Filed under: Archival Follies
Or, For the “Sources Whose Stories I Wish I Had More Time To Pursue, But Never Will” File
An excerpt from the September 29, 1847 edition of the New-York Daily Tribune:
“We were rejoiced at receiving the other day the following note from our friend P. T. Barnum, renouncing henceforth the indulgence of misnamed Temperate Drinking. … None who knows the writer can doubt that he means what he says, and will live up to it.”
Filed under: Archival Follies, Knowledge Droppings, Now in Actual Work, Our Glorious National Heritage | Tags: Asa Whitney, doge, Phrenology, suchwow, transcontinental railroad
Or, Meme Translation
Today I found a portrait and detailed profile of one of the characters I’m currently writing about in the American Phrenological Journal.
Yes folks, in November 1849, Asa Whitney, railroad projector and lobbyist for humanity, was not only the man of the hour and talk of the town, but also the cover model for America’s leading pseudoscientific periodical. Reading what the nation’s foremost experts in head-bumps and skull-shapes had provided to the interested public concerning the former China merchant, it occurred to me that the phrenologist’s analysis might very easily be stripped of its Victorian vagaries, and translated into a jargon with more currency today; that is, into doge speak. Thus, the above.
(Also, per Gary Larson, it was late and I was tired).
Full cite (incl. original image):
“Article LXXI: Phrenological Character of Asa Whitney, with a Likeness,” American Phrenological Journal 11, no. 11 (November 1, 1849): 329–333.
Or, I came, I saw, I looked over the figures until they got blurry
Filed under: Archival Follies
Or, Look! I Found a Neat Thing
Sometimes you fall down a nineteenth-century government statistical bulletin hole. It happens; I can’t explain it (and I’ll never get those hours from FRASER or HSUS back).
But what I can do is share this neat, colored-in chart of “United States Money in Circulation, 1860-1895” (see above).
It’s from the October 1895 edition of the Monthly Summary of Commerce and Finance of the United States, my second favorite issue of that glorious publication (first place, obviously, belongs to November 1895, for its unexpected and unprecedented compilation of tea customs receipts from 1790 onward). Here’s the specific page (gated by Hathi Trust).
Also, in case you missed it, the U.S. Government once produced a terrifyingly detailed map about syphllis.
Filed under: Archival Follies, Golden Ghetto, Our Glorious National Heritage | Tags: #humblebrag, Richard J. Cleveland, Travel Narrative
Or, Don’t Even Get Him Started on CrossFit
Richard Cleveland was a sailor, an entrepreneurial merchant, and a well-traveled man – but not a shy one. In his retirement, he published at least three editions of his memoirs, and by the end of the nineteenth century, and he and his children had produced some three different versions of his life’s story, all also in multiple transatlantic editions. Scholars still look to him today for details on Americans’ dealings in the Pacific, and beyond.
He’s a good source, if one we should perhaps examine mainly for its narrative framing and plot elements as much as for specific details. Among other feats, he was, as he explained in the preface to his lengthy autobiography of his time spent on the seas, as good a flinty, thrifty New Englander as Max Weber (or Freeman Hunt) could ever have wished for:
Filed under: Archival Follies, Our Glorious National Heritage, Power At Play
Or, Shut it, Calhoun
Sometimes, studying nineteenth-century America can get damned depressing. It’s a slaughter-bench, and for most of the century, the guys that win (and they’re all guys) seem to be the worst possible: slaveholders, imperialists, filibusters.
There’s an antidote to this, though, and that’s reading Congressional debates.
Well, some of them.
Are you Kidding me?
“The first merchandise direct from the Orient exposed for sale in America was brought to this country by pirates. Arabian gold, pearls from the Indian Ocean and Oriental fabrics abounded in the chief cities of the colonies. The treasure of Captain Kidd that was seized in Boston in 1699, contained a characteristic assortment of piratical plunder: ‘an iron chest of gold, pearls, etc., 40 bails [sic] of East India goods, 13 hogsheads, chests and case, one negro, and Venture Resail, a Ceylon Indian.’ Resail was one of the first Asiatics to visit America.”
~Charles Oscar Paullin, Diplomatic negotiations of American naval officers, 1778-1883, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins press, 1912),157.
There is a lot going on here, and I don’t have any time at the moment to do any more research, but I did want to put a pin in it here for later. In no particular order, some thoughts, then:
- That smuggling should have been the first (direct) source of Asian goods in America is more than appropriate
- The presence of human beings in the “pirate” cargo puts the lie to fantasies of pirate democracy, eh? Or perhaps just reflects the Boston authorities inability to conceive of such a thing…
- Paullin’s archaic language aside, the name “Venture Resail” seems too self-consciously literary to be true. Sure, while it wasn’t unheard of of slaveholders to give slaves ironic names (Caesar, etc), this name seems a bit on the nose even for that — really, 2 puns in one name? — no less for its relation to Kidd’s case, a big deal at the time and a subject of much mythologizing since.
In any case, very curious, and something I’m interested in looking into further, once I have a spare moment again.
Image source: Pyle, Howard “With the Buccaneers ” in Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates: Fiction, Fact & Fancy Concerning the Buccaneers & Marooners of the Spanish Main (New York, United States, 1921), Wikipedia.org, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pyle_pirates_burying2.jpg