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Blog Posts by Subject: United States History

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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Can One Person Change History? A Soldier's Dream

William Doyle, a writer in residence in the Library's Allen Room, thinks so.  His new book A Soldier's Dream explores the question of whether one young American soldier helped change the course of the Iraq War? 

For six months in 2006, a charismatic U.S. Army captain and Arabic linguist named Travis Patriquin unleashed a diplomatic and cultural charm offensive upon the Sunni sheiks of Anbar province, the heart of darkness of the Iraqi insurgency. Through his striking personality and passion 

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Hubert Harrison: Harlem Radical

Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry will discuss his book, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Saturday March 5th 2pm @ Hamilton Fish Park Library.

"Hubert Harrison is the most significant Black democratic socialist of early-twentieth century America." —Cornel West 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Sense of History

The various “relief” activities of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, whether “general relief,” “field relief,” or “special relief,” are reflected throughout its own records, now held in the NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division. The group of material known as the “Special Relief Archives,” however, is not quite what you would expect to find from its name. Project archivist Melissa Haley discusses her 

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Contemplating the Sabbath in the Digital Age

How many times have you vowed to build more downtime into your weekend schedule? How often have you done it?

So many things get in the way—deadlines, e-mails, children, chores. And although we long for unstructured time, in some other part of ourselves, we're also proud of how much we work and revel in our inability to stop doing so.

The question of whether to rest or not on the weekend didn't use to be so tortured. Only during the past half a century did Americans become free to disregard the ancient commandment not to work one day a week.  

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Researching Patents of African American Inventors

In recognition of Black History Month, I thought I would take this opportunity to suggest U.S. Patents as an available primary resource that can be used to do historical and biographical research on African American Inventors.

NYPL has a strong collection of resources on African American inventors, both in our research collections (Schomburg and

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President's Day Biography Reading List

Presidents' lives have always been favorite subjects for biographers. Here is a list of the some of the latest examples at the NYPL branches.

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American Rags-to-Riches Mythos: The Madam C. J. Walker Saga, Part 1

"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of Manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground. Madam Walker National Negro Business League Convention, July 1912." Bundles, A'Lelia. Madam C.J. Walker, 2009.

Almost every school child has heard of

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Review of Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution

Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution by Mark Urban should be required reading for all aspiring historians on the American Revolutionary War. Many older historians should also take note of this fine book. Mark Urban purports to tell the story of one British regiment, the 23rd, or Royal Welch Fusiliers, but it is really about the whole British expereince in the war that the book concerns itself. While focusing on this one illustrious corps the author provides us a means to evaluate 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Giving

A colorful USSC emblemIt may seem surprising to learn that even though the United States Sanitary Commission was officially endorsed by the U.S. government in June 1861, by mutual agreement this civilian organization did not receive federal funding for its work. The USSC's extensive activities—camp and hospital inspections, medical studies and publications, and especially, a wide variety of relief efforts for soldiers—were bankrolled entirely by the private sector.

Project archivists Melissa Haley, working on the records of the California Branch and 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Harvests for Health

The United States Sanitary Commission records might not be the first port of call for anyone interested in studying 19th-century American agriculture or the culinary arts, but the visit could well repay the effort. 

From the first days of its existence, the USSC concerned itself with identifying suitable ingredients for a soldier's diet. A healthy diet kept men in fighting strength and in good spirits, prevented disease, and helped them recuperate more quickly from wounds and sickness. The Commission and 

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From the Archives: Executions at San Quentin Prison

March 3, 1905, was not an auspicious day for Hy Brown.

Brown, an 18-year-old man from California with no known occupation, had been sentenced to death for the murder of Patrick Dunne, an aged storekeeper. On March 3rd, his sentence was carried out, making him the 149th of over 200 men executed by hanging at the California State Prison at San Quentin between 1893 and 1937.

San Quentin was erected between 1852-1854 to replace the overcrowded prison ship Waban. It rose in response to the violent crime boom in California that followed in the wake of the Gold Rush 

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Music manuscripts from the composer of the Star-Spangled Banner

It’s been a while since my last post, but the genesis of this post began with July 4th, 2010.  I was thinking:  What better way to observe the anniversary of the United States of America than with the national anthem. (The image above ‑ seen through mylar protection ‑ is of the first edition of the Star-Spangled Banner owned by the Music Division – one of 

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Now That's History!

Ancient History, Middle Ages, Industrial Revolution... Does history homework make you feel like you are in the Dark Ages? Well be enlightened by the library's resources!

You can find complete, trustworthy information a lot faster using the library’s databases and apps.

Here’s how to access NYPL’s databases: 1. Go to www.nypl.org 2. Click on ‘Find Books, DVDs, & More’ in the top menu 3. Click on ‘Articles and Databases’ in the left sidebar 4. Databases are listed 

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USSC Processing Project: the U.S. Sanitary Commission's Archive Department

As we work towards our goal of providing optimal access to the collection, we encounter, learn about, and engage with the work of our 19th-century predecessors—the staff of the USSC’s Archive Department and their successors.

Metropolitan Fair stationery, 1864Although the USSC’s military campaign relief services were essentially completed in the summer of 1865, and many of its offices closed, others carried on, finishing their relief work and distributing remaining supplies to the 

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USSC Processing Project: Diving In

Our first blog post announced the United States Sanitary Commission Records Processing Project, a three-year project to comprehensively process (arrange, describe, and physically preserve) the archival records of the United States Sanitary Commission, a civilian organization that supported the health, comfort and efficiency of Union forces during the American Civil War.

A glimpse of USSC in the stacksIn the meantime, we have been planning our work, evaluating the collection from top to bottom, studying the Sanitary Commission’s operations, acquiring supplies, 

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Historical Fiction Review: My Name is Mary Sutter

"Get out," he said. "I'm staying." "I don't need you." "Don't be a fool. You need someone." "Not you." The boy lifted his head from the table. "Don't you talk like that to this nice lady," he slurred.

A decision had to be made.  This argument occurred during the United States Civil War, 1861-1865, in the historical fiction My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira.  Her protagonist, Mary Sutter is a young midwife determined to become a surgeon in 

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Wertheim Study and the Allen Room writers celebrate Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Free public lectures in the South Court Auditorium by the writers and scholars of the Research Study Rooms began last week, and with a bang.

Distinguished historian and biographer Susan Butler spoke about her forthcoming book, Roosevelt and Stalin: Winning the War: Shaping the Peace.  For it, she discovered 300 unpublished hot-war messages, researched the Tehran and Yalta conferences, and we learned all sorts of things - 

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Changing the Changing City

Seeking further enlightenment into the city we call home, I recently took a class on the literary and cultural history of New York City. Among the many themes common to New York City novels we discussed was the portrayal of the city itself as a character with power to shape the lives of its citizens.

Many of us New Yorkers have felt this pressure in our own lives: we choose where to live based on our budgets, our hobbies, our family situation, and often our ethnic, linguistic or religious 

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