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Blog Posts by Subject: United States History

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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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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Hey Dude! Where's My Company? Stocks from Nonexistent Businesses

An ancient stock certificate found in a drawer after someone dies; selling shares that grandma gave us a long time ago; investment paperwork lost in a move. The stories all seem different, but in each case the question is the same — what has happened to a company since these shares of stock were purchased?

Where can we find the sad stories of the death of companies? Perhaps a company has gone into bankruptcy, succumbed to a hostile takeover, been sold to the highest bidder, changed its ticker symbol, its 

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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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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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The Farriers' Wish: Historical Trade Journals at SIBL

This May is a month of celebration here at NYPL. A 100 year birthday for the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, and here at SIBL, we mark 15 years of operation. As appropriate for 100 years, NYPL will focus on many of its incredible research collections in the new exhibition Celebrating 100 Years, which 

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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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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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