Fondly, Pennsylvania

HomeBlogsFondly, Pennsylvania

Fondly, Pennsylvania

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!

HSP Blog

Insects from the Bank of North America Collection

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)

Feather from quill pen

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.

 

 

 

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: November 1863

Hello readers and happy pre-holidays! This month, we're more than pleased to bring you another series 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.

*****

In November 1863, we find Parry and his regiment travelling through Northern Alabama to Huntsville. Parry's entries this month were much shorter than in previous months, consists mostly of single sentences.  He may have been very busy or unable to write frequently given how much ground the regiment covered in just about a month's time. Or, as Northern Alabama was somewhat unpopulated, perhaps there wasn't much to write about.


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.


Monday, November 2
Up at four and began to
Move at Day light – headed
South through a very nice
Country – very dull and
Cloudy to day

      very fine night
Encamped in fine Grove
very large trees

*****

Saturday, November 7
Examined every Horse in Regt

Presented for near 100 Horses

Got some Medicine from Bridgade[sic]

Weight 155 lbs –
  Very delightful
Day warm and nice –
   Wrote part
Of a letter home     60 Horses

*****

Monday, November 13
Reported Sergt Palmer for
indulgence and refusing
to obey orders (to Col Sipes)

Wrote a Letter Home[,]
ordered my Boots to be
sent by Hillier + Burge

*****

Wednesday, November 18
Maysville Alabama
Rept. Went on Scout after-
noon. I rode out into the
Country and called on the
Miss Connelys
  Received Papers
from home[,] also Letters

Attended Horse race

*****

Wednesday, November 25
Condemned 27 Horses and sent
to Nashville[.] Broke camp and
after a very nice march arrived
at Huntsville[,] one of the finest
towns I ever saw. Evening Frazier
and I took a Stroll around Town[.]
Our Boys had a Party – Dancing
Our Regt Encamped in Houses in
Town – and Col. Sipes[,] Provo Marshall[,]
and our Boys Provo [Lands?]—
very cold and frosty

*****

Monday, November 30
Huntsville Alabama
afternoon Fetter and I took
a walk around Town –
spit at by some young ladies
wrote a Letter to Benj Hough

Eve. Major Jennings and I had
A very gay tim with some
Friends – staid[sic] all night with
Major
                   A. Y.  M. xx Pay and

*****


 

Enduring the Past

Posted on behalf of Jacob Roberts, an intern who worked on the Preserving American Freedom Project

While working on the Preserving American Freedom Project, it is easy to take for granted how many one-of-a-kind documents have been preserved at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In many cases, these papers could have just as easily been lost or destroyed by those who did not see historical value in them. The fact that so many survived is nothing short of miraculous.

One such document I have come across during my internship is John Brown's "A Declaration of Liberty, By the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America." Brown is best known for his raid on the armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859 where he hoped to incite a slave rebellion and end the institution of slavery in America. Although Brown and his followers were able to infiltrate the armory and free a few slaves, they were quickly captured by U.S. troops, convicted of treason, and executed. After the battle, federal soldiers found a cache of papers, letters, and maps at the Kennedy Farmhouse just outside Harpers Ferry. Brown's group had hidden there for months while planning the attack and left a paper trail of their preparation. Among the many documents recovered was the Declaration of Liberty, essentially a manifesto of Brown's movement. The Declaration borrowed language from the Declaration of Independence, using its similarities to exhibit the hypocrisy of the founding fathers, who expounded freedom for America while slavery still ran rampant.

US Marines storming Harpers Ferry

As I conducted this research, I started to wonder how John Brown's Declaration of Liberty survived through all the chaos. Not only was it acquired in the middle of a military operation, it was also used as evidence in Brown’s trial. It must have been passed between many different people in a very short time. Looking at the relic today, it is in amazingly good shape. The Declaration, handwritten by Owen Brown, John Brown’s son, is glued to a long cloth and rolled around a wooden shaft, not unlike a scroll. Based on early descriptions of the document, the only thing missing is a piece of string looped through one end. As I delved deeper into the story of Harpers Ferry, I learned what might have happened to the Declaration, as well as the countless letters and maps Brown had collected at the Kennedy Farmhouse.

John Brown's Declaration of Liberty

The governor of Virginia, Henry Wise, was furious when he heard about Brown's raid on the armory. Determined to prove that the attack was part of a larger Northern conspiracy to abolish slavery, he ordered Henry Hudnall (likely a lawyer-clerk) to investigate the cache of papers found at the Kennedy Farmhouse. These papers are often referred to as the "captain's carpetbag," because they belonged to John Brown (the "captain") and were originally found in a large traveling bag by soldiers. The collection of papers proved to be a treasure trove of information about Brown's activity in the years leading up to the raid, the wealthy abolitionists who funded it, and Brown's progressive vision of an alternative, free republic.

Photograph of the Kennedy Farmhouse

Hudnall transcribed the relevant documents, including the Declaration of Liberty, and sent a report back to Wise. The report revealed Brown’s plans to lead an army of freed slaves into the Appalachian Mountains where he planned to form an independent country and abolish slavery. The report also included a letter from Gerrit Smith, the notable Northern abolitionist, promising Brown $200 for his cause. This evidence of Northern collaboration sent Virginians into a panic. The state government passed down Brown’s death sentence swiftly, and in a little more than a year the disgruntled state seceded from the Union.

John Brown's execution

Even before Brown’s body was cold, the carpetbag full of incriminating papers had been broken up and sent around the country. Some documents arrived at the United States Senate where they were transcribed for a federal report. Others were collected by private citizens and donated to various historical institutions. Based on my research, it seems possible that Ferdinand J. Dreer, who was known to collect autographs and had a particular interest in the incident at Harpers Ferry, acquired the Declaration in the wake of the trial. Dreer’s entire collection of rare documents was donated to the HSP in 1890. If he had the Declaration in his possession, it would have arrived at the HSP at that time.

But the Declaration of Liberty was not the only significant document to come out of the raid on Harpers Ferry. While Brown was waiting in his cell in the weeks before his death, he exchanged countless letters with co-conspirators, family members, and people who sympathized with his cause. A large file (not to be confused with the captain’s carpetbag) of this correspondence was stored in the Library of Virginia after Brown was hung. There it sat, undisturbed in the Confederate capitol of Richmond for five years as the nation fought a devastating civil war.

In 1865, the war was ending and the librarian in Richmond learned that Union troops were closing in on the city. Recognizing the value of the Brown letters, he frantically gathered them up, scrambled to the upper floor of the library, and stuffed them into a wall panel. After the Union occupied the city and reestablished the state government, the librarian left his position without retrieving the papers. No one else knew exactly where he put them, and they became lost for nearly thirty years.

At least, that was the legend told to W. W. Scott, the new Virginia State Librarian, in 1894. Scott also understood the historic value of the Brown letters, and spent the better part of a decade searching for them. As soon as he heard the story about the papers being hidden in 1865, he went to the top gallery of the library to look for himself. Once there, he found no wall panels that any papers could have been hidden behind. Disappointed, Scott began interviewing people who had been employed by the library in 1865.

Scott found a lead in Walker Howard, an African American janitor who had worked in the library since the Civil War. Howard did not corroborate the story of the Brown papers being hidden in an upstairs wall. Instead he claimed that when the war began, the librarian had knocked a hole in a basement wall and placed them inside. Unfortunately, the hole had been sealed to protect the papers, and he could not recall where it was. Unperturbed, Scott called in brick masons to find a hollow spot in the wall. When the brick masons believed they had found one, he ordered them to knock it down. Of this adventure Scott writes, "While the excavation was going on it was as absorbing as digging for buried treasure, and it ended in the usual result."

Disappointed yet again, Scott finally gave up actively searching. He believed it was likely that Union troops had stolen the letters when they raided Richmond in 1865, and subsequently lost them. As luck would have it, Scott was conducting a meticulous inventory of the archives in 1901 to determine if certain documents had been stolen when he stumbled across a dusty envelope titled "John Brown Papers" just sitting on a shelf. Inside were most of the original letters Brown had received while awaiting his execution. If not for Scott's recognition of these important papers, they very well might have been lost forever. These letters have since been recorded on microfilm, and some of them are available at the Library of Virginia.

We may never know exactly what path the Declaration took to the HSP or where each individual letter found in the Library of Virginia ended up. The paper trail grows colder the further we look back. Nevertheless, the travails of these objects remind us of how lucky we are to have preserved anything at all from the past. And much of what we do have we owe to the obsessions of heroic librarians and collectors like Scott and Dreer.

Of course, contemporary society has a very different problem with preserving important information. Imagine a historian, one hundred years from now, trying to conduct research about your life (also try to imagine that you are as legendary as John Brown). Chances are there are very few documents that you have maintained in paper form. The majority of our information exchange happens digitally, with personal data being stored on a server in an unknown location, or in a media format that will become obsolete and incompatible with future computers. If John Brown's Declaration had been stored on the equivalent of an ancient computer punch card, it is doubtful that it would be able to tell the story of American freedom at all.

Skeletons in the Vaults

As Halloween approaches, this seems like the right time to share a few of the skeletons in our closets here at HSP. Actual skeletons. Well, actual drawings and prints of skeletons. And they're from our vaults and stacks, not closets, but that was too good of a lead-in to waste.

skeleton anatomical engraving

These two undated prints are anatomical engravings, printed in Philadelphia, which are actually quite delicate and pretty. I especially enjoy how the artist has placed the skeletons outdoors, and so they stroll down a country lane, gazing off into the distance through their empty eye sockets and lounge against some leg bones. As one does when one is a skeleton, I suppose.


skeleton engraving with leg bones and skull

This next ambulatory fellow is from a political cartoon created circa 1820 and dedicated to the Temperance Societies, who advocated against the use of alcohol. The Temperance movement in the United States gained steam throughout the early-mid 1800s and culminated with Prohibition, which was law from 1920 to 1933. This cartoon shows great attention to detail -- you can see how similar this skeleton is to the ones above. The cartoonist obviously cared about scientific realism as well as making his point about the dangers of alcohol.

skeleton in a Temperance Society cartoon, circa 1820

Here, Death (as depicted in his most commonly used persona, the walking skeleton) wears an alcohol still on his head labeled "U.S. heavy drinkers," and carries various ingredients that are used in alcoholic beverages. In the background, a tavern offers free drinks to anyone who buys a lottery ticket, and some skeletons (presumably unfortunate drinkers) cavort on the grass while others perform military drills.

This next image is one of my favorite archives discoveries. It's...well, look at it and take a guess.

handmade lampshade featuring death and devils

Fan? Collar? Victorian Pacman? My best guess is that it's a handmade (unfinished) lampshade, which would be cut out, rolled into a cone, and placed atop a lamp. It's made of paper and the decorations are handpainted. Here are some highlights, but I really recommend clicking through to see the full image on our Digital Library.

devils gringing up people in a mortar and pestle

We've got devils grinding frilly-skirted women in a giant mortar and pestle, and one sneaky little devil cutting another's tail with some scissors.

beetle jousting knights

Tiny knights jousting on a regular-sized beetle and snail, or regular-sized knights jousting on a giant beetle and snail (take your pick).

beating back death

And two men beating back Death using a bottle of "Holloway Universal Medicin" [sic] and a plate of pills. Poor Death has even dropped his scythe and hourglass, so ferocious is the onslaught of modern medical science.

The rest of the lampshade depicts the wind rushing at the moon, scattering terrified stars; a devil shooting human bodies out of a cannon; a man presenting a woman with a bouquet, and lots of meticulously drawn insects creeping around between the larger scenes. The sweet image of the man and woman really does nothing to dispel the overall creepy feeling of this item as a whole, which make it a perfect item to showcase around All Hallow's Eve.

And if anyone knows anything about handmade lampshades, get in touch in the comments!

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: October 1863

Hi everyone! Thanks for joining us again as we roll through another series 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.

*****

In October 1863, we join Parry as he and his regiment traveled south through Tennessee. Over the course of the month, things seem to have moved at a slower pace, which was probably welcome after having been through battle late last month. However, as Parry noted frequently, their poor horses and mules were worked to death during the long marches, and there was often a lack of feed. By the end of the month, Parry's in Stevenson, Alabama, a small and apparently pleasant town located not far from the Tennessee border.


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.


Sunday, October 4
Got a Pass to cross the
River to Chattanooga from
Genl Steadman command
Pass for ten Day from (Lwift)?

Called on Genl Turchon
Had a very nice time
Bay Horse slightly wounded

Tennessee River rising[,] one
Bridge gone. Horses all sent
out of Chattanooga – for feeding
Sunday received six letters and had
A good time reading them[.] one from
Carrie and Ellie Paff – also some (News)?
wrote a letter home sent $10.00

*****

Friday, October 9
Reading a novel all the morn-
ing --
           took a walk over the Camp
field[,] saw many Hungry and many
mules + Horses starving for the
want of feed – Bought a
Pie Leather[?] Pie[.] very nice
day. Saw some of Genl Grants'
men.

*****

Tuesday, October 13
Chattanooga Tennessee River
this is Election Day in Penn.
Curtin and Woodward for
Governor.
            A very hard rainy
Day[.] Hard to keep dry in
tent.
            Reading and sleeping
Taking Dr. Bonsalls drops for
Bowles[sic] ---
            Wrote a letter to
Frank Cadwallader

*****

Tuesday, October 20
In Camp all Day and did
not move. Very nice Day
Slept[,] read and down to
the river[.] Saw some strange
birds ---
             In good health
Ordered to Move at 6PM[sic] in
the morning[.] Spent the Eve.
on the Banks of the River
splendid Evening

*****

Thursday, October 22
Road to Stevenson Alabama
Up at daylight and began to
Ascend the Walnut Ridge of Cumber-
land Mountain[,] all day getting up
and very hard day for the mules.
Encamped on the top and spent
The night[.] made a fire to sleep
by --- clear 12 o clock woke up
found it raining Hard. Some
thief stole my Rations.

*****

Tuesday, October 27
Started on march at sun rise
and after a days march south
and much sport arrived at Jasper[.]
Looked around[,] saw the town and
bought three Pies[,] Box Sardines
had a right good supper[,] saw a
soldier buried – small pox very bad here – a very nice town on a very
level piece of ground hemed in by
mountains

*****

Saturday, October 31
Steavenson[sic] Alabama
Accompanied by Wm. Yetters [Yellers?]
Went down to Steavenson

I got my hair cut ---

Got weighed – weight 152 lbs.

Clear and nice ---

Underground Railroad Items on Display at HSP Through October 25

The two documents featured in HSP's in-progress William Still Digital History Project are—for a brief time—on display in HSP's library, part of our Treasures from the Collection document display.

The document display will be open during library public hours from October 16 through October 25, 2013. There is no charge to view the display, and full details and hours are available here.

Both of these William Still volumes provide extraordinary insight into the experiences of enslaved individuals and families who passed through Philadelphia between 1852 and 1857 and the covert networks that aided their escape. As chairman of the Vigilance Committee, Still recorded notes of the personal accounts of fugitives who arrived in Philadelphia. Twenty years later, he relied on those notes to write The Underground Rail Road (1872), the most extensive contemporary compendium of the Underground Railroad's workings in this region.

Both the journal and the published book will be on display through October 25. Also on display are life portraits of William and Hannah Penn, the first handwritten draft of the U.S. Constitution, and censored correspondence from a Japanese internment camp.

Of course, if you're not able to make it to the document display, you can also find images of the two Still volumes online in our Digital Library. And in January, we'll launch our rich new Still Digital History Project that weaves these two important documents together in new ways.

 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Ink Blots Found in the Bank of North America Collection

When I began working on the Bank of North America collection in August, I was pleasantly surprised by the prevalence of ink blots within the ledgers I was cleaning and consolidating. As I collected these dark, obscure visions, I began to see them as evidence of the original bank clerk’s humanity – his unavoidable errs in writing and his inability to produce a completely perfect manuscript despite the obvious mastery of his writing implement.

This humanity allows the ledger to be not only a record of account information, but a bridge across space and time. I, and any researcher who may page the volume upon completion of the project, am a direct witness to an occurrence of two hundred years ago, when a bank clerk lost control of the flow of his ink.

Quickly I considered these “flaws” to be one of the most beautiful elements of the ledgers in the collection, and I looked forward to each new discovery.

Naturally, the imagery entices one to draw an immediate connection to the image-based test we all know and love that brought ink blots to the forefront of psychiatry – the Rorschach test. However, I must admit that when discovering these dark and strange mirrored images the Rorschach test is the last thing on my mind. 

Instead, I wonder about the bank clerk responsible for this ink blot. Was he frustrated with himself for marring what was otherwise a perfect page? Or did he, like me, pause for a moment to witness the beauty of the image growing before him, the dark conquering the light?

Did he return to the page after closing it, to revel in the mirror image formed on the opposing page? Did he imagine the same characters, animals, and narratives in these shapes as I, two hundred years later?

For more images of the collection's ink blots, please visit our Flickr site

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: September 1863

Greeting one and all! We're back this month with another group of transcripts 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, PAof 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 Librarywhere you can examine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.

*****

This month we have an extended offering of transcripts that include entries concerning Parry's participation in the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia. (This year marks the 150th anniversary of the battle.)  As Parry's regiment moved through Tennessee into Georgia, things remained quiet until it reached the outskirts of Chickamauga on the 18th. Though Parry never mentioned the name of the battle or town, his notes coincide with the historical record, and it's clear that his regiment took a beating. This was a tough September for Parry and the Union Army.


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.


Tuesday, September 1
Accompanied by Capt. Newcomer and
squad of twenty
men. We left Camp at seven[,] proceeded
to the Tennessee River. Here I was shot
at and very near hit by the Rebel sharpshooter[.]
a number of Balls came wissing[sic] by us[.]
Scouted the county in search of Mules
and Horses. found some. Col. Dimner at
a Union Mans[sic]cabin. Went down to
[Blye T'enny?] And amused ourselves
by shooting at the Rebel Pickets along
the river. very interesting time[.]
at the Garrison a fort erected in the
Indian war. Got a splendid Colt of
a Rebel their[sic].

*****

Saturday, September 12
Up at twelve[,] in saddle and
marched to Tennessee river opposite
Chatanogga[sic]. A long train wait-
ing to get across the river[.]
Afternoon went down to the Tenn-
essee River and took a swim
Rebel Deserters coming in all
the time. Brag[g]'s army bound
for Atlanta[,] Georgia.

*****

Friday, September 18
Wrote a letter to W. P. Sharkey ------ did not send it
at ten o'clock we where attacked by
the Rebels and after fighting them
four hours we fell back six miles to
our main lines for reinforcements[.]
three  of our Reg't killed and many
wounded – very hard fighting.
very cold. Reinforcements come-
ing up[,] we halted for the night
men laying on their arms

*****

Saturday, September 19
Battle raging[,] reinforcements come
up all night. Very cold. Bet ten
Dolls. and won on Gen'l Rosecrans
Terrible Battle raging all Day[.]
Our men killed by the thousands

Saw men wounded + killed by the
Hundreds.

        Loss. 1200 Killed
                Wounded 7000 -----
Slightly wounded in neck by shell
marched all night and very cold
and frosty.

*****

Sunday, September 20
Battle still raging[,] our men driven
back.

Wagons fell back and commenced
crossing the Tennessee River[.] they
crossed all night and day.

Fell back to Chattanooga[,] slept
warm and well       very cold

*****

Monday, September 21
Wagons crossing the Tenn, River
all night. Rosecrans reinforced
got my dinner expense for Dinner
$2.75[.] Letter from Frank Cadwallader[.]
went out to the front in the Evening
Capt. May killed. all night till day
Light in one Hundred yards of rebel
Lines. cold—The fighting been been
Very terrific to Day. our forces com-
peled[sic] to fall back

Loaned Geo. Frazer twenty Dollars.

*****

Tuesday September 22
All night in front Rebel lines
up at three and in saddle[,] retreated
at Chattanooga + crossed the river
our Wagons have been crossing
for two days and nights

           our Army fell back to
Chattanooga[.] fighting all
Day.

            Washed off in Tenn. River
            Very cold

*****

Friday, September 25
Tennessee on march
Marched after Day Light
slow till four O'clock[,] then
encamped for the night
very dusty and some warm

some cold[,] slept well
in camp in a Hollow twenty
four miles north east of Tenn.
Chattanooga Tenn.

Stationery Binders in Philadelphia

The conservation team continues to document and treat the ledgers in the Bank of North America collection. The nature of our work requires careful examination of the books' physical structure, which will affect the individual treatment to be carried out. This presented us with a great opportunity to compare many binding styles and glean insights into Philadelphia's stationery trade. We've photographed the over 670 ledgers in the collection and have found that the bank made use of the services of at least a dozen different stationers over the years. Stationers provided writing supplies and usually bound and sold blank books. Some stationers were printers, publishers and booksellers as well.

The small printed tickets affixed by binders to the books they made are usually found on the front pastedown. The ticket above was found inside a ledger made in 1782 and it describes the business thus: "Where all Sorts of Account Books are Made and Ruled to any Pattern. He likewise sells all Sorts of stationery wares at the Lowest Rates". Some of these wares are named and illustrated in the decorative border: Slates, Wafers, Pencils, Wax, Ink Powder and Paper. The shop's address was later amended by hand.

J. P. Parke's book and stationery store was located at 75 Chestnut St. and later at 74 S. 2nd St. in Philadelphia. The ledger above was bound in 1814. Parke specialized in medical books and some of his diaries are held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. His ticket depicts the statue of Benjamin Franklin, a fellow Philadelphia stationer, printer and bookseller. Francesco Lazzarini depicted Franklin in classical robes, standing by a tower of books. The statue was placed in the niche above the Library Company's door in 1792, just down the street from both Parke's shop and the Bank of North America.

The ledger seen above was bound in 1813 according to "Sullivan's Patent". Inside the book, John T. Sullivan's ticket depicts its binding.

William H. Maurice's ticket, seen above, has a bee skep as a device and the motto: "Industry must thrive". Maurice was listed in Philadelphia business directories between 1845 and 1863 under many other occupations, such as dry goods clerk, alongside his stationery trade.

Most of the stationers represented in the tickets in this collection worked in close proximity to each other as well as the bank. In order to purchase a new blank book, a clerk of the bank simply had to walk down to Chestnut Street. Stationers produced books to their clients' specifications and several volumes in this collection bear penciled notes on the flyleaves that instruct the finisher in the required ruling and numbering pattern. Some of these binders continued to be active as booksellers and publishers well into the 20th century. Altemus & Co., founded by Joseph T. Altemus in the 1830's, was one such business. The ticket above comes from a ledger bound in 1907. Many more examples of binders' tickets found in the Bank of North America collection, together with the bindings they were found in, can be seen on the project's flickr page. The Historical Society holds several trade periodicals such as the Printers Circular and Stationers' and Publishers' Gazette.

Boosting Morale

Before World War II began in 1939, America and much of the world was in the midst of an economic depression.  Once war efforts began, young men from around the country enlisted, thus creating openings for various types of factory jobs.  These vacancies, combined with an all time high of unemployment rates, set the stage for a large quantity of women to join the labor force.  Manufacturing companies that were major producers of consumer goods refocused their efforts to aid Allied Powers during the war.  As battle in the European and Pacific theaters intensified, radio producers, electric companies, and many other manufacturers began to assemble supplies for the military.

To keep up with the increasing demand of materials, war workers in American plants dedicated themselves to long hours and difficult, manual labor.  In order to show gratitude and support, frequent rallies were held at these manufacturing companies.  Boosting morale and increasing production rates were high priorities of these events.  Often times, wounded veterans and high ranking officers gave speeches to relay their personal war time experiences.  Detailed stories of unlikely survival created a bond between soldiers and war workers in which the importance of production was reiterated.  During these talks, it was common for employees to be asked to raise their hands indicating they had family or friends somewhere in the service.  This also strengthened efforts and morale, while increasing the likelihood of war bond sales.

Military personnel also frequently received factory tours in which they witnessed different production processes, conversed with employees, and even took their turn at handling the machinery.

Interacting with war workers was vital to the success of maintaining positive work atmospheres and high manufacturing rates.  This also kept the spirits of veterans high, particularly when touring alongside female employees.  What once seemed bleak and uninteresting, quickly grabbed the attention of these military men.  One might even be convinced they were genuinely interested in how the tools worked.

It doesn't take long to realize the true interests of the soliders.  Simply track their smiles and eyes and this becomes obvious.  Nothing is as apparent when veterans and employees are seen taking a break from the tour to embrace in a kiss. 

The question then becomes: "whose morale was being boosted?"  This is not an easy question to answer, as it looks like the manufacturing plant tours were enjoyable for all--maybe this was the true cause of increased production rates.  Whatever the case may be, the home front efforts by men and women war workers were vital to meeting the high demand of military materials.

11/27/13
Author: Sun Young Kang

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)

Comments: 0

11/20/13
Author: Cary Hutto

Hello readers and happy pre-holidays! This month, we're more than pleased to bring you another series 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.

Comments: 0

11/6/13
Author: Rachel Moloshok

Posted on behalf of Jacob Roberts, an intern who worked on the Preserving American Freedom Project

While working on the Preserving American Freedom Project, it is easy to take for granted how many one-of-a-kind documents have been preserved at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In many cases, these papers could have just as easily been lost or destroyed by those who did not see historical value in them. The fact that so many survived is nothing short of miraculous.

Comments: 0

10/29/13
Author: Sarah Newhouse

As Halloween approaches, this seems like the right time to share a few of the skeletons in our closets here at HSP. Actual skeletons. Well, actual drawings and prints of skeletons. And they're from our vaults and stacks, not closets, but that was too good of a lead-in to waste.

skeleton anatomical engraving

Comments: 1

10/23/13
Author: Cary Hutto

Hi everyone! Thanks for joining us again as we roll through another series 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.

Comments: 0

10/16/13
Author: Dana Dorman

The two documents featured in HSP's in-progress William Still Digital History Project are—for a brief time—on display in HSP's library, part of our Treasures from the Collection document display.

The document display will be open during library public hours from October 16 through October 25, 2013. There is no charge to view the display, and full details and hours are available here.

Comments: 0

10/8/13
Author: Erin Paulson

When I began working on the Bank of North America collection in August, I was pleasantly surprised by the prevalence of ink blots within the ledgers I was cleaning and consolidating. As I collected these dark, obscure visions, I began to see them as evidence of the original bank clerk’s humanity – his unavoidable errs in writing and his inability to produce a completely perfect manuscript despite the obvious mastery of his writing implement.

Comments: 1

9/18/13
Author: Cary Hutto

Greeting one and all! We're back this month with another group of transcripts 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.

Comments: 0

9/4/13
Author: Alina Josan

The conservation team continues to document and treat the ledgers in the Bank of North America collection. The nature of our work requires careful examination of the books' physical structure, which will affect the individual treatment to be carried out. This presented us with a great opportunity to compare many binding styles and glean insights into Philadelphia's stationery trade. We've photographed the over 670 ledgers in the collection and have found that the bank made use of the services of at least a dozen different stationers over the years.

Comments: 0

8/28/13
Author: Dave Klimowicz

Before World War II began in 1939, America and much of the world was in the midst of an economic depression.  Once war efforts began, young men from around the country enlisted, thus creating openings for various types of factory jobs.  These vacancies, combined with an all time high of unemployment rates, set the stage for a large quantity of women to join the labor force.  Manufacturing companies that were major producers of consumer goods refocused their efforts to aid Allied Powers during the war.  As battle in the European and Pacific theaters intensified, radio producers, electric co

Comments: 0