Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Intern's Report: My Internship at the David Library by Oliver Shortridge

Oliver Shortridge graduates this spring from Temple University where he wrote a senior thesis on the history of radio manufacturing in Philadelphia.  A life-long train enthusiast, Oliver works part-time at the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad in Bucks County. He was an intern at the David Library this past semester.   

          In my final semester as a history major at Temple University, I had the option of earning some final credits through an internship, rather than by taking another class. Even though my focus of study was primarily the Industrial Revolution through to the end of the Cold War, the David Library of the American Revolution was a logical choice for an internship for me; I live nearby, and have a personal interest in the American Revolution.
Oliver Shortridge
            To be honest, I had no concrete idea of what I would be doing at the library, but I ended up contributing to several projects  on the library’s “to do” list. The first big project I worked on was the newspaper digitization project, in which I catalogued the Library’s collection of Revolutionary-era newspapers and then photographed each of them page by page to make the fragile primary sources available for the public. As a history student, I am no stranger to working with primary documents, and in the many different papers I wrote for my classes, I was usually required to find at least one primary source on the topic of which I was writing. However, the newspaper project was really the first time I physically got to work with primary sources. I felt privileged to be entrusted to work with these papers and it was a humbling experience to be able to hold an authentic newspaper from the 1770s, and skimming through them helped me learn the vernacular of the 18th Century.

            The finding aid project was an especially satisfying one for me. As a person with mild OCD, updating already existing finding aids and creating ones on topics like Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, and the Continental Navy was right up my alley. I also worked with the vertical files on personal accounts in much the same way.

           The county mapping project was very interesting to work on. I had known that the borders of different counties changed over time, but I did not know how they changed, or even that several counties borders have changed numerous times. It was neat to compile the different states, and I especially enjoyed being entrusted with certain editorial decisions regarding the finished product.  
            In addition to both working on projects and the day-to-day library work, I also helped people with their research. On numerous occasions, Librarian Kathie Ludwig would have me look up information requested by an offsite researcher, often a family historian seeking  details about an ancestor who may have fought in the Revolution. I did not always find what the patron was looking for, but when I did, and was able to say, “Yes, you are descended from someone who helped create this country,” it was without a doubt the most gratifying experience of my internship. (While browsing through the pension index on behalf of one such offsite researcher, I even came across  someone possibly related to me!)

            As my internship draws to a close, I can look back and say that it was definitely everything I had hoped it would be and more. I got to meet many different people and learn more about the Revolutionary War than I had anywhere else. I have picked up some new and useful computer and research skills, and I’ve seen up close how a library is run.  Even though I most likely will not end up getting a job in any academic or historical institution, I am certain that what I learned during my internship at the David Library of the American Revolution will be of enormous help to me in my future career.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Black History Month: The Story of Prince Freeman

Guest Blogger:  Emily Bigioni

Many people tend to forget that there were African-American soldiers who served in the American Revolution, many of whom applied for and received military pensions. In honor of Black History Month, we have the story of one of these soldiers and pensioners:

Prince Freeman's discharge document, 
signed by General Washington,
showing that he was honored
with the Badge of Merit.
On April 10, 1818, Prince Freeman, an African-American veteran of the Revolutionary War, applied for a pension in Windham County, Vermont. At that point, he was a farmer in Grafton, Vermont. He had first enlisted in May of 1777 as a private in Captain Bulkley's company, in the 3rd Connecticut Regiment, commanded by Samuel Blachley Webb. Freeman served until the end of the war, and was honorably discharged in 1783, on the 8th day of June. After the war, Freeman applied for a bounty land warrant, and moved to Vermont. However, his pension claims that in 1818 he was “destitute of property [and] advanced in years”—aged sixty-two; he further states that he had two young children dependent on him for support. Having been injured in the war, Freeman was unable to work, and so applied for a pension—and received it, being issued eight dollars per month under the decision of Judge Phineas White. Freeman, according to his discharge papers, was honored with the Badge of Merit (the precursor to the Purple Heart Medal) by General George Washington for his six years of service. The Badge of Merit was created by Washington for the purpose of honoring ordinary soldiers, alongside the Honorary Badges of Distinction. By creating this badge, Washington allowed for the recognition of regular soldiers, not solely officers. Not only a good deed, the Badge of Merit was an inexpensive way to honor soldiers after the Continental Congress ordered Washington to stop promoting soldiers in 1782. It is the oldest military decoration, but not the oldest award; Congress awarded the Fidelity Medallion—a civilian honor—to three privates who had captured the British spy John AndrĂ©, a co-conspirator of Benedict Arnold, in 1780.

The Badge of Merit
Works cited:
Johnston, Henry P., editor. The Record of Connecticut Men of the Military and Naval Service during the War of the Revolution 1755-1783. 1889. Genealogical Publishing, 1997.

Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty–Land–Warrant Application Files (RG 15) Pension for Prince Freeman S: 39549. National Archives and Record Administration

George Washington, "7 August 1782, General Orders." The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office).

“Military Badges.” George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Hudgins, Bill. "The Origins of the Purple Heart." American Spirit, Nov.-Dec. 2014, pp. 36-40.

Emily Bigioni is a volunteer at the David Library and a sophomore at Princeton High School. She has been volunteering since July 2016, and currently works Saturday afternoons. Emily has a love of history, and enjoys reading and researching the Library’s primary source documents.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Meryl Streep Brings on the Rev War History

When a major political party chooses Philadelphia as the setting for its national convention, it's no surprise that the speeches from the convention stage include lofty references to the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and birth of American democracy.  

From the stage of Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center where the Democratic National Convention was held this week, there were plenty of references to America's founding era and the events that took place in Philadelphia during that period.  But we noted that one of the most interesting historical references made by any of the convention speakers didn't come from a politician or a historian or a teacher.  It came from Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep.

During her speech at the first major party convention to nominate a woman to be President of the United States, Streep asked, "What does it take to be the first female anything?"

She went on to tell the story of Deborah Sampson, "the first woman to take a bullet for our country."

Streep said that Sampson "served, disguised as a man, in George Washington’s Continental Army. She fought to defend a document that didn’t fully defend her. 'All men are created equal,' it read. No mention of women.  When she took a blast in battle to her leg, she was afraid to reveal her secret. So she took a pen knife, she dug out the musket ball, and she sewed herself back up again."

Leave it to an actress to recognize a dramatic story worthy of being retold!

According to resources you can find at the David Library of the American Revolution, Deborah Sampson (1760-1827) did indeed serve in the Continental Army disguised as a man.  Calling herself "Robert Shurtleff," she served in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment.  Sampson was wounded in 1782, and was honorably discharged by General Henry Knox in 1783.  In 1804, Paul Revere petitioned Congress for funding to assist her and her family, and as a result, Sampson received a pension from the state of Massachusetts.  She later applied for and received a Federal pension under the Congressional legislation dated March 1888.

If you are interested in learning more about Deborah Sampson and other women who participated in the American Revolution, you will find plenty of material at the David Library.  Our Sol Feinstone Collection of original manuscripts even includes an officer's report on discovery that a "boy" in his regiment was actually a young woman.  In item number 82 in the Collection (Barton, William.  Elizabethtown, [N. J.], 17 Nov. 1778.), it is reported that she accidentally gave herself away when, upon being dismissed by the officer, she curtsied.  

Here are some sources on Deborah Sampson:

Full Length Books

1.      Freeman, Lucy and Alma Halbert Bond

 America’s First Woman Warrior: The Courage of Deborah Sampson (New York: Paragon House, 1992). Call Number: 2991

2.      Mann, Herman

The Female Review: Life of Deborah Sampson,  the female soldier in the War of Revolution (NewYork: Anos Press, 1972). Call Number: 1053

3.      Young, Alfred F.

 Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).  Call Number: 5768

Sources that includes the history of Deborah Sampson:

1.      Bohrer, Melissa Lukeman.

Glory, Passion, and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution (New York: Atria Books, 2003). Call Number: 5781

2.      Laska, Vera O.,

“Remember the Ladies”: Outstanding Women of the American Revolution (Boston: Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission, 1976),Call Number: 1083p

Our thanks to Alyssa Brophy, summer intern at the David Library from Kutztown University for her assistance in preparing this post.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Scholar's Report

Guest blogger Patrick Callaway is a doctoral candidate at the University of Maine.  He is the recipient of a travel grant from the David Library which allowed him to make two trips to the Library to conduct research for his dissertation, "Grain, Warfare, and the Reunification of the British Atlantic Economy, 1750-1815. In this post, he tells us about the resources he used at the David Library, which may offer other researchers some clues about the treasures waiting to be mined!
During my research at the David Library, I was able to consult with many records that will be of importance to my dissertation research into the patterns of the grain trade in the late colonial and Early Republic United States.
The most important of these records that I have been able to consult at the David Library is the Colonial Office 16/1 records.  These records provide the only quantitative study of colonial trade prior to the revolution, and will form the base line “norm” for my study of post-revolutionary trade patterns.
The records of the Philadelphia Customs House will provide an interesting comparison source to the CO 16 records as the customs records also provide a quantitative assessment of the trade entering and leaving Philadelphia.  I hope that this will provide evidence to prove or disprove my hypothesis of the continuity of trade both in destination and in content of the trade.   
The Baynton and Wharton correspondence proved to be unexpectedly useful in my research.  These merchant records suggest a trade in grain between Philadelphia merchants, Canadian farmers, and the larger British Atlantic much earlier than other resources suggest.  Based on these records, I will be able to revise part of one chapter of my dissertation as well as (potentially) produce a conference paper based on the correspondence of Baynton and Wharton in Philadelphia and their correspondents in Montreal.  Their further correspondence with a series of merchants in Madeira, Lisbon, and Cadiz is also potentially significant for my research.  I am currently writing a conference paper based on my findings in this resource that will be presented at the Northeastern University graduate student conference in April.
Another unexpectedly rich source I found at the David Library is the Liverpool Papers.  The first Lord Liverpool was a member of the Board of Trade leading up to Jay’s Treaty in 1794.  The records included the minute books and notes for the Board for a three-year period which outlined not only the general sense of how British trade relations would be managed in a broad sense but also the place of the United States within the trading system.  Discussion on the import/export management of particular commodities is included within the source; this gives me an important insight into the official thinking of the British government at this critical time.  Also included in the source are a selection of papers from the second Lord Liverpool, who served as Prime Minister during the Peninsular Campaign and the War of 1812.
The Dearborn Papers provide an interesting insight into the management of the Canadian campaign in 1812 and the continuing connection between the Canadas and the United States during the war.  This source will be useful to me as I attempt to assess the nature of the War of 1812 along the northern frontier.
The War Office 60/14 files could also be an interesting resource for my research.  The WO 60 series outlines the provisions sent from Britain and Ireland to the British forces in America during the revolution, and the shortages encountered by the British Army.  This aberration to the normal trading patterns is interesting as it may be possible to use this source to analyze the importance of food commodities in trade when an extraordinary demand is created by war in the Atlantic World.
The British Colonial Office records on the correspondence between the West Indies and Jamaica and the Secretary of State were somewhat less fruitful than I hoped for my narrowly tailored topic.  Much of the correspondence focused on the Revolutionary War era and the measures taken for local defense in conjunction with the Royal Navy rather than the economic condition of the islands as they were denied access to American produce as a result of the war.  
I would like to thank Kathie Brian, and Meg for all of their help during my time at the David Library and to express my gratitude to the Library for the generous support that made my time there possible.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Intern's Report: Getting "Up Close and Personal" With a Common Soldier

 Today's blogger, Erin Weinman, is a history major at Rutgers University.  This post is the story of her favorite project during her summer internship at the David Library of the American Revolution.

By Erin Weinman

            My internship at the David Library ends today, and when I look back on the past  six  weeks, I think I was able to absorb much more actual knowledge of life in Revolutionary America than any class could ever allow me to learn.

Librarian Kathie Ludwig asked me to undertake a very interesting task:  transcribing a series of letters written by a Revolutionary War soldier named Oliver Reed. The letters are part of a family collection, and the current custodians permitted the David Library to digitize them.  My job was to make transcriptions so that Library patrons can enjoy easy access.  At first, the letters were a bit difficult to read, but as a history student, transcribing is an important skill I must acquire if I want to become a historian.

The letters ended up being one of the most fascinating series of personal accounts I have ever read. I had the choice to write a research paper for my senior capstone at Rutgers University, but I chose instead to come to the David Library to experience what it is like to be a historian, and nothing could be more “hands-on” than this project. Although my job was simply to transcribe, I was able to learn who Oliver was on a personal level. These were his words that I was reading, his personal thoughts that he had shared privately with his wife. Once I finished all the transcribing, I was eager to learn more about the man who had written these letters and with help from Kathie and from Richard Wood, a volunteer at the David Library, I was able to flesh out the story of Oliver. We were all amazed at what came up, and I soon learned the fascinating history of Oliver’s regiment, including the fact that it marched through my hometown of Somerville, New Jersey.

            While many great American patriots are well known, the letters allowed a peek into the life of an average soldier. Oliver Reed of Pomfret, Connecticut first enlisted in the army during Lexington where he served for 12 days. Before long, he was a sergeant in the 20th Continental Regiment. His heartfelt letters humanize a man who might otherwise be lost to history, giving voice to his longing for his children, as well as his cravings for pickles and cider, and they describe his struggles with chronic illness. It’s a part of a soldier’s life that is rarely seen when studying the American Revolution, and amazingly, the David Library’s collection allowed me to bring Reed’s story to fuller life in relation to the ongoing war.

            Born in 1745, Oliver married Betty Force and moved to Pomfret in time for the birth of their first child, a daughter, Nabby. By 1776, Oliver was off in Cambridge and marching to New York for the Battle of Long Island. Using the letters of George Washington, soldier cards and a multitude of secondary resources, I was able to piece together the world of Oliver Reed by forming a timeline of historical events including the siege of Philadelphia, the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and eventually Valley Forge. Along the way, I discovered a lot about the 20th Continental (later renamed Fourth Connecticut) Regiment and its leaders, Capt. Beriah Bill, Capt. Stephen Brown and Col. John Durkee.

            The letters do more, however, than just piece together a possible campaign trail. They allow us to see what it was like to be an average soldier, or  to be a woman on the home front. Oliver himself was constantly sick and repeatedly expressed his desire to go home, even just for a few weeks. He wanted to provide for his family, send gifts to his children from Boston and eat real food. “I want sum of your pickels to Eat Long with Cold meat”, he wrote. “I want sum sider too”. 

The home front was perhaps even more tragic. In August 1777, Betty wrote to Oliver about the deaths of two of their children. Records show that a third child died just days after the letter was written. Betty had little support and relied on the help of neighbors for milk and wood. Eventually, she took her surviving son, Oliver Jr., and moved him to her in-laws’ in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

            I’m pleased to report that I was invited to write an article about the Oliver Reed letters for the website allthingsliberty.com (Journal of the American Revolution).  My article follows the lives of Oliver and Betty as the war continued. The emergence of Oliver’s letters reveals a previously undiscovered story that illuminates the life of a common Revolutionary era soldier. Special thanks to both Richard and Kathie for their help with this project. It was an opportunity I never thought I would have as an undergraduate. The article is scheduled to be published on allthingsliberty.com this August.

The Oliver Reed Letters, a part of the David Library Digital Archives, are currently being curated.  The Library will be making the digital letters available to researchers in the near future.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Independence Day: A Bibliography Compiled by Summer Intern Erin Weinman  

Erin Weinman of Somerville, NJ is a senior history major at Rutgers  University.  She is interning at the David Library this summer.

Erin Weinman
         The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and the nation is preparing once again to celebrate our founding history. The David Library is home to an extensive collection on the Declaration of Independence, some of the signers and the events that surrounded America's declaration of independence from England. Why not pick up a little summer reading to get you in the spirit (of '76)?  The following books are available at the David Library (call numbers are the David Library's), but you are likely to find some of these at your local public library or bookseller as well. 
Allen, Danielle.  Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.  New York:  W. W. Norton and Company, 2014.  Call number 7510.
Casey, Robert E. The Declaration of Independence: Illustrated Story of its Adoption. New York: Illustrated Publishers, 1914. Call number 1481.
Ellis, Joseph J. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Alfred K. Knopf, 1997. Call number 4494.
Fowler, William M. The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biography of John Hancock. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979. Call number 569.
Franklin, Benjamin. Autobiography; Poor Richard; Letters. New York: D. Appleton and   Company, 1899. Call number 7048.
Hawken, Henry A. Trumpets of Glory: Fourth of July Orations 1786-1861. Granby, CT.: Salmon Brook Historical Society, 1976. Call number 1388.
Hogeland, William. Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became  Independent. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Call number 7198.
Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House, 1997. Call number 4477.
McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Call number 5808.
Miller, Marla R. Betsy Ross and the Making of America. New York: Henry Holt, 2010.   Call number 7177.
Rakove, Jack N. The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009. Call number  7184.
Travers, Len. Celebrating the Fourth: Independence Day and the Rites of Nationalism in the Early Republic. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997. Call number 4539.
Additionally, there's a good article in the July/August 2010 issue of American Spirit, the magazine of the Daughters of the American Revolution by Anthony, Lena, “Cannons and Camaraderie: The Earliest Fourth of July Traditions.” We have a copy at the David Library.  If you live close enough, drop in at the David Library sometime between now and July 3 (the Library will be closed on July 4) to read it.  Understanding the origins of our traditional Fourth of July celebrations may enhance the holiday for you this year.    

Friday, May 15, 2015

Women's Work: A Summer Intern's First Blog Post by Brianna Heverly

Brianna Heverly of Yardley, PA is a senior at Rider University with a double major in History and Education and minor in Special Education.  She is interning at the David Library this summer, and as she familiarizes herself with the collections, she decided to look into the role women played in the Continental Army.
Brianna Heverly
           Although the American Revolution was fought by an army of men, women played a crucial role in fighting for independence against the British.  Women worked together to provide men with food, clothing, shelter, and support --  all necessary to win the war.  Without these essentials, often provided women in the role of camp followers, the Continental Army would not be equipped enough to fight the British and win the war. 
            One of the most known women of the American Revolution is Margaret Cochran Corbin, otherwise known as “Captain Molly,” or Molly Pitcher.  Captain Molly is recognized for taking over charge of the cannon after her husband was wounded.  She bravely fought until she was injured, but her legacy lives on.  Other women were involved in the war even though they never fired a shot.  They were brave enough to follow their husbands to war to cook food for the soldiers to eat and sew clothing for them to be protected from the elements.  Some women also followed the men into battle and would bring them water while they fought.  Although some of the women who were involved in the war were those who wanted to be with their husbands, there were still many others involved who did not have a husband or relative whom they followed.            
          Continental Army soldiers recognized the importance of women.  In a diary of a soldier I came across at the David Library, the soldier recognized the importance of women who nursed injured soldiers and saved lives.  Other officers, such as Lieutenant John Charles Philip von Krafft, showed appreciation to women who opened their homes to provide shelter as the men were travelling.  Von Krafft relied on women to offer their homes to soldiers in order to escape the harsh elements.  Another soldier, Joseph Plumb Martin, stated, “The women in Pennsylvania, taken in general, are certainly very worthy characters… [and were] well treated by them.”  Despite the fact that paper was scarce during the war, these soldiers took the time and paper to write, in letters and diaries, about these women and their roles in the war. 
            The David Library of the American Revolution has an abundance of sources about the role of women in the Revolutionary War, including secondary source books about women being camp followers.  One of these, Women Patriots of the American Revolution by Charles E. Claghorn, provided a detailed list of women who lived during the Revolution.  Next to each woman’s name was a brief one-line summary of her contribution and/or connection to the war.  If there was greater detail for a particular woman, a greater in-depth description of her would be found in the heart of the book.  From these secondary sources, I gathered that most women in the war were typically nurses, made clothing, cooked the food, provided housing for the soldiers, and delivered messages.  Some women even fought in battle by either dressing up as a man or taking their husband’s place on the battlefield.
The David Library is first and foremost a primary source library, and I found multiple primary resources, including diaries of Continental Army soldiers, which supported the claims the books made. 
            To find the sources I needed, I used the catalogue on the David Library’s website.  It’s easy to use and is organized in such a way that allows for different kinds of searches.  For example, because there are so many types of sources at the David Library, such as books, pamphlets, microfilm, journals, and so on, the catalogue allows the researcher to narrow their search to exactly what they want and where in the library they will find it.  If the user is still not sure, they can do a broad search of the subject or title and find sources in all of these categories.  The catalogue includes short descriptions of the books in the collection, which can help the user determine whether or not the source is suitable for his or her research.
The David Library’s collections hold an abundance of sources, fostering the thoroughness and reliability of any project a researcher might undertake on the era of the American Revolution.
Sources consulted for this blog post:
         Blumenthal, Walter Hart.  Women Camp Followers of the American Revolution
Claghorn, Charles E.  Women Patriots of the American Revolution: a biographical dictionary
Compiled by: Cooke, Denis J.  “17 Voices: The Diaries of Events and Occurrences Surrounding the British Occupation of Philadelphia” 
Mayer, Holly A.  Belonging to the Army: camp followers and community during the American Revolution
Rees, John.  “… the multitude of women”  An Examination of the Numbers of Female Campfollowers With the Continental Army
Rees, John.  “The proportion of Women which ought to be allowed…”  An Overview of Continental Army Female Camp Followers
Sowers, Betty.  Campfollowing: a history of the military wife
Young, Philip.  Revolutionary ladies