Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation Video

In this YouTube video, Clements Library curator Clayton Lewis and Professor Martha Jones of the U-M Law School discuss their current exhibit, "Proclaiming Emancipation." This exhibit is now on display at the Hatcher Graduate Library in Room 100. See our current exhibits page for more information.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Today in History: War of 1812 Victories at Sea

Post by Brian Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps

Many Americans remember the War of 1812 as a naval conflict in which, as Canadian historian C.P. Stacey put it, "the pride of the Mistress of the Seas was humbled by what an imprudent Englishman had called 'a few fir-built frigates manned by a handful of bastards and outlaws.'" There were few enough. The United States entered the War of 1812 with a navy of only 14 frigates and sloops-of-war with which to oppose the 1,000 warships of the Royal Navy. Almost immediately, however, the U.S. vessels began to score stunning victories in ship-to-ship frigate actions, most famously USS Constitution over HMS Guerrière on August 19, 1812. Songs and poems published in newspapers or as broadsides spread the welcome news of victories at a time when the land war seemed to be producing only defeats. Prints of these naval actions depicted the good news while further glorifying victorious captains and crews.

United States defeats Macedonian. Hand-colored engraving. Graphics Division.
October 25 is the bicentennial of the fight between USS United States and HMS Macedonian, one of the most celebrated of the naval victories of 1812. Captain Stephen Decatur’s United States (44 guns) encountered Captain James Carden’s Macedonian (38 guns) some 500 mile west of the Canary Islands. Decatur triumphed and was doubly fortunate in that the captured Macedonian was successfully brought into port at New London, Connecticut, where she was commissioned into the U.S. Navy.

Broadside song celebrating Decatur and his crew. Book Division, Broadsides.
The Graphics Division of the Clements Library has particularly strong holdings of action-packed, hand-colored prints depicting naval encounters of the War of 1812—including both U.S. victories and defeats. This fine collection exists thanks to the foresight of Howard Peckham, the Library’s second director, who acquired the core of our holdings in the 1960s and '70s.  These often stunning visual items add much to the usefulness of the Clements’s books, portrait prints, and manuscripts documenting the War of 1812 at sea.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Brownbag Lecture by Matt Dziennik: "With a Liberal Hand: Intra-continental Refugees and Foundations of Revolutionary Sovereignty, 1774-1786," November 8, 2012

The William L. Clements Library
Brown Bag Lecture Series

Matthew Dziennik
Earhart Fellow

"With a Liberal Hand: Intra-continental Refugees and Foundations of Revolutionary Sovereignty, 1774-1786"

Noon - 1:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Great Hall, Clements Library

Matthew Dziennik will discuss his work on the treatment of refugee populations by state and national governments during the Revolutionary War.  Challenging the idea that the Loyalists constituted the only significant refugee population of this period, he suggests that the treatment of refugees offers a critical insight into how the United Sates secured its place as a sovereign nation.

Please bring lunch. Beverages will be served.  
Please register by contacting annrock@umich.edu.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Staff Favorite: Domestic Fiction

JJ Jacobson has been Curator of American Culinary History at the Clements since 2009. She has many favorites from the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, including cookbooks, domestic manuals, etiquette manuals, and menus. Her current favorite is Ten Dollars Enough by Catherine Owen, published in 1887. Catherine Owen was the pen name of Helen Alice Matthews Nitsch, who dispensed household advice through cookbooks, magazine articles, and serialized novels in the late 19th century. We don’t know much about Nitsch, but her biographer, Beverly Seaton, deduces from her writings that she was from a middle-class background, and may have been a student at one of the American Cooking Schools that flourished from the 1860s onward.

Owen’s fiction straddles a number of genres, including women’s fiction, cookbooks, etiquette manuals, and books of advice on housekeeping, childrearing, and the management of servants. Her stories are set in the domestic sphere for which women were supposed (by 19th-century domestic authorities such as Catharine Esther Beecher and Sarah Josepha Hale) to be uniquely responsible. Accordingly, the novels are dominated by narratives of women proving themselves capable by mastering some form of household work. In Ten Dollars Enough, the heroine, Molly Bishop, masters running her own household, including cooking, budgeting, and training a servant. In Owen’s later novels, Molly Bishop's Family (1888) and Gentle Breadwinners: The Story of One of Them (1888), the heroines’ journeys include forays into acceptable business ventures, ones within the range of what a late-19th-century woman could do and remain respectable, such as running a boarding house or cooking professionally. Even in these, however, scenes of marketing, cooking, and serving and eating meals predominate.

The novel’s full title, Ten Dollars Enough: Keeping House Well on Ten Dollars a Week; How It Has Been Done; How It May Be Done Again, lets us know that little will be left to the imagination. It was originally published in serial form in Good Housekeeping in 1885 and 1886, and readers treated it as they would an advice column, writing in with questions and commendations for the author’s system. In the February 1886  issue, a reader wrote in: “I am also very much pleased with ‘Ten Dollars Enough.’ Having read in the last number that Catherine Owen would kindly aid us, I have availed myself of the opportunity to ask if she will write a list for a kitchen outfit, including all necessaries for culinary use.”

And, indeed, the bulk of the action comprises step-by-step depictions of cooking, planning for meals, budgeting, etc. Molly’s progression in skill and understanding, with its attendant uncertainties, mistakes, and triumphs, provides just enough tension in the narrative to keep the reader following the story. Can she prove herself as a housewife? Will Harry, her fastidious and rather spoiled husband (shunned by his family for marrying beneath him), accept her cooking? Can she keep him well fed on their budget? Will Marta, their “green girl” of a servant, respond to her training?

The social context in which all this domestic effort takes place--the couple’s relationship, their families, their new home and neighborhood--allows Owen to comment glancingly on many other subjects. For instance, Molly’s conversations with other women about Marta show us the state of “the servant problem” in late-19th-century America from various angles, along with attitudes about immigrants. Class comes into play from one side in Molly’s dealings with Marta, and from the other in her relationship with Harry’s snobbish family. (Ultimately, her housekeeping so impresses his parents that they are reconciled to the marriage, and consequently exert themselves to elevate the young couple’s status in various ways.) Women’s position in society, and the idea of “The New Woman,” are glanced at in the person of a neighbor, Mrs. Framley,  who admonishes Molly for spoiling Harry, asserting “I am no woman's rights woman; I don't want to vote; but I do not believe in catering to a husband's taste any more than he caters to mine.” This leads Molly to a meditation on gender roles, in which she articulates her reasons for “catering to” Harry. Other contemporary ideas Owen briefly notices include the housekeeper’s duty to charity within her community, and the relative advantages of urban and suburban living.

We have other titles in this genre, including Owen’s Gentle Breadwinners, and the anonymous Six Hundred Dollars a Year. A Wife’s Effort at Low Living, Under High Prices, as well as serialized stories in domestic magazines such as Good Housekeeping and American Cookery. Searches in the catalog on the subjects “Home economics -- Fiction”, “Cooking -- Fiction”, and “Housekeeping -- Fiction” will bring them up. Such books open a window into American ideals about the act of cooking, the phenomenon of cuisine, and the place of food in public and private life.

Further Reading:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Current Exhibits: The Geometry of War and Proclaiming Emancipation

Main Room of the Clements Library:
The Geometry of War: Fortification Plans from 18th Century America
October 15, 2012 - February 15, 2013

The 18th century was a time of intensive military activity in Europe and in the Americas. Much of this centered on fortified towns or positions. The period from the 1680s to the French Revolution has been called the “classic century of military engineering,” a time when earlier forms of artillery fortifications were perfected and frequently tested in battle.

Designing, constructing, and recording fortifications was the job of the military engineer. He followed well-tested principles of design, based on geometry, to construct fortified places. These were recorded in detailed plans, many of surprising beauty and complexity. The Clements Library is rich in examples, manuscript and printed, and offers a sample illustrating the science of fortification in 18th-century America.

At the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library:
Proclaiming Emancipation: Slavery and Freedom in the Era of the Civil War
October 15, 2012 - February 18, 2013 

Timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation, “Proclaiming Emancipation” examines the historical memory of this provocative event. This exhibit, conference, and classroom forum is produced by the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library and Law School Program in Race, Law & History, in cooperation with the University of Michigan Library. The exhibit is co-curated by Professor Jones and Clayton Lewis, Curator of Graphics Material, Clements Library. The objective is to encourage critical analysis of this complex moment in the history of slavery and emancipation in the Americas.

The Audubon Room exhibit will emphasize the material culture of abolition and how the story of emancipation has been recorded through different material genres. Included will be an array of manuscript documents, original photographs, sketches, printed broadsides, books, illustrated magazines, and memorial statuary.

A related symposium will take place on Friday, October 26 in the Room 100 Gallery and at the Law School. Conference schedule.

Proclaiming Emancipation has been made possible through the generous support of Faith (AB ‘69) and Stephen (AB ‘66, JD ‘69) Brown, and at the University of Michigan: College of Literature, Science and the Arts, Office of the Vice President for Research, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Rackham Graduate School, Institute for the Humanities, Law in Slavery and Freedom Project, and the Understanding Race Theme Semester.

For a complete list of current exhibits from the Clements Library, visit our website.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Today in History: Battle of Queenston Heights Bicentennial

Post by Brian Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps

October 13 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights. This significant action of the War of 1812, fought some six miles downstream from Niagara Falls, was precipitated by an invasion of Upper Canada (Ontario) U.S. regulars and New York militia under the overall command of Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer. Queenston was the first major land battle of the War of 1812 and the second invasion to be turned back by the British regulars, militia, and Native American warriors defending Canada.

A watercolor view of Queenston and the heights (right), believed to have been painted about 1807 by George Heriot (1766-1844). Lewiston, N.Y. is across the river at left. Graphics Division.
The village of Queenston stood at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment (locally called Queenston Heights) across the Niagara River from Lewiston, N.Y. A natural landing place occurred at both places. Sailing vessels and boats from Lake Ontario were unloaded at Queenston, and their cargoes were carted over a portage road to Lake Erie thus bypassing the obstacle of Niagara Falls. Queenston was also a heavily used border crossing between New York state and Upper Canada.

Early in the morning of October 13 the first wave of U.S. troops began to cross the river from Lewiston intent on taking the British position in the village of Queenston. This effort was unsuccessful, but some of the Americans were able to scale the heights and capture a British battery. A counterattack led personally by General Isaac Brock, British commander and lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, resulted only in Brock’ s death. The Americans on the heights were isolated, however, and confusion, a shortage of boats, and the unwillingness of some militia units to cross the river to reinforce them effectively doomed those who had captured a foothold above Queenston.

Queenston and Lewiston as shown in a detail from John H. Eddy, Map of the Straights of Niagara . . . (New York, 1813). Map Division, maps 4-N-29.
The British, now led by General Roger Sheaffe and reinforced by regular troops and Indian allies, counterattacked again and drove the Americans back to the edge of the river, where they found no boats to carry them to Lewiston. Colonel Winfield Scott, their commander, was forced to surrender. Nine hundred U.S. soldiers were taken prisoner and another 60 had been killed. British losses amounted to 105 killed and wounded. The invasion had been repulsed, but the loss of General Brock, victor of Detroit, was a blow to British morale.

The fighting at Queenston, as with most events of the War of 1812, is well documented in print, manuscripts, and imagery in the Clements collection.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

In the News: "Benjamin West's Paintings Celebrate an Empire" and "UMMA Exhibit Examines When the British Ruled America"

Two articles this week in the University Record highlight Clements Library materials currently on display at the U-M Museum of Art. In "Benjamin West's Paintings Celebrate an Empire," Carole McNamara of the Museum of Art writes about the exhibit which features the Clements Library's iconic "Death of General Wolfe" painting. Kevin Brown's article "UMMA Exhibit Examines when the British Ruled America" describes the exhibit curated by Brian Dunnigan and Clayton Lewis of the Clements Library. On display are books, maps, and manuscripts from the Clements Library collections, including several larger items never before displayed to the public.

These exhibits will be on display at the U-M Museum of Art through January 13, 2013. For more information about Clements Library exhibits and upcoming events, see our website

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Upcoming Lecture: Kate Silbert, "The Archivist Behind the Curtain: Tips for Researchers Approaching the Archive," October 18, 2012

The Archivist Behind the Curtain
Tips for Researchers Approaching the Archive

Presented by Kate Silbert
University of Michigan Graduate Student
in History & Women's Studies

Thursday, October 18, 2012
4:00 p.m.

Ever felt lost in archival papers? Been stumped by a finding aid? Felt like you and archivists just don't speak the same language?

Kate Silbert will discuss practical tips on developing research strategies and decoding finding aid lingo. Based on lessons one historian learned behind the scenes at the Clements Library, the talk will feature hints from archivists on accessing material as well as a discussion of what goes into preparing a collection. The staff at the Clements is eager for conversation with students about improving researchers' experiences.

Funded by the Rackham Spring/Summer Research Grant.

Free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Library at (734) 764-2347 or visit our website: www.clements.umich.edu.

William L. Clements Library 
909 S. University Ave. 
Ann Arbor, MI

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Online Exhibit: The War of 1812: A Bicentennial Exhibition

The Clements Library is pleased to offer a new online exhibit, The War of 1812: A Bicentennial Exhibition, curated by Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps. This exhibit was originally on display from February 27 to June 1, 2012, in the Great Room of the Clements Library.

The War of 1812 has sometimes been called a forgotten conflict, one that resolved none of the issues that brought it about. This second confrontation between the United States and Great Britain did, in fact, have a considerable influence on the future development of the country as well as its relations with Canada, Native Americans, and Europe. The bicentennial of the war of 1812 begins this year. To mark the events of 1812-1814, the Clements Library presents an exhibition drawing on the rich array of primary sources about this conflict found in its collections.

A list of all the Clements Library's online exhibits may be found on our website.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In the News: "UMMA's Spectacular 'General Wolfe' Exhibit the Don't-Miss Art Event This Year"

John Carlos Cantu of AnnArbor.com writes in a recent art review that the Clements Library's "Death of General Wolfe" painting by Benjamin West is "the single most significant public artwork in Washtenaw County, and among the most significant artworks in our state." This work of art, which usually hangs in the Great Room of the Clements Library, is now the centerpiece of an exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art: "Benjamin West: General Wolfe and the Art of Empire."

For more information about current exhibits, see the Clements Library exhibits page. The Benjamin West exhibit will be open until January 13, 2012 at UMMA, along with "Discovering Eighteenth-Century British America: The William L. Clements Library Collection."

Related posts: