Goose Commerce

Cupids, Man bats, & Penny-post women with Wings by goosecommerce

Or, Americans learn about the British Postal Reforms of 1840


The way the London correspondent of the New World affects a tone of Victorian prudishness, about the crudely drawn “naked” people on the letter sheet he’s describing, is, simply, hilarious. And the dig at Frances Trollope (who said of America, and I quote, “Ew.”) is pretty nice, too.

From The New World: A Weekly Family Journal of Popular Literature, Science, Art and News, June 13, 1840, p.28:

From our London Correspondent
London, May 6, 1840

To-day begins the penny postage stamps and envelopes, and a more universally complained of matter, in a small way, we have not seen in a long while. You may yourselves describe them better than I can from the specimens sent. The stamp is an uncommonly plain affair, being a simple head of the Queen on a little piece of paer somewhere about the size of a Broadway omnibus ticket … The envelope is a more complex concern, one-half or more of the front being used to illustrate all the outlandish parts of humanity, sketches of which Peter Parley has already placed before the American public.

Brittania sits in the middle, with outspread arms despatching a quartette of grown up Cupids, or man bats, or else penny-post women with wings, in dishabille. At her right there is an elephant, some queer looking camels, and a group of Chinese and Orientals. One of the animals in this tableau looks somewhat like Martin Van Buren–perhaps this is fancy.

On the other side of her ladyship is William Penn bargaining with half a dozen Indians, who, I may say, are dressed in sans-habille, if there be such an expression–beside them are some little papouses in the arms of their mothers, and a couple of naked coopers hard at work under the superintendence of a tall gentleman in a sombrero. In the extreme distance on one side are some ‘liners,’ but no steamboats–on the other is a Venus or something like it, driving a smartish reindeer in a carman’s sledge.

As supporters to all this interesting ‘pennyworth,’ there are on either side two or three of the fair sex busy reading love letters. One lady ‘over the left,’ is extremely like that amiable authoress, Madame Trollope. Such is our opinion of the whole concern, but, as was said before, you may describe it better yourselves.

No…no, I don’t think we quite can.

Image Cite: “Mulready envelope,”

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A Scurvy Affair in the History of Bloodshed by goosecommerce

Or, They Don’t Make War Like They Used To


Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette, (Raleigh, NC) Tuesday, June 02, 1840

Great Britain vs China. – We are more than half inclined to join the Peace Society – buy the Prize dissertations – and go against all wars, just as Mr. Ladd does. If Great Britain can’t get up a better war than that which she is waging against China, she ought to be ashamed of herself, and never go to war at all. We have never known a more scurvy affair in the history of bloodshed.

Many of her own statesmen, who have either honesty or shame, blush for her. A resolution disapproving the course of the British government in relation to China, was lately introduced into the House of Commons, and after a stormy debate of three days, was lost by a majority of ten only. Ten righteous men would once have saved a Sodom, but they must have been a very different sort of men from the ten in the British Parliament who justify the war with China. – Exeter News Letter

I’m beginning to really like the editors of the Raleigh Register, and North Carolina Gazette.

To close a few loops here: The American Peace Society was a Christian organization that campaigned for pacifism. Ladd was an Exeter and Harvard grad who became a sailor and worked his way up to captain in the New England merchant marine. He settled in Maine, where he ran the organization, and published its poorly edited house organ, The Harbinger of Peace from his home in Minot, ME.

Prior to his settling in Maine, Ladd ran a plantation in Florida that failed because he refused to use slave labor (sound like anyone?).

He was partly inspired to his activism by the Aroostook War, a conflict over timber rights in a valley whose ownership was disputed by the US and Canada (or, more accurately, the local citizens of each nation). This conflict was one of several diplomatic issues that was, circa 1840, souring British-American relations.

bobtravis, “The tree in focus,” Flickr, CC License

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If You Try Sometimes, You Just Might Find, You Get What You Knave by goosecommerce

Or, Yankee Ingenuity Not All That Unique

From the Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette, Friday, February 07, 1840:


Confused as to why Yankees might have a reputation for offloading clever frauds? Ever wonder why Connecticut is known as the “nutmeg” state? See here for all the answers.

American Commercial Empire by goosecommerce
May 27, 2009, 10:30 pm
Filed under: The Past is a Foreign...Something, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Milwaukee Branch Office

Unlike the piano ad, this, I think, is a nice little piece of evidence — not a clincher, but a nice little piece nonetheless — that interest in China was fairly widespread.

Milwaukee Sentinel, (Milwaukee, WI) Tuesday, December 24, 1839; Issue 26; col B :

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Lost in Translation by goosecommerce
May 27, 2009, 9:01 pm
Filed under: The Past is a Foreign...Something

Or, Thanks Buffalo


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Bigger, Faster, Stronger…Pianos? by goosecommerce

Or, Thank God We Solved That Problem


This from a Charleston, South Carolina newspaper:

A New Article of Trade to China, in the shape of Pianos, is about to be tried.

The great difficulty of preserving pianos in the climate of Canton, owing to its extreme dampness has deterred many from importing them. Messrs. Dubois, Bacon & Chambers, however, Piano Manufacturers of this city, have just completed two, which, from the strength of their construction, a better mode of securing the parts, and great care in the selection of the materials, will, they confidently believe, resist the climate.

They are, moreover, instruments of great sweetness, compass and delicacy, and have been pronounced by eminent pianists of superior quality – N.Y. Amer.

~The Southern Patriot (Charleston, SC), 28 May 1838, p.2, col. 3

I’d say this is just more evidence that Americans were interested in East Asia far sooner than we give them credit for, but I think the Southern Patriot and the NY American were motivated more by boredom, than anything else, to run this story.

I say that, partly, because in the former’s case, the entire front half of the front page was taken up with this:


Talk about being the voice of the community. I wonder if they reminded you to pick up some milk at the store, too…

Image cite: Sashamd, “We have a map of the piano,” Flickr, CC License

I [apple] Teaching by goosecommerce
May 26, 2009, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Corrupting the Youth | Tags: , , ,

Or, Blogger as Teacher-in-Training


Deep in the depths of catching up on e-mail and reading teh interblags, I just found a new blog, and I might be in love.

It’s The Scholar As Teacher, put out by Princeton’s in-house professional development office, the McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning.

Don’t let the bureaucrat’s dream of a originating body throw you: it’s attractive to look at, smartly written to take advantage of the bloggy medium, and, most important, offers some ideas on teaching — both tips and tricks for the classroom, and ways of thinking about teaching more generally.

Not things I personally have much cause to use at the moment (woo hoo summer! boo hoo dissertation!), but I’m filing it away in the category of “good procrastination” (think “good cholesterol”).

Reminds me, in tone and deliciousness of content, of the stuff that the CHNM folks put out.

And, not to be rude, but it’s a bit easier on the eyes than the Tomorrow’s Professor Blog. So there.

PS – “JBFC,” a tag for a lot of the posts over there, stands for “Just Back From Class.”

Image Cite: Ms. Tina, “An Apple for the Teacher (3/365),” Flickr, CC License

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Dismal Science Still Not Funny by goosecommerce
May 26, 2009, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Dismal Scientists | Tags: , ,


If pop-economics hasn’t crushed the joy out of enough of your life yet, now you can experience naive mechanical logic as applied to yet another ridiculous topic: comics.

I present to you Eco-comics.

(this moment of disciplinary name-calling brought to you courtesy of the joy-crushing geniuses at MR)

Image cite: Capt. Joe Kickass, “Economics Demotivator,” Flickr, CC License

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And Tyler’s Two by goosecommerce

Or, an example of history repeating, er, threats

the man who almost wasn't

the man who almost wasn't

Though, in fairness to Mr. Jackson, I think this one was much more sincerely offered:

Unfortunately, for the Captain and his Guard the animosity ran deeper than a few office seekers. Both Cushing and Tyler received “hate mail” from around the country. Vituperative James Campbell of Philadelphia urged Cushing to intercede and persuade Tyler, “a miserable, paltry, third rate county court scoundrel,” to resign. Campbell, somewhat more irrational than most of Cushing’s correspondents, suggested that for his treason to his party Tyler should “have his privates cut off and while yet still alive to have them nailed to a cross as a warning to political traitors hereafter.” In case any doubt existed he attached a graphic color rendering of his intent.

~John M. Belohlavek, Broken Glass: Caleb Cushing and the Shattering of the Union (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2005), p.136.

Here’s the primary source cite for the letter and “graphic color rendering”: James Campbell, Philadelphia, July 16, 1842, to Caleb Cushing, in Caleb Cushing Manuscripts, Library of Congress.


Image cite: Tony the Misfit, “John Tyler, 10th Union President, Confederate Congressman,” Flickr, CC License

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Muddy Whigs, Stuck Wheels by goosecommerce

Muddy Wheel

Sorry for the long(ish) absence. I have been lost in the unruly reeds of the Serial Set, ladies and germs, a wanderin’ in the wilderness of Congress’s forgotten backlot. I have seen many things, horrible things, in that slushpile: innumerable, ungainly, uncollated reports sprouting anteDeweyvian reference numbers, all housed with an organization scheme only a Melville could love in its Eris-inspired and Demos-driven multiplicity. (His erstwhile namesake, Melvil, would’ve hated it).

It’s not pretty, folks. Not pretty ‘t’all.

But I come bearing new loads of data, new sand and clay to be mixed with the brackish water of intellect and baked into scholarly bricks, and then built into a sturdy House of Monograph, shelter for kith and kin, and possibly even a way to pay rent.

Stuff for my dissertation, I mean. Not just ridiculous extended metaphors.

But that’s not what I came to discuss today. No, what interests me today is this: Daniel Howe, “Goodbye to the ‘Age of Jackson’ ?” New York Review of Books, May 28, 2009.

Howe is an eminent historian — preeminent, even, as not only is his most recent book part of a field-defining (if staid) series, but it won the Pulitzer prize in History. Like all of the books in the Oxford series, the interpretation Howe puts forward in What Hath God Wrought is intended as a master synthesis of the existing literature, the new foundation for all work to come. The NYRB review is a restatement of that larger project in miniature.

My concern with this particular article is not his critique of the books under review, per se, but rather an argumentative tack he makes along the way – a restatement of that made in the larger work.(1).

Put simply: Howe replicates a general feature of the political historiography of the Jacksonian era that drives … me …nuts.(2).

Like many other would-be synthesizers of the period, Howe maps contemporary political labels onto the political parties and personalities of the second party system – the Democrats and the Whigs – while trying to claim he’s doing the opposite. This effectively trades any development in the historiography, by way of synthesis, for retrenchment. This leaves us on the other side of the ditch, but still stuck in the mud.

Continue reading

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