Fondly, Pennsylvania

Cartoons and connections

Thursday, 2/17/11

One of my all time favorite TV series is Connections, created by science historian James Burke.  In each show, he delved into the history of science, invention, and culture to present connections between seemingly unrelated people, places, and objects.   Though not quite in the same vein as Burke's connections, in the archives, we regularly come across connections among our collections.  Now relationships between collections of family papers may seem obvious since Philadelphia was once a small town where marriages brought together a relatively small group of families.  But we also commonly find connections in our collections between and among organizations, families, individuals, and subjects.   For example, our collection of records from the Indian Rights Association (#1523)  links directly to our collection of papers from Herbert Welsh (#702), who served extensively with the association.  Among Welsh’s collection is information on the Armenian massacres of 1894-1896.  Further research on this topic would lead one to our collection of records form the Citizens' Permanent Relief Committee (#1421), which provided aid to people involved in various disasters between 1878 and 1900, including the Armenian massacres.

An interesting connection turned up in a collection I recently finished processing, HSP’s cartoons and caricatures collection (#3133).  This artificial collection, which was adopted a few months ago by HSP’s Young Friends, contains a wonderful assortment of mostly published political cartoons and ephemera from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.  This collection is by no means comprehensive, but despite some gaps, they cover numerous topics  from the American colonies’ new found freedom after the Revolutionary War to the political and social strife during the Civil War to the New Deal era under President Franklin Roosevelt.  Most of the cartoons deal with national issues, but some items relate specifically to Pennsylvania politics and social problems.

During processing, one envelope of items from 1866 caught my attention. The names associated with them, Geary and Clymer, rang immediate bells since we have papers from the Geary family (#2062) and collections related to the Clymer family (#138 and #1696).

After a bit of internet searching, I discovered that these cards and ads are from the 1866 Pennsylvania governor’s race between John W. Geary (R) and Hiester Clymer (D); and one of the main points of contention during this campaign was  race relations.

Geary, who born in Pennsylvania, wore many hats before 1866.  He was a colonel in the Mexican War, first mayor of San Francisco, California, territorial governor of Kansas, and a major general in the Union Army at the end of the Civil War.  In 1866, he was nominated by the Republican Party for Pennsylvania governor, and he ran on a platform that included black rights, support of the 15th Amendment, and railroad reform.  He was successfully elected as governor, though pursuing both these issues later compromised his popularity.  Geary went onto to campaign for president in 1872, but lost the Republican nomination to Ulysses S. Grant.

Geary’s gubernatorial opponent in 1866 was Hiester Clymer, a career politician and lawyer from Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Clymer ran on a white supremacy platform, and he apparently received a large number of votes for a Democratic candidate, though he still lost to Geary.

But back to the matter of connections.  After stumbling across these items, I checked our collections database for further information.  Our collection of Geary family papers contains a sizable number of records from and scrapbooks on John W. Geary, many of which date from 1866 on.  As for Clymer, while we have only a few letters from in him our autograph collections and the James Buchanan papers, we do have a collection of papers from his grandfather, Daniel Cunyngham Clymer, who served in the army during the Revolutionary War and later worked as a lawyer in Berks County.

And now maybe you’re wondering about other famous Berks County natives, or who might have served with Daniel Clymer during the Revolution, or how Geary's policies affected the railroads?  Well, we might just have the records that contain those answers, as well as further connections that are just waiting to be discovered.

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