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  But we noted that one of the most interesting historical references made by any of the convention speakers didn't come from a politician or a historian or a teacher.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.