Perhaps it’s just that reading organizational records means more bureaucracy than I’m generally used to, but I’ve been intrigued by entries in the monthly meeting minutes of the Philadelphia Society of Friends that report on general levels of attendance at meetings throughout the week. I’ve just moved on to the yearly meeting, and found that those reports were aggregated, with the conclusion “The hour is generally well observed. All the meetings notice instances of sleeping, but in other respects little unbecoming behavior.”
I’ve finally tracked down the files containing army correspondence relative to Fort Gibson, in Indian Territory, around the time that the Cherokee Nation raised funds for famine relief. Many of the letters are about troop movements, but the one I’m reading now is crabby about whoever is responsible for the fort’s finances:
You are mistaken in supposing that the regulation of July 12th, 1845 went into operation at Fort Gibson only from the date of its recipt at the post (August 10th). The Regulation, like an act of any legislature, takes effect from its date.
The explanation in reference to the large amount paid for garden seeds is not entirely satisfactory.
I took a trip down to Charleston today to look at the records of the Charleston Hibernian Society – the body that collected donations for famine relief in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. All told, these men took in approximately $15,000, and letters to the English consulate in New Orleans suggest that still more donations were made directly to British representatives in America. Sadly, the 1886 Charleston earthquake seems to have destroyed the minute books between February of 1847 and early 1857, so there was less than I’d hoped for. Nevertheless, I’ve come away with a list of members of the Charleston Hibernian Society to crosslist (and hopefully map) against the list of donors I’ve already assembled.
I also came across this delightful budget from February of 1847 –
The Treasurer Reports having paid the following bills:
Hayden & Gregg for Lamps $ 3.38
To Patriot for Advertising 17.50
G W Black for Building Drain 157.22
Stevens & Betts for Spittons & Spade 4.62
Stephen Jones for Repairing fence in yard 3.37
And for 1 Doz Porter 3.25
Aside from whatever was going on with that drain (G.W. Black was admitted to the Hibernian Society at the same meeting that bill was submitted, and seems to have been related to other members of the society, so I couldn’t help but wonder whether he was getting some kind of kick-back), I very much appreciate that a dozen porters could be bought for the same price as lamps or fence repairs, and that whoever bought those beers saw fit to charge them to the Society. The treasurer’s books also featured several remittances for whiskey.
Building on the patterns I’ve been trying to track in famine donors, I also noticed today that of the thirteen individual donors from New York City, nearly a quarter lived within a few blocks on Henry Street. I don’t know what it’s about, or if it’s just a random happenstance but I’ve got a whole other list of NYC donors and I look forward to finding out!
I’m a little late to the game with this, but I was really happy to find that in 2012, the US National Archives moved into the online gaming world and into the itunes store, with apps like DocsTeach (online here). DocsTeach is, on the face of it, a fantastic idea. It centers the idea that a considerable part of historical learning comes through the analysis of primary sources, and seems to try to build activities that would be accessible to students with different learning styles. Many of the activities are tactile, insofar as you’re asked to move documents around, though some are more well-developed than others. For the activity on suffrage, for example the task is to arrange documents in the order in which they were produced – a fine way to teach reading skills, but not so much specific to women’s suffrage in America.
The Lewis & Clark expedition activity, on the other hand, requires a little more critical thinking, as well as some sounder pedagogy. Given a map of the United States and a bunch of documents, students are told:
“In 1803 the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. President Jackson sent co-captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore west of the Mississippi River in 1804. Their route west is shown in green. Although this territory was unknown to some, to others it was very familiar.
Examine the documents related to the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Determine where different groups were involved and use the hints to place the documents on the X’s on the map.”
The documents include Lewis’s speech to the Otto Indians (August, 1804), “List of Indian Presents Purchased by Meriwether Lewis in Preparation for the Expedition to the West” (1803), and the “Proclamation to the People of New Orleans” announcing the Louisiana Purchase. Having placed the documents on the map, students are asked to make a list of all of the powers at play in the region, and come to class prepared to share with classmates. Though some of the language in the app, especially in the instructions elides native agency (things happen to, or are given to Indians – there’s no sense that Indians were active players in this at all), and only hints at the extent to which the United States was a young, untried, and anxious nation, it’s not a bad game overall. I’m happy that the National Archives is thinking pedagogically, and that there’s an initiative to digitize documents that students might not otherwise ever be able to see.
From the New Orleans Picayune of September 9th, 1850:
At a recent meeting of Irishmen in New York, among other matters, it was Resolved, that any person who thence shall toast or drink the health of Victoria – the Queen of the English – merits and shall receive, socially and politically, the disfavor and contempt of every Irishman.
From the American Flag (Matamoros, Mexico) May 26th, 1847
Moustached men, rejoice! A writer in the London Naval and Military Gazette contends that moustaches act as part of the respiratory organs, sift and purify the atmosphere before it reaches the lungs, and are, consequently preservative against consumption.
I really don’t know what to make of this gobbet, published in the American Flag, the newspaper of Matamoros in the 1840s on February 13th, 1847:
Q. Where was the Cradle of Liberty first seen?
A. On the Rock of Plymouth.
Q. Who rocked the cradled?
A. The Pilgrim Fathers.
Q. Why did they rock the cradle?
A. To put the infant Liberty to sleep, whist they put the Quakers to death.
As a side project, C and I are trying to put together a curated New York City walk. We’re starting with a public health theme, centered on the story of “typhoid” Mary Mallon, perhaps the most famous silent carrier in American history. It’s easy to see epidemics like typhoid as urban problems, and many health experts throughout history have prescribed a clean air rest cure exactly because the close, airless conditions that are common in cities were thought to be insalubrious. (An aside, at a recent talk at NYU David Oshinsky argued that Roosevelt’s polio might be traced to just such a proscription for clean air. Oshinsky thinks that stress from Congressional hearings about gays in the Navy combined with a vacation that featured vigorous outdoor activity and swimming in the Bay of Fundy made Roosevelt particularly susceptible to the polio virus, which he might have picked up while visiting a boyscout jamboree in 1921.) I came across another counterexample while looking for an organic dairy that would deliver near where I live. In 1894, the New York Times reported a “local epidemic of typhoid fever in Montclair, NJ” that was traced to a Verona milkman named G.W. Gould. There’s no particular revelation here – typhoid can be spread through a number of media and food was historically one of the most common.
Having recently re-worked my statement of teaching philosophy – in which I lay a great deal of emphasis on encouraging students to think of history in terms of human consequences rather than a litany of facts, this article on the Montclair typhoid epidemic served as a nice reminder of the ways in which academic history can intersect in unexpected ways with “real” life – and reminds me how much I want to destabilize the model that deliniates between life in the ivory tower and everything outside of it. The “service learning” concept, which is used by some colleges to encourage their students to “not only learn the practical applications of their studies, [but also to] become actively contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform,” satisfies this need admirably.
From the Dublin Nation of October 17th, 1846:
“On the whole, we advise the Irish people by no means to rely on government officials, or government relief, and especially to fear and distrust mere Political Economists.”