Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interns Notebook - Bob Fisher

The David Library hosted a number of great interns this summer. Below, Robert Fisher, a history major at Rider University, writes about a number of documents the David Library had in our vault that were not accessible to researchers. Bob helped catalog them. Due to his efforts, researchers can now look at these rare documents, and, as you'll notice in Bob's entry, there is a wealth of information in them.

Patrick Spero

Interns Notebook - Bob Fisher - August 22, 2009

Recently, staff members of the DLAR discovered a folder in the library vault containing drawings from 19th century newspapers such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. The drawings remain in excellent condition and show everything from the Battle of Bunker Hill to the Surrender of Cornwallis. They are great sources for conducting memory studies and they provide an inside look at how the Revolutionary War era was viewed and in some instances utilized as propaganda by 19th century Americans.

One example is of an image that was printed in Harper's Weekly just six days after the Union defeat at First Manassas during the Civil War. The drawing contains all of the trademark symbols of American patriotism and at its center depicts Continental troops surrounded on all sides by British and German forces. At the bottom of the drawing is a poem that reads:

"Yankee Doodle is the tune Americans Delight In; Good to fiddle, dance, or sing, and just the thing for fightin."

It is obvious that the image was propaganda designed to pull at the patriotic heartstrings of the northern civilians; a "call to arms" so to speak. In order to inspire the northern populace it is likely that Harper's Weekly had to look towards an earlier time period when American armies were actually having success on the fields of battle. Not only that, but many northerners were afraid of a southern invasion following the rout at Manassas, which they thought was imminent. Accordingly, the drawing depicts the defense of liberty rather than the suppression of rebellion. Although Lincoln would have probably been aghast at such "passive" propaganda later in the war, he most likely did not object during a time when he himself was concerned for the safety of the capital.

The eventual goal of the DLAR is to make this graphic collection accessible to the public at the library as well as online. There are over a hundred of these rare images and they all provide a vivid window into the past and show just how influential the Revolutionary War remained to later Americans. The historical value of resources like these pictures are often overlooked yet much can be learned from them. Hopefully when viewing the graphics collection, researchers and patrons of the David Library will gain a deeper appreciation of the American Revolution and its power to inspire future generations.

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at

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