Fondly, Pennsylvania is HSP's main blog. Here you will find posts on our latest projects and newest discoveries, as well articles on interesting bits of local history reflected in our collection. Whether you are doing research or just curious to know more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at HSP, please read, explore, and join the conversation!
This past fall I worked as an archives intern for the Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR). It was a great experience, and it’s not hard to understand why. I was exposed to both large repository and small repository environments, I was able to work with a variety of collections and produce multiple finding aids, and I met a lot of great people. For all of these reasons and more, this internship was not only fun, but also rewarding.
First, let me tell you about the basic set up of the internship, which is split into two parts. The first part involves training and hands on processing of a collection under the supervision of a professional archivist at a large repository. The second part is spent processing a collection from one of the small repositories that participated in HCI-PSAR with the professional archivist from the first part still available to guide you. Combining the experiences at both repositories, the intern is exposed to the differences (and some similarities) between a smaller repository and a larger one, while obtaining critical skills in processing collections.
Exterior of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
During the first part, I spent time at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), which fulfilled the role of large repository. I was assigned projects that would further my training in archival processing. What I loved about this portion of the internship is that my supervisors, Cary and Matthew, took the time to match the assigned projects with my needs and current experience. If I had not had any processing experience under my belt, I would have been giving beginner training with a fairly straightforward collection. However, knowing that I already had some experience arranging and housing collections, and that I did not have a lot of experience in researching collections, for which information might be vague and difficult to come by, my supervisors asked me to work with collections that were already housed, but did not yet have written finding aids in HSP’s online database.
The first collection contained papers from the Asylum Company, a land speculation company in Pennsylvania that existed in late 18th and early 19th century. Documentation was scarce and scattered. After determining what was in the collection and labeling the folders, I entered the inventory into Archivists’ Toolkit. The next step was to research and write the notes for the online finding aid. This part was challenging since intensive collection research was new to me, but I learned a lot about the process and various resources that are available for research. I also made mental notes about the order in which I should tackle the processing tasks and other tips so that my time is used more efficiently in the future. To see the final finding aid for the Asylum Company papers, click here.
Correspondence from the Asylum Company papers at HSP
As it turned out, the very next collection I worked on was related to the first collection, and I had to perform similar tasks. Everything I had learned by working on the Asylum Company papers was immediately clear to me because researching and writing the finding aid for the second collection was a much smoother and quicker process. I also got to work with a volunteer creating an inventory for and labeling a third collection with almost one hundred 19th century volumes. This could have been a daunting task, but working with a volunteer made it go by quickly and I got to know someone new in the process.
I liked being in a large repository because there was enough space to spread out the collections, if needed, extra or specialty materials were available, and the staff is professionally trained, so if I had a question about processing or a descriptive standard, it was easy to get an answer. HSP’s staff is very friendly, always happy to help you out, and interested to get to know you and the project you’re working on. Even though HSP is a large building with many departments, the people who work there make the environment welcoming and comfortable to new comers.
The Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library
For the second part of my internship, I processed the Travel Club of Bristol (Pa.) records, a group of materials documenting a women’s club, housed at the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library in Bristol, Pennsylvania. About a year ago, in February 2013, HCI-PSAR wrote a blog post mentioning these records. I was excited to work with the collection because it spanned such a long time, from 1901-1995, and was rich in the quality of its documentation. The Travel Club records include the minutes of every meeting from 1901-1980; yearbooks as far back as 1908 detailing the club officers, members, and activities; and several scrapbooks.
While the collection was larger than others I had worked on before, I felt that I was ready to handle it based on my past experiences and the training I had already received during the internship. Plus, I maintained weekly contact with Matthew, my supervisor, just in case I ran into any issues or had questions. I also made sure to keep in mind or ask Gretchen, my contact at Grundy Library, about the preferences of the smaller repository as I processed the collection to ensure the staff there would be pleased with the outcome of my efforts.
An early yearbook from the Travel Club of Bristol (Pa.) records at Grundy Library
Part of this internship is to experience the environment of a smaller repository, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the time I spent visiting Grundy Library. I was treated to a tour of the library and the museum, which is just next door, on my first visit and was able to help out with events at the library including the opening of an exhibition featuring materials from the archives and a genealogy workshop. These events were especially fun for me, as I had not yet experienced the public service, reference, or outreach side of archives. It reminded me how much I enjoy interacting with and helping people. I was also able to visit on Bristol Day, when the whole community is buzzing with activities and vendors in the streets. Seeing how a smaller repository was able to interact with other organizations in the local community to achieve a common goal was enlightening.
All in all, this internship was a very special experience. I learned a lot; each collection is different and presents its own challenges, writing a few concise paragraphs can sometimes be harder than writing a term paper, and people in the early 19th century loved using the word “sundry.” I gained invaluable experience in my desired line of work, but I also wound up meeting several wonderful people whom I feel have validated my decision to enter this profession. So if you get the opportunity to participate in HCI-PSAR’s archives internship, don’t pass it up, you won’t regret it. In fact, right at the end of my internship, there was an opening on HCI-PSAR's team, and they ended up hiring me!
This fall we delved deeper into the interactive geographic map for the William Still Digital History Project.
The goal was to create an interactive map of important locations in selected excerpts from William Still’s Journal C and published book, The Underground Rail Road. Users could follow fugitives on their journeys northward, seeing where they fled, rested, and settled.
We wanted to feature three family groups from Still's writings: the Shephards, the Taylors, and the Wanzers. The Shephards began their journey in Delaware, the Taylors started in Maryland, and the Wanzers began in Virginia. All three parties passed through several locations in the greater Philadelphia area.
But in order to create this map, we first needed a master timeline of events. This timeline helps us track each person’s movements as well as each time they received some form of aid—such as clothing, medicine, or money—from an abolitionist or a member of the Vigilance Committee.
Next we needed to get the geographic coordinates for the location of each event. It sounds simple, but posed some challenges.
Some of the entries in Still’s volumes are vague. The Shephard party, he tells us, probably made it to Canada through New York. But where in Canada? When dealing with broad geographic areas we have to make an educated guess. They probably weren’t trekking all the way to the Yukon, but there’s a good chance they made it to Toronto, which received more fugitives from the Underground Railroad than any other city in Canada.
Then, there are times when Still mentions a specific place, but the location is unclear to modern readers. Abolitionist Grace Anna Lewis, for example, housed the Shephard party for a night. Several sources mention that she lived west of Kimberton, but they are not more specific than that.
Occasionally Still writes about a specific place whose location is actually known. He records the sale of Owen Taylor’s first wife and child at the Baltimore Slave Market, which was one section of a large downtown market. Not only do we know the approximate size of the market—3 square city blocks—but we know exactly which streets demarcated the Slave Market.
Still also writes about the Longwood Meetinghouse in Kennett Square, PA. This Friends meetinghouse was a center of radical anti-slavery sentiment and sometimes housed fugitives for weeks at a time. It is still standing across the street from the entrance to Longwood Gardens.
Another building that still stands is Thomas Garrett's house in Wilmington, DE. This house is all that is left of the Garrett family homestead known as “Thornfield.” At Thornfield, Garrett served as an Underground Railroad station master for over forty years where he helped an estimated 2,700 fugitives escape to freedom.
We are currently working with our web developers to put all this information into interactive maps and timelines, which users will be able to use to track the movements of an individual or see the relative importance of a particular location. The master map will include the important locations for all three family groups and is one of the key components in telling the stories of these families.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
During World War I, from 1917-1919, the U.S. Treasury issued five bonds to help raise money for the war effort in Europe. The War Loan Organization oversaw the sale of these bonds, known as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Liberty Loans, as well as a fifth Victory Loan. Because the first two bonds didn’t sell well, the War Loan Organization undertook a massive drive to promote their sale. Through the campaign, the government printed materials like Liberty Loan posters and window stickers, sought the support of groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, and enlisted volunteers across the country to sell bonds. As a Digital Collections and Exhibitions intern, I’ve digitized materials for a joint HSP and Villanova exhibit for the centennial of WWI, such as the pamphlet below, and have had the opportunity to work with Liberty Loan collections unique to Philadelphia.
I’ve digitized several items from the South Philadelphia Women’s Liberty Loan Committee Collection, including pamphlets and photographs from the committee’s chair, Corinne Keen Freeman. The committee was a local branch of the National Woman's Liberty Loan Committee. HSP also has a Liberty Loan Poster collection, consisting of eight promotional posters published by the Liberty Loan Committee of the Third Federal Reserve District in Philadelphia.
Like other Liberty Loan drives across the country, many materials in these collections promote the purchase of Liberty Bonds as a patriotic duty and sound investment. While the nationwide effort to promote Liberty Bonds included support from celebrities and patriotic groups, well known historical figures were also called on to help sell bonds. Benjamin Franklin emerges in these collections as a figure known for his belief in national unity, community, and thrift. Corrinne Keen Freeman’s materials include a pamphlet modeled on Poor Richard’s Almanac, with Franklin illustrated on the pages. The pamphlet is "in the spirit of the original author", includes "a little book on thrift, investment and patriotism", and has quotes from a character name Poor Richard Jr.: "the most selfish, cautious, miserly man can find no more satisfactory investment than Government bonds. Therefore the man with a spark of patriotism in his soul should go the limit".
Another Philadelphia figure, likely William Penn, appears in a Liberty Loan poster, reaching into his pocket for money as a mother shows him a Liberty Bond pamphlet. The mother stands in for the sacrifices that women like Corrinne Keen Freeman made to make the war effort possible.
It was interesting working with these Liberty Loan collections in my internship, because it helped me understand the sacrifices that Liberty Loan volunteers and other Americans made on the home-front during World War I. The conscription of so many U.S. soldiers for the war was unprecedented, and the support of this force required billions of dollars. It was also interesting to see how the government and local communities evoked the past to convince Americans to buy Liberty Bonds.
I started working in September as a joint digital collections intern at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Villanova are in the process of creating a digital exhibit that highlights World War I-era resources from institutions within the Delaware Valley region. The project will go live on the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 2014, and will continue to commemorate the Great War over the next four years. As an intern, I have had the opportunity to explore the Historical Society’s World War I-related collections, and digitize the items that grab my interest.
I was immediately drawn to the Historical Society’s collection of World War I posters, which has recently been absorbed by the Historical Society's larger war posters collection. As an undergrad at Dickinson College, I worked with a series of Civil War-era political cartoons, and I continue to be fascinated by visual and verbal representations used in propaganda. The posters within the Historical Society’s collection cover a diverse number of topics during this wartime era. Posters range from health warnings generated by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis to the National War Saving Committee’s promotion of war saving stamps to help crush “Kaiserism.”
Several posters highlight life as normal in Philadelphia before the United States joined the war in 1917. While British and German battleships destroyed each other during the Battle of Jutland, Philadelphians paid 25 cents to attend the Civic Exposition, which ran from May 15- June 10, 1916 at the Commercial Museum on Spruce Street.
While non-war related images caught my eye, the collection is logically dominated by posters that urge their viewers to support the country’s war efforts. The Navy’s recruitment tactics included appeals to the math-oriented, “Men + Guns and Ships = Navy,”
the adventure-seekers, “See the World,”
the penny-pinching “Save Money,”
and the patriotic, “Your Country Needs You!”
In 1915, the German passenger liner turned auxiliary cruiser, Kronprinz Wilhelm, interned in Philadelphia. After capturing 15 merchant ships since the outbreak of World War I, the ship was low on fuel and ravaged by sickness in its crew. While the ship was laid up in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, its crew lived in a nearby camp. However, when the United States joined the war in 1917, the United States seized the Kronprinz Wilhelm and relocated its crewmembers to Fort McPherson in Georgia as prisoners of war.
Theophil Bock was one of the German sailors, probably a stoker, brought to Fort McPherson. Bock’s collection of photographs and postcards document both his wartime service on the Kronprinz Wilhelm and the years of his internment in Georgia. While serving, Bock photographed everything from the use of airplanes during warfare to his fellow Kronprinz Wilhelm crewmembers.
Once relocated to Fort McPherson, Bock’s photographs capture how these prisoners of war entertained themselves with activities ranging from theatre productions to card games.
Although the men on the Kronprinz Wilhelm lived in the United States beginning in 1915, they remained proud of their German roots, integrating names like "Mozart" and "Bethoven" on street signs.
During his time in the United States, Bock wrote multiple postcards in English to Miss Elsie Badholzner in Philadelphia, often signing his cards “as ever yours Theophil Bock.” After the end of World War I, Bock appears to have remained in the United States, returning to Philadelphia. A postcard sent to Bock in January 1928 was addressed to “Mr. Th. Bock, 4615 Frankford Ave, Phila, Pa,” an address in northeast Philadelphia.
We historians know the power of a name. Names are assertions, claims to participation in a world which cherishes the deep meanings imbedded within them. Historians, like you and like me, must often speak, however, of those whose names are lost to our own imperfect historical record. We do our best to articulate the ways in which these individuals possessed power and influenced the past but, too often, we fall short due to a simple lack of either written or verbal documentation about their lives. Rarely, we find a source that enables us to find names for the anonymous.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania's latest digital history project on William Still and the Underground Railroad is, in many ways, about naming and claiming. A case in point: one of my first contributions to the project was to write the biography of "Anonymous Young Man 1." Admittedly, approaching the task as a scholar of Native Americans in early America, I was skeptical: I am not particularly used to having sources which allow me to find names—let alone pen full biographies—for the "anonymous." Herein, though, lies the power of William Still's writings and of HSP's work: the digital history project combines the meticulousness of the HSP project leaders' work with the passionate detail of Still's own narrative and record-keeping and it produces, in part, names. And not just any names. This project pushes beyond the stories of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and William Still and it brings to life people like S. Bivans, Harriet Shepherd, Benjamin Johnson, and, yes, even "Anonymous Young Man 1." With further funding, the project will shed new light on 2,000 or so other individuals mentioned in Still’s writings.
Anonymous Young Man One
My foray into William Still's Underground Rail Road and Journal C (the latter a fascinating record of the funds required for the functioning of Philadelphia's Vigilance Committee) revealed that "Anonymous Young Man 1" fled slavery in Maryland with the Shepherd family in the late fall of 1855. He was not part of the family but rather a tag-along. Indeed, in relating the Shepherd family's escape, Still writes only that the family traveled with "five of this class, males and females" "who were wanting to visit Canada." The question at hand was, of course, who were those five people? Our HSP team determined quickly that they were "Anonymous Young Man 1," "Anonymous Young Man 2," Anonymous Young Man 3"...labels, not names.
Along his journey, “Anonymous Young Man 1” and his party reportedly traveled "looking as innocent as if they were going to meeting to hear an old-fashioned Southern sermon." Still's narrative focus remains squarely upon the Shepherd family; the five anonymous travelers fall from the story. Still tells of the Shepherd family's successful escape to southeastern Pennsylvania: we encounter Thomas Garrett, a prominent abolitionist and agent of the Underground Railroad and we journey with the Shepherds to Norristown where we learn that they must be divided in order to travel safely northward to Canada. It is unclear how the group divided. Our "anonymous" was difficult to track.
In an entirely different section of the more than 400-page journal, Still mentions a Thomas Gooseberry Jr., a young man who traveled from Maryland with "the eleven." This seemingly simple statement, it turned out, proved the key to revealing Anonymous's identity: “Anonymous Young Man 1,” we discovered, was Thomas. We then learned that he had a father named Tom and three sisters named Julia Ann, Mary Ellen, and Katie, and, in order to take a chance for freedom, he had to leave them behind with what was probably a potent blend of fear, excitement, sadness, and resolve.
He did more, though, than flee slavery. He staked a claim. He asserted, with his name, that he was more than chattel—indeed, he declared that he was not property at all. Nor was he merely one of "five of this class" determined to "visit Canada." He had a name. He had a family. And he must have said so, because William Still copied the seemingly simple word "Thomas," along with a line or two more, into his journal. With its digital history project, HSP has renewed Thomas's claim.
As a historian, this is the kind of work that's thrilling; the thousands of people like Thomas, the young man formerly known as "Anonymous," are what make HSP's work so exciting. HSP's prototype project includes more than 275 people that are mentioned in Still's writings (some are mentioned only once in passing, some with frequency). With further funding, HSP plans to expand the project to more than 2,000 people included in Still’s works. The project members are researching, writing, and encoding biographies, creating digital networking maps to show individuals' relationships with one another, and, perhaps most importantly of all, they are resurrecting the names and claims of those who boldly offered their stories to William Still nearly one hundred sixty years ago.
The names in the HSP database are symbolic of lives. The people who lived those lives staked their claim to participation in the world of names when they escaped the bounds of slavery, asserted their humanity, and performed the seemingly simple act of offering William Still the gift of their names. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania's William Still digital history project, then, ensures that Thomas's name and his story, along with those of many others, are known to all who seek them out.
University of Pennsylvania
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
They had such nice hand writing back then!
If only I had a dollar every time I’ve heard that. Yes, many scribes of our manuscripts did have a nice script. But there are plenty of writers who didn’t. My personal favorite is William Penn:
Shall I translate? This is a recipe he copied from his mother’s receipt book: “To Make Coffee” (for more about the recipe see this post.) But we cannot criticize Mr. Penn too much, after all, this copy was only intended for personal use.
Official correspondence, on the other hand, between anyone, had to be legible. All record keeping was done by hand; personal letters, business correspondence, copies of correspondence, bills, bank ledgers, orders, all of it had to be recognizable to everyone reading it.There were no telephones to verify an illegible order across the ocean, no typewriters to ensure uniform letter recognition. And even though, they make it look so easy, beautiful penmanship is not an innate skill. It was a skill to be learned, practiced and perfected. A confident legible script was vital for gainful employment.
There were several schools of thought and books students of penmanship could subscribe to. HSP’s collections hold some examples of these (printed) books including; Penmanship Explained; or The Principles of Writing Reduced to an exact Science by S.A. Potter. (Dj .1962)
According to Mr. Potter: “Writing should, in all cases, be a daily exercise. In most schools, one hour a day should be devoted to the subject of penmanship. Three-fourths of an hour should be given in a school. Many teachers consider this subject of so little importance that they let other studies of less consequence crowd it out, so that many of the boys and girls who have been under their charge, when obliged to leave school early to labor for a livelihood possess but a miserable handwriting. We look upon a cripple, made so by misfortune, with a great deal of sympathy, especially if he was wounded by a ball from the enemy. But when we see pupils sent out into the world, crippled in their handwriting for life, whom must we pity?
These books cover all the important elements of beautiful writing, including the pen and how to hold it, how to make a one, ink, paper, and posture, and of course, correct letter forms.
The workbooks include sample templates for bank deposits, bills and orders.
My favorite of these work books is the Spencerian System, (Dj .196). It is by far the most detailed in its instruction, illustrating the correct letter forms, as well as what is incorrect. Of all the books I looked at, I think I could actually teach myself from this one.
Working on the Bank of North America Collection (1939), has reinforced our admiration for the scribes of the bank. Their writing is beautiful and consistent. Everything they wrote is still perfectly legible.
In addition to the beautiful and legible writing the scribes left us, they also left us some beautiful embellishments. We like to imagine a bored scribe with nothing more to do at hand, than practice his penmanship.
In spite of the fact that these scribes worked so hard that we might be able to read their records 200 years later, we as a society are bumping up against an issue created by the proliferation of computers, texting, etc. If you have school age students you might already be aware that some schools are no longer teaching cursive. With the loss of this skill, reading manuscripts will become a necessary occupation for someone.
In the meantime, should you wish to practice your own penmanship, visit the website of the International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting. You find many lessons, tips and tricks.
Season's greetings everyone! Welcome back to another edition of entries from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (George F. Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). If you're just joining us, in 2012 HSP acquired the diaries of Bucks County resident and Civil War veterinary surgeon George F. Parry. In that collection are three diaries he kept during the Civil War dating from 1863 to 1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. In celebration of Parry's work and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I'm providing monthly posts on Fondly, PA of transcripts of entries from his diaries.
To see other posts in the series, check out the links over on the right-hand side of this page. Clicking on the diary images will take you to our Digital Library where you can examine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.
George Parry spent the bulk of December 1863 in northern Alabama, particularly the city of Huntsville, where he seemed to have a fine time. Among his non-military activities were a couple horse races, church services, and social engagements. It wasn't until close to the end of the month that Parry's regiment began its march once again. On Christmas Eve, he said farewell to Huntsville as the regiment moved north towards Tennessee. He ended up in the southern part of that state by the very end of the month.
Notes about the transcriptions: I've kept the pattern of Parry's writings as close as formatting here will allow, including his line breaks and spacing. My own additional or clarifying notes will be in brackets [ ]. Any grammatical hiccups that aren’t noted as such are Parry's own.
Friday, December 4
Very pleasant Day. Ladies of
Huntsville begin to travel the Streets
Have no fear of the Yankeys.
Got a fine lot of sausage and
very good times
Frazer and I Spent Eve. with the
Bakers' Girls[.] Wine[,] Cakes + Segars
Thursday, December 10
attended a Funeral of a Member
of our Regt. buried in the Episcopal
Cemetery in Military Style. Father
Tracy preached = 4 Regt. Band played
Horse race =
very fine day
Received Letter from Home + two News
Tuesday, December 15
Received Letter from Home and
Four Papers[,] also a letter
from Lizzie Linton[.]
attended a Masonic Lodge
met Springer and Lieut. McCormick
one Brother raised to Sublime
Degree of Master Mason
Monday, December 21
Very fine day[,] received a
Invitation to call on Mrs. Lea
Spent the evening at Mrs. Lewis[.]
Had a gay time[,] music by Miss Lewis
a Hot Headed Rebel – Had much
sport with her.
Frazier and I
slept at Mrs. Montgomerys
Friday, December 25
Up at five[,] began to move
at Daylight[,] passed through
Athens and marched till
9 o clock at night – a very
cold cloudy day[,] very disa-
Encamped on Elk River
opposite Elktown, Tennessee
Wednesday, December 30
Pluaski [Pulaski], Tenn.
Picked out 14 Horses
for Genl. Brooks
Turned over my medicine
To Div. Hd. Qrts.
Nice day –
men being mustered in
It's an old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in the Internet age, how do you make those "words" meaningful and searchable in Google? This question is at the heart of a new two-year project HSP has undertaken to enhance description and discovery of its graphics materials and promote the linking and sharing of content among institutions and scholars. Known as the "Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT)" project, this work is funded by a grant HSP recently received from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s Innovation in Archives and Documentary Editing program.
The primary goals of the HINT project are to improve HSP’s ability to manage and describe its digitized images and provide other libraries, archives, and museums with tools and strategies to increase discoverability of their own graphics items. To this end, HSP will develop a sophisticated image tool, based on our existing Digital Library viewer, with the ability to create and display TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) annotations. While predominately used for manuscript materials, TEI markup allows for sophisticated description, searching, and annotation with the potential to enhance the discoverability and understanding of graphics items. As visual materials are annotated with TEI, users who browse these collections will be able to search for images on specific topics, analyze images in depth, and follow links between images and related contextual material, thus allowing complex graphics materials to be discovered and read in more meaningful ways. In this regard, the HINT project will build upon two of HSP's previous digital history projects, Closed for Business and Preserving American Freedom, which display digital facsimiles of textual material alongside transcripts encoded in TEI and provide users with important contextual information about the documents.
HSP project staff will demonstrate these new avenues of accessibility through digitization of 500 political cartoons. These cartoons will span from the late 1700s to 1923 and will cover a range of topics and political themes, including the struggles of the colonial United States, the Civil War, and local Philadelphia politics. These images will be encoded in TEI and will ultimately contain clickable “zones” that will allow users to access pop-up text giving contextual information about the people, places, and issues contained in each cartoon. These images and annotation will be available in our Digital Library and in a separate exhibit site, similar to the previous digital history projects linked above.
Keep following this blog for project updates!
[this blog post was co-written by Hillary Kativa]
What bank ledgers contain, as anyone could imagine, is bank records. But in these old ledgers from the First Bank of North America collection, we have encountered several physical contents far beyond what one might expect. We have found bits of quills, pieces of blotter paper, particles of iron from the ink, some mysterious metal fragments from the original binding materials, etc. (link)
One of my favorites things is the insects, found while we are cleaning and taking apart the old broken bindings. Insects from old books usually remind me of book worms and the holes and trails they leave behind, but in the books of this collection, what we frequently find is the actual bodies of the dead insect, squished between the pages.
Finding a dead fly can be disturbing, and usually grosses me out at first, but the experience also allows me to be connected through history to the moment when the fly was initially caught. The very frequent appearance of dead flies allows us to imagine the hot and humid conditions of the bank offices of the time, often with open windows to make up for the lack of air conditioner. The squished flies may be the result of an irritated clerk trapping the annoying flies by quickly closing the heavy ledger.
This unusual insect, a centipede, made me curious and caused me to examine it with the manner of an entomologist, in a way I never would have ordinarily.
Finding these unidentified insects, preserved through time in these books, amuses and stimulates our curiosity. Encountering them becomes one of the privileges of being charged with the responsibility of cleaning and repairing these old ledgers.
As we find these dead insects, we carefully remove them and clean the pages to prevent further damage. However, we don’t want to erase all evidence of the existence of these bugs; we would also like to share what we have found with people outside of the conservation lab. We have uploaded a collection of photos on Flickr and will continue to add to it, and are very interested in information other, more insect-knowledgeable people, may have about them.