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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

John Louis Ligonier Letter Books, 1757-1761

Post by Meghan Brody, Clements Library Volunteer
University of Michigan History Major, Class of 2019

I received my first introduction to the Clements Library during a class visit in the winter semester 2017. I immediately knew that I wanted to become a volunteer.  After contacting the Library, I began working in the Manuscripts Division, where the Curator assigned me the task of updating a finding aid and creating a supplementary recipient index for the letter books of John Louis Ligonier, the British Army's Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, 1757-1759; Master-General of the Ordnance, 1759-1763. 

The Clements Library acquired one letter book of John Ligonier, dating from 1758 to 1760, as a gift from the Clements Library Associates (CLA) in 1968.  Project archivist Philip Heslip wrote a descriptive finding aid for it in 2010, thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.  The Library continually adds to its manuscripts holdings and sometimes, good fortune allows them to bring formerly separated materials back together again.  In 2016, Lord Ligonier's second letter book, 1760-1761, from the Torridon House of the Earls of Lovelace, came up for sale in Scotland.  Via intermediaries and again funded by the CLA, Ligonier's letter books are now side-by-side at the William L. Clements Library.

As a student of history, I was ecstatic not only to explore handwritten primary sources from hundreds of years ago, but also to aid other historians and researchers by creating descriptive materials for the manuscripts.  I read every entry in each letter book and documented information such as letter dates, contents, recipients' names, and other details.  The resulting spreadsheet may be consulted at the Clements Library and the data will be used for multiple purposes, including the eventual digitization of the volumes.


As Commander in Chief and as Master General of the Ordnance, Ligonier corresponded regularly with Secretary of War William Barrington, largely about the succession of officers, position vacancies, troop movements, the lack of new recruits, and depleted financial resources.  Ligonier received a flood of letters from aristocrats and others seeking commissions for family or friends.

Most of Ligonier's letters are cut-and-dry administrative orders, with the occasional touch of irritation, as when Nehemiah Donnellan sent a staggering 52 petitions seeking assistance.  Despite Ligonier's having secured him a Lieutenant Colonelcy, Donnellan never joined his regiment at Guadeloupe, instead tendering a resignation to Barrington.  When Ligonier refused to do anything more for him, Donnellan accused Ligonier of injustice.  Ligonier concluded their correspondence:  "So handsome a Behaviour dispenses me certainly from answering your Letters any more . . . His Majesty has never named your name to me, and I am sure I shall not name you to Him, till you take a very different method, than what you are now following." (November 25, 1760)



The Ligonier letter books offer visiting researchers a view of military administration during the Seven Years' War.  I hope that the revised finding aid and recipient index makes these manuscript volumes more accessible.

The finding aid is located at: John Louis Ligonier Letter Books Finding Aid.

The recipient index may be found here: John Louis Ligonier Letter Books Recipient Index.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Keep Your Powder Dry -- And Your Map Too

The Clements Library map collection comprises some 30,000 examples of cartography with American subject matter drawn or printed between the years 1492 and 1900. This body of material represents a variety of plans and maps ranging from the most detailed small-scale plan (of a formal garden or a town, for example) to dramatic large-scale wall maps representing the entire Western Hemisphere. These maps have all been drawn, carved, or printed on some form of surface—paper, vellum, glass, wood, fabric, and more. The nature of the material has something to say about what sort of use was anticipated for the map.

Major Robert Rogers, Commander in Chief of the Indians in the Back Settlements of America​. ​[London]​ : Thomas Hart, 1776.​ Mezzotint engraving.

The European colonial experience in North America added another medium on which a map could be pictured. The powder horn is an iconic object of the American frontier, associated in our minds with legendary figures like Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone, Natty Bumpo, Robert Rogers, and anyone else who toted a rifle or musket into the wilderness to hunt game or wage war. No self-respecting woodland American, would think of braving the forest without a trusty firearm (Crockett’s “Old Betsey”) and well-filled powder horn. Genuine powder horns are very collectible these days, meaning that their cost is almost certain to be high and their quantity limited. Antique powder horns are also notoriously easy to duplicate, whether for legitimate use in historical reenactments or exhibits or intentional fakes. The combined concerns about opportunity, cost, and legitimacy long kept the Clements from acquiring a powder horn in its collection. Until now, that is!

The traditional American type was constructed of a bovine horn of almost any size. These were, easy enough to come by at a time when much of an army’s meat supply marched along with the soldiers “on the hoof.” When these animals were butchered for their meat, the horns were set aside for other purposes. Properly cleaned and polished horns were sought out for conversion. Once a raw horn had been cleaned and its interior cartilage removed it was further polished and a wooden butt plate was carved, fitted to the open (wide) part of the horn, and secured by tacks. The exterior was cleaned and smoothed and the spout end (the pointy part) carved to taste with a spout into which a plug, often decorative, was fitted. Then all that was lacking was fine black gunpowder for use either as priming for a flintlock mechanism or for the main charge  The horn was itself waterproof, and a properly constructed plug and butt piece were at least water resistant.

But why would the Map Division be interested in a three-dimensional object, a far cry from the maps on paper and other materials? The smooth outer surface of a powder horn offered a substantial amount of empty space that just called out for some decoration. Different elements were easily carved into the horn. Geometrical figures, plants and flowers, scenes of marching soldiers, coats of arms, patriotic symbolism, and prominent buildings were among the motifs most used. Of particular interest to the Clements are those designs that dupplicate the long, sinuous shape of a waterway—the St. Lawrence, Hudson, or Mohawk rivers, Lake George and Lake Champlain—with their towns, forts, Indian villages, and battles depicted, often in great detail. What the Clements lacked is known, obviously enough as a “map horn.”  Map horns usually combine elements of towns, forts, and encampments with the course of a waterway.


We are pleased to announce that we have finally bitten the bullet and acquired a map horn by purchase. It is not an eighteenth-century example, which would be the most appropriate for the collection, but we can at least show a simple example of an important American genre. Actually, powder horns were manufactured and used in other parts of the world. They were popular with artillerymen who could prime a loaded cannon by directing fine powder into the touchhole. When touched with a spark or a burning “match” the cannon throws its ball toward the enemy. Many individual map horns were carved for the owners (for a fee) by individual soldiers in camp. These usually include the owner’s name. A booming trade in horns bearing the British arms with a map was carried on by professional engravers in London and other cities.

Our new powder horn is a relatively simple example from the Civil War (1861-1865).  The horn is nicely shaped with decorative elements on the butt plug. Carved around the base is a simple map of the East Coast of the United States from Charleston, South Carolina, to Savannah, Georgia.  Also depicted (north to south) are “Ft. Sumter,” “Ft. Beauregard,” “Port Royal,” “Ft. Walker” “Ft. Paulaski” (sic) and “Savannah.” The name of the owner and/or maker, “Jim Reed,” is prominently displayed  The dealer who sold us the horn presented it as a Confederate piece because of the subjects of the carvings. That is no guarantee, however, and it might just as well have been carved by or for a Yankee sailor. Was Jim Reed a Confederate Soldier or Yankee sailor? Did he make and decorate the horn? Did he carve the horn or pay another to do it? When did he carve it? Another Clements mystery. In the meantime, the Map Division has a  powder horn as an example of a distinctive type of American map.

Brian Leigh Dunnigan
Curator of Maps & Associate Director

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Edward Walsh Watercolor Sketches Now Digitized


The watercolor sketches of Edward Walsh, M.D. are some of the most frequently reproduced materials from the Clements Library. These sketches, done between 1803 and 1806 while Walsh served as a surgeon for the 49th Regiment of Foot at Fort George, Ontario, are vital visual resources for any scholar interested in the history of the Old Northwest. His depictions of Detroit and York (Toronto) are among the best and earliest known views of those settlements. His detailed renderings of Fort George and Fort Niagara are valuable documentation on the state of these facilities in the interval between the American Revolution and the War of 1812. While Walsh mainly painted landscapes, his images are far from static; always present are people he encountered on his travels, from natives in canoes to soldiers at drill. The country that Walsh describes with these pictures is one still inhabited by indigenous people, carefully observed and depicted by the artist. In addition to landscapes, he also created images of birds and other wild North American animals.

Walsh, a merchant's son, was born in Waterford, Ireland in 1756. He studied medicine at Glasgow and Edinburgh before entering the military, where he had a hand shattered by an explosion while serving under Nelson during the British attack on Copenhagen in 1801. While in North America, he carried out smallpox vaccinations among the natives living along the Grand River near Lake Erie. He associated with both Tecumseh and Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), even serving as a character witness in defense of the latter at a tribal council. After his relatively peaceful period of service in Upper Canada, Walsh returned to Europe, serving in the Peninsular War as well as at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He retired to Ireland, dying in Dublin in 1832.


Thanks to the Graphics Division's Diversity Equity and Inclusion internship from the summer of 2017, the Walsh watercolors are now available for viewing in the Clements Library Image Bank.

Louie Miller
Reading Room Supervisor and Graphics Division Assistant