Nor seemed to care that she'd knocked him down. 
He picked himself up without the greatest of ease
And felt of his head while he knelt on his knees,
His head it was broken and his clothes were all torn
And he sighed, when he thought - all this must be born 
For as for striking a she
Such a thing could not be
And he very much respected her strength & her size
And who could tell but the next lick might cause the loss of both his eyes....

Another epistolary poet in the Clements collection is Wm. H. Ireland, Jr. Ireland wrote to his cousin in 1857, providing a rhyming account of a steamboat journey to New York and Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to visit relatives. He traveled with his faithful dog, Rove, and included several illustrations.

William Ireland preparing for his journey
On the 3rd of October Eighteen fifty seven
I arose very early and went to Mott Haven
And in spite of the weather, and prospect of rain
I soon had Rove rig’d up with collar & chain.
With the dog I then took but a very short walk,
Ere I came to the boat, which was bound for New York.
The dog I then tied in the bows of the boat
And up to the chin I button’d my coat
Determined to stand by poor Rove to the last
And that nothing should part us (the boat holding fast).

An adventure onboard:

[Transcribed]: 
Not far did we get – ere again the boat stopped –
I supposed overboard somebody had dropped; -
We sent an express to learn the disaster –
And soon she came back running faster and faster
And the crowd in the cabin very badly did feel –
When she said they’d broken the Buctickular Wheel!
Good Bye every one! Oh shade of Minerva –
Run Brainard and get me a tin life preserver!

Finally, Ireland and Rove arrived at Perth Amboy, met by relatives for the final leg of the journey to Metuchin, N.J.

When glorious sight – with a carriage and two –
I saw Cousin William and Rove I then drew
To the carriage and tied him, then turned round to greet
Mary Anna who had come all the way us to meet.
I was in exstacies [sic] – so was the dog –
He hopped and frisked and jumped like a frog.
Our perils recounted we each took a seat –
In the carriage (but not till I run up the street;
And catching my cousins had bid them goodbye.)
And then put Rove in front where he sat good as pie;
Until we were passing some cows on the way
When he growled barked and cut up, nor quiet would lay …


Ireland ended praising the country life and the town of Metuchin - and how can one help but admire a poet who manages to find a rhyme for that place?

I left on that tree, my name and escutcheon
That people may know I have been to Metuchin.

When evaluating these efforts – amateur and otherwise – the generous-hearted will keep in mind the sentiments (if not the wording) of William Ireland, our steamboat Odysseus, as he closed his letter and introduced his poem:
For finis – prepare yourself – reader of this
I know that you at it are ready to hiss.
But still when a fellow like me feels inspired
You still ought to listen, even if you are tired.

Terese Austin
Head of Reader Services

Monday, August 6, 2018

Copycats: A Closer Look at Vues d'Optique

People often say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  At first glance, the rationale behind this expression would seem to have played a critical role in the creative process of many European and American artists, etchers, engravers and lithographers of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Printmakers would more often than not base their designs on contemporaneous original paintings or sketches, and sometimes they would include carbon copies of selective features from preexisting prints and incorporate them into their own artwork.  This course of action was partly taken in order to cut down on production costs (as opposed to wanting to pay homage to a favorite artist) as it would have been far cheaper to simply copy designs rather than make them from scratch.  Since most printmakers tended to live dangerously close to the bottom end of the profit margin, it is no surprise that many felt the need to take economic shortcuts wherever they could find them.  Also, the notion of originality as an essential artistic principle had only just begun to take hold in the 18th century, so most printmakers felt no qualms about copying the work of others. 

During the 1770s and 1780s, German engravers Balthasar Friedrich Leizelt and Franz Xaver Habermann created a number of popular 'vues d'optique', a special kind of print designed to be viewed with an optical device called a zograscope that would make them appear three-dimensional.  Many of these prints show various North American places and cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Quebec City.  While the majority of 18th century city views were ultimately derived from some type of manufactured source (be it a drawing, painting or print), what is peculiar about Leizelt and Habermann’s vues d’optique is that they borrow from preexisting views of European places and cities rather than views of the North American cities they were trying to represent.  Presumably, the German duo did not have access to many (if any) views of North American cities and thus chose to base their designs on views of fashionable European cities instead.  The Graphics Division of the Clements Library possesses a grand total of twenty-five vues d'optique, including a number of prints of North American cities produced by Leizelt and Habermann as part of their 'Collection des Prospects' portfolio that was published in Augsburg, Germany, around the time of the American Revolution.  These prints have all recently been made available through U-M Library Catalog Search and will added to the Clements Image Bank in the near future.

To the King's most Excellent Majesty, is by permission and with all Humility, Inscribed This View of the Royal Dock Yard at Deptford. London, 1775. 

A few of Leizelt and Habermann’s vues' d'optique show clear indications of appropriation.  For example, features of an engraving based on a painting by Richard Paton (1717-1791) depicting the Royal dockyard at Deptford, England in 1775 appear in two vues d'optique from around 1776 that are credited to Leizelt.  These fictionalized views of 'Philadelphie' and 'La nouvelle Yorck', both depictions of harbor scenes, contain carbon-copy components from the Deptford view and almost certainly borrowed features from other popular views of European harbors.

Philadelphie. Augsbourg, 1776. 
La nouvelle Yorck. Augsbourg, 1776. 
Other vues d'optique that clearly show telltale signs of derivation include Habermann's view of a Presbyterian Church on King Street in Boston and his view depicting the statue of King George III being torn down in New York City.  The former shows a bustling street scene on "la Ruë grande" in Boston.  However, the buildings that appear in this print do not even remotely resemble anything that would have been present in colonial Boston.  In particular, the flamboyantly ornate Presbyterian Church sticks out like a sore thumb.  The latter view shows a group of individuals (mostly African Americans) banding together to topple the statue of King George III that had been erected in New York in 1770.  Again, none of the buildings represented in this view are typical of colonial New York structures, while the statue of King George III is also an erroneous depiction.  The authentic statue showed King George III on horseback and clothed in a Roman toga in the style of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, whereas the statue in Habermann's view shows the British monarch in Roman garb yet without a steed. 

Vuë de la Ruë grande vers l'Eglise du Sud des Presbiteriennes a Boston. Augsbourg, 1778. 

La Destruction de la Statuë royale a Nouvelle Yorck. Augsbourg, 1776. 

Seeing as the vast majority of Leizelt and Habermann's clientele had likely never visited North America either, the fact that their purported views of American and Canadian cities were entirely fictitious would have flown under most people's radar.  Besides, the primary utility of the vue d'optique was not necessarily to serve as an accurate representation of a city or place.  Rather, people utilized these prints more as visual entertainment showpieces at social gatherings in which people would take turns looking through the zograscope and being amazed by the vivid color schemes and the three-dimensional optical illusions.

Jakob Dopp
Reading Room Supervisor

Friday, May 11, 2018

Interrupted Mothers' Letters

Frequent use hones mothers' multitasking skills into an art. Holding a child on her hip while cooking, chatting up a toddler while trying to finish some paperwork, or folding the laundry while persuading an independent-minded youngster to put on their shoes, a mother navigates simultaneously through her own world as well as her children's. This does not always go smoothly. Letters written by mothers of young children help uncover the mingled joy and frustration that childcare yields.

In 1854, Emma Clark Greene of North Bridgewater, Massachusetts, tended to her young infant and her rambunctious toddler. "Eddie has carried on and trained around all day like a witch because 'twas Sunday I suppose, was off to bed before 6 he is all noise and bustle, boy-like," she related with a perceptible level of exasperation. "It was past 1 oclock to day before I got my work done," she continued, astonished at the way time flies when you are occupied with little children. "Got breakfast cleared away, got the young ones clothes together, mended about half a dozen garments, washed and dressed Eddie (rather do half a days work), then the baby, and then at my work. You better believe I get most dreadful tired and discouraged, taking care of babies...but-- then we were babies once. I think of our poor Mother and wonder how she got along with 7." Pulled in many directions, frazzled women stole what time they could to commiserate with friends and family. Thinking of their own mothers, they joined a community of women who shared the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of raising children.

That these letters were written at all was no small feat. The archive teams with flustered asides written by mothers documenting the conditions under which they were trying to pen their correspondence. Our Appleton-Aiken Family Papers include an undated letter that Harriet Lord wrote to her mother, Mary Aiken, explaining why she was so delayed in sending it. "I have intended to write you every eve. for a week, dearest mother, but the children do not go to sleep till nearly nine & then I am so stupid & sleepy that I am in no condition to be entertaining." Fatigue was not the only thing hampering her efforts. "I have no less than four times dropt my pen since I commenced writing today to attend to the little folks & many more I have stopped to put in a word for them," she sighed. "Hatty lies on the floor at my feet with her hands & feet stretched out as tho' she meant to make her own way thro' the world before long." Exhaustion and frequent interruptions made it difficult to pen a sensible letter. 


The page includes an aside in what appears to be a child's hand, "Pese Mama write Mamy," and then a transcribed message that begins, "Master Willy is so unskilled in the use of his pen & so prone to cover his hands & face with ink, that his mama prefers to put down his thots for him." Evidence of children's active (if perhaps unsolicited) participation in writing letters are charming contributions in hindsight. Another example appears at the bottom of a May 1848 letter from our Mary Jane Hale Welles Papers, labelled "Edgars letter."


 Young Edgar's message to his grandmother shows not only what was on his mind (balloons) but also how closely he was engaged in his mother's daily activities. "I am writing with a great noise around me," she explained, with Edgar an unnamed but likely culprit, later adding, "I cannot write there is so much confusion." The busy chaos of childhood made its way into the archive.

The Hill Family Papers, part of the Blandina Diedrich Collection, offer an especially vivid picture of Alice Hill's experiences as a wife and mother in the Civil War-era. She wrote frequently to her husband who had left home for extended business trips to Colorado. She tended to their two children, Crawford, a toddler, and Isabell, an infant. "Just now, he is out for his afternoon walk with Miss A. & Miss Bell is asleep, so I can find a minute for you," she hurriedly wrote shortly after her husband's departure in June 1864. "My heart is full & I could write volumes, but my time is so limited: I am busy from morning till night, with housework, sewing, but principally & above all, taking care of babies." Her letters are peppered with asides about what the children were doing as she wrote. "Crawford stands by my side, shaking the table & shouting 'Charcoal' to a coal man in the street. He is a darling little nuisance at times" (July 12, 1864). Or, "Bell lies on the floor by my side, kicking up her heels in the air & sucking both fists. Crawford is making believe he is a dog & is barking at her" (July 31, 1864). As a mother, she existed right at the heart of the household, and stealing a moment to write could be challenging, finding quiet to focus on what to write even more so.

"Crawford just this moment is writing to his papa on a piece of brown paper, much against his will however, as he wishes to write on my sheet," Alice noted, describing the conditions surrounding her writing table. "What he may be doing in another minute, I can't tell: some mischief you may be sure." (June 26, 1864). Distracting a child long enough to accomplish something is a useful talent, but not a foolproof one. On July 1st Crawford was not so readily turned away. Alice's statement, "Crawford is bothering me almost to death," shifts suddenly into an altered hand. "Dear Papa I want to see you. I love you dearly." Alice explained, "He has just written you, the above. I held his hand."


It is easy to imagine the scene-- a mother trying to write a letter while her children are near by, the toddler gaining interest, the inability to shoo him away, the concession of defeat, and finally holding the child and directing his hand to satisfy his desire to participate. This give and take, teaching a child manners and boundaries while still making space to welcome and foster their interest and individuality, is something to celebrate through the centuries. It is not easy, and it never has been. These mothers' interrupted letters stand as a testament to how childrearing is both the ultimate test of patience and the inspiration for boundless love. A mother's days are not defined by getting everything done quickly or perfectly, but rather by sharing your world, your day, your heart, and occasionally even your page with a child.

Jayne Ptolemy
Assistant Curator of Manuscripts