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Posts from the Manuscripts and Archives Division

Findings from the Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection: Two Documents Reflect Cause, Resolution of the War of 1812

Detail of 1812 Joshua Barney document. Note the total number of captives and their rank in the lower left cornerIn 1812, the Royal Navy would capture and impress American sailors as a means of bolstering its personnel during the Napoleonic Wars. Irritated by this practice, the American Navy soon returned the favor.

This document, signed by Commander Joshua Barney of the schooner Rossie, contains a list of British captives, their rank, and their ship’s name. The document 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Army of the Potomac

The Army of the Potomac Archives, part of the United States Sanitary Commission Records, is an important resource for anyone interested in studying the USSC’s work alongside the Union armies on campaign in eastern Virginia from 1862-1865, especially during the long and bloody struggle from the battle of the Wilderness in 1864 to the fall of Petersburg and Richmond in 1865. Archivist Elizabeth Delmage shares materials explored during processing, which shed light on how the USSC geared up its systems to meet ever-growing military and humanitarian needs.

Journals 

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The Lost Musicals: Make Mine Manhattan

Richard Lewine and Arnold B. Horwitt’s Make Mine Manhattan, which clocked in 429 performances at the Broadhurst in 1948 might be the longest-running musical you’ve never heard of. I had never heard of it until I processed the Richard Lewine Papers in 2007. The collection includes scores and scripts from many musicals and revues Lewine composed before becoming a successful television producer. Make Mine Manhattan intrigued me the 

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Findings from the Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection: Georgie Barrymore’s 1884 acceptance of a stage production role

In this heavily faded 1884 letter written from the New Jersey beach town of Point Pleasant, actress Georgie Barrymore accepts a role in a New York stage production for a salary of $100.

Detail of 1884 Georgie Barrymore letter containing quote to right.Ms. Barrymore, an ancestor of the legendary Barrymore acting family (and great-grandmother of Hollywood star Drew Barrymore) writes:

“I will accept the weeks engagement commencing Sept 8th + two rehearsals in NY for 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Department of the Gulf

Our archival processing staff continues to follow the U.S. Sanitary Commission on campaign during the Civil War, this time along the Gulf Coast. Melissa Haley reports on one man's journey in their service:

Based in New Orleans, the USSC’s Department of the Gulf was founded in the spring of 1862, soon after that city came under Union control. Its scope of operations coincided with the territory covered by the Union’s Department of the Gulf — eventually including the entire Gulf Coast, from Brownsville, Texas on the Mexican border to Key West and the 

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Findings from the Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection: Aging and Death in 19th Century America

90 year old Isaac Bell writing in 1857This 1857 poem was written by a nonagenarian named Isaac Bell. It’s impossible for me not to admire his optimistic, confident attitude toward turning 90 in an era when geriatric care was considerably more primitive than today. I have included an image of the entire poem and would recommend that anyone take a minute to read it.

The thin folder containing Isaac Bell’s poem was filed after a folder labeled “

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The Wheel Is Come Full Circle: A Production History of "King Lear" at the Public Theater (Part 2: 1996 & 2007)

Joseph Papp conceived of a marathon at the Public Theater of every one of Shakespeare’s plays, in the order in which they were written. This began under Papp in 1988 and was continued by the Theater’s subsequent artistic directors, Joanne Akalaitis and George C. Wolfe, after Papp’s retirement and death. After early productions at the Delacorte Theater in 1962 and 1973 (see my previous blog post), the Theater didn’t tackle King Lear again 

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New York Foundation Records: Franz Boas' Project 26

Franz Boas (1858-1942) , often referred to as the "Father of Modern Anthropology," was a prominent German scholar who emigrated to the United States in 1885 and taught at Columbia University from 1896 until his retirement in 1936. It was under his influence that Columbia established its Department of Anthropology in 1902 and that the four fields concept of anthropology — integrating the disciplines of cultural/social anthropology, linguistics, biological 

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New York Foundation Records: the Freedom Quilting Bee Cooperative

Handmade quilts from Gee's Bend, Alabama are now well known and admired across the country, even internationally. Their vibrant, improvisational minimalist designs are often compared to the paintings of Mark Rothko and (early) Frank Stella. In 2002 The New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman described the quilts as "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced." They have been the focus of touring museum 

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Findings from the Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection: The Case of the Slave Ship Antelope

Detail of 1825 John MacPherson Berrien letter on Antelope slave ship trial

This is one of the most fascinating documents I have found so far in the Miscellaneous Collection. It’s a letter written by attorney and politician John MacPherson Berrien on March 4th, 1825, the same day he started his term as a U.S. Senator from Georgia.

The above detail of the letter reads: “…the U.S. have consequently a rightful possession of a number of human beings, who are claimed by the Sp[anish] and Port[uguese] 

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Findings from the Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection: 1774 Letter Describes Boston Tea Party and Its Aftermath

The Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection consists of over 12,000 files on 18th, 19th, and 20th century American and European historical and literary figures. This collection has served as a catchall for the smaller files acquired by the Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division.

I have discovered a wide range of subject matter of varied archival significance, and it has been inspiring to work with these materials to improve intellectual and physical 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: What’s My Line?

Picture an archival version of those 1950s quiz shows — “I’ve Got a Secret” or “What’s My Line” — where panelists try to guess the identity, occupation or special talent of the contestant. This is an episode in the ongoing United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) series, where project staff members do their best to analyze and accurately describe the volumes and documents at hand, asking the usual questions: who, what, where, when? What activities do these materials reflect?

Some background: During the USSC’s 

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Celebrating the Centennial: The Tilden Library

Detail of Vernon Howe Bailey's drawing of the "Tilden Library" reading roomContrary to what you may have heard — or thought you heard, at least — this year does not mark the centennial of The New York Public Library. The centennial marks the opening of what many still think of as the Library's "main branch" on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the Beaux-Arts landmark recently rechristened the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. But we could also call it the centennial of the Tilden Library, as I'll 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Tales from the North Carolina Record Books

Project archivist Melissa Haley is processing the records of the U.S. Sanitary Commission's Department of North Carolina. Here she shares fleeting glimpses of wartime lives captured on the pages of supply inventories. Over to Melissa:

Even the seemingly driest of archival records can tell a story. Supply volumes of the United States Sanitary Commission’s Department of North Carolina are a case in point. At first glance, they are simply lists of relief items: how many quilts, lanterns, Boston crackers, bottles of sherry wine, quinine, bars of chocolate, cans of 

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Here's to Peter Stone! Screenwriter, Book Writer, and… Speechwriter?

Peter Stone, the author of Charade and 1776, is the first writer to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony (three times!) award, and, as you would expect, his papers include extensive drafts for his works. The surprise find in the Library's Peter Stone Collection, however; is a group of envelopes marked “Speeches and Toasts.” During the latter part of his career, Stone was frequently asked to host awards shows and to write and deliver award tributes and memorial 

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The General Slocum Disaster of June 15, 1904

Illustration by Samuel Ward StantonThe General Slocum Disaster occurred on June 15, 1904. This tragedy is much less well known compared to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of March 25, 1911, and the Titanic Disaster of April 15, 1912. Perhaps these two shocking events happening within a year focused people's attention elsewhere. But the aftermath of the sinking of the PS Slocum radically altered the 

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Complimentary Fruit and Flower Festival, Given to Authors, by the New York Publishers' Association

Acknowledgement of invitation from John W. Francis. New York Book Publishers Association records. Manuscripts and Archives Division. "Doctor Francis, although by no means a littérateur, cannot well be omitted in an account of the New York literati." - Edgar Allen Poe, in The Literati of New York, published in Godey's Magazine (1846)This week, the literary and publishing community gathers on the West Side for the annual event that is Bookexpo America, known as BEA. This annual industry conference also doubles as a gathering of 

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A History of the Library as Seen Through Notable Researchers

The New York Public Library’s Beaux-Arts Stephen A. Schwarzman Building celebrates its 100th anniversary this month on May 23. The Centennial offers a wonderful opportunity to reflect on Library use from the past 100 and uncover stories that can serve as inspiration for another century. One unique way to trace the history of the Library is through call slips. In order to use books in the research collection, patrons request specific titles by filling out a call slip, which includes the following information: author, title, and call number. Not all call slips have been saved over the 

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Jane McGonigal and NYPL present Find the Future: The Game

For 100 years, The New York Public Library's landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and its world-renowned collections have inspired people everywhere to find their futures. In honor of the Centennial Celebration, pioneering game designer Jane McGonigal helped the Library kick off its Weekend Festival with Find 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Accounts and Vouchers

Project archivist Elizabeth Delmage has tackled the job of making sense of the U.S. Sanitary Commission’s financial records, beginning with boxes of bundled documents and volumes. The richness of information in these materials provides a window into 19th-century commerce, the history of technology in America and, of course, the world of military supplies and humanitarian relief.

Elizabeth shares her work and discoveries in the record group known as Accounts and Vouchers to date: Daunting stack of USSC bundlesWhen I first started surveying these records, it 

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