Avid blog followers may remember this post from back in August of 2008... Those oversized maps and documents that we unrolled for the first time so many months ago are finally receiving conservation treatment!
One of the good things about the latest find of material has been the addition of information about later generations of the Chew family. The boxes we are in the process of adding contain materials related to the children of Samuel Chew (d. 1887). In addition to all of the office files that document the management of the family's estates and property, there are personal letters from Elizabeth B. Chew, Anne S.P. (Chew) Alston, Oswald Chew, Samuel Chew Jr. and others. In one envelope, there were a series of "messages" that looked like correspondence.
A few weeks ago now, I was feeling pretty good about the progress of the Chew Papers processing project. We had just reported to NEH that we had only 8-10 linear feet to process, and I was finally able to really imagine the project being finished. I was nearly finished with the last large series of papers, and expecting processing to be completed by early May. And then, everything changed. (Okay, so I'm being quite dramatic here, but that is definitely how it felt.)
Twenty-first century news reports, are almost daily filled with accounts of piracy, occurring within the Gulf of Aden & Indian Ocean, off the Horn of Africa, by Somalian corsairs. Such acts of piracy or terror are nothing new within the world of Islamic jihad or 'holy war,' which has been carried on for centuries against the Western world, even to the present-day.
I finished processing the David Sands Brown and Company series and found it to be a good example of the entrepreneurial spirit associated with the economic development of the United States, especially if looked at from a micro-history-based point of view. After taking American History classes that only covered the major aspects and events of the United States past, looking at the papers in this part of the Chew collection gave me a new perspective on how just one individual took a neglected town and propelled it to progress through sheer will power and financial savvy.
Having taught American History for over twenty years on the academic level, it continually surprises me how so many individuals erroneously believe, that European immigration to the New World resembled to a marked degree, tourist-type ocean voyages as enjoyed on such present-day luxury liners as the 'Carnival Cruise Line,' and that only African slaves suffered hardship & deprivation during the 'Middle Passage,' or the voyage across the Atlantic. The opposite was of course the reality of immigration.
Over the past few weeks, I have been working on the papers of the Brown and Johnson families that are included in the Chew Papers. Mary Johnson Brown Chew's family and ancestors owned large sections of what is now the First Ward of Philadelphia, Southwark, Passyunk, the Navy Yard, and Tinicum. David Sands Brown, among others, developed land along the Delaware River to accommodate his growing manufacturing businesses, which were headquartered in Gloucester City, New Jersey.
This is the third in a series of blog posts devoted to the conservation being performed on the documents, books and manuscript materials in the Chew Family Papers Collection. See the first post on enclosures, here, and the second on paper conservation, here.