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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving, 1781

Although Thanksgiving wouldn't be formally established as an official annual holiday until 1862, the practice of setting aside days of Thanksgiving goes back much further. Colonial legislatures, especially in New England, issued periodic Thanksgiving Proclamations and the Continental Congress designated a day of Thanksgiving every year from 1777 to 1782. You can find the full text of the Continental Congress proclamations online thanks to Pilgrim Hall Museum.

United States. Continental Congress; Proclamation : Philadelphia, 1781 Oct. 26.AMs 777/22 . Collection of the Rosenbach.

The Rosenbach has the manuscript of the Congress's Thanksgiving Proclamation for 1781, signed by the President of the Continental Congress, and the Congress's secretary, Charles Thompson. It was a year in which the new nation had much to be thankful for--the Proclamation was issued on October 26, 1781, just seven days after the critical victory at Yorktown:
[W]e beg recommend in a particular manner that they may observe and acknowledge to their observation, the goodness of God in the year now drawing to a conclusion: in which A mutiny in the American Army was not only happily appeased but became in its issue a pleasing and undeniable proof of the unalterable attachment of the people in general to the cause of liberty since great and real grievances only made them tumultuously seek redress while the abhorred the thoughts of going over to the enemy, in which the Confederation of the United States has been completed by the accession of all without exception in which there have been so many instances of prowess and success in our armies; particularly in the southern states, where, notwithstanding the difficulties with which they had to struggle, they have recovered the whole country which the enemy had overrun, leaving them only a post or two upon on or near the sea: in which we have been so powerfully and effectually assisted by our allies, while in all the conjunct operations the most perfect union and harmony has subsisted in the allied army: in which there has been so plentiful a harvest, and so great abundance of the fruits of the earth of every kind, as not only enables us easily to supply the wants of the army, but gives comfort and happiness to the whole people: and in which, after the success of our allies by sea, a General of the first Rank, with his whole army, has been captured by the allied forces under the direction of our illustrious Commander in Chief.

United States. Continental Congress; Proclamation : Philadelphia, 1781 Oct. 26.AMs 777/22 . Collection of the Rosenbach.

The day set for the Thanksgiving was December 13, 1781. This was  a Thursday; apparently reflecting New England tradition. The Proclamation, which was composed by a committee composed of two Presybterian ministers (Jonathan Witherspoon of New Jersey  and Joseph Montgomery of Pennsylvania ) and two New Englanders (Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Joseph Varnum of Rhode Island), did not assume God's continued favor, but called on people to

[A]ssemble on that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please Him to pardon our offences, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give success to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counsellors, judgment and fortitude to our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally, and favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable and lasting peace; to bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas.
United States. Continental Congress; Proclamation : Philadelphia, 1781 Oct. 26.AMs 777/22 . Collection of the Rosenbach.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Rosenbach.

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog

Friday, November 18, 2016

Robert Louis Stevenson's Baby Book

I remember as a child being fascinated with my baby book; I would periodically pull it off the shelf in my mother's study to look at it and compare it with my brother's. When I became a parent, I, in turn, bought baby books for my children, although I wasn't always consistent in filling them out. But how often do we look at other people's baby books?  Robert Louis Stevenson's baby book has been preserved for posterity due to its 1922 publication by fine-press printer John Henry Nash in an edition of 500 copies.

Stevenson's baby book ; being the record of the sayings and doings of Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, son of Thomas Stevenson, C.E. and Margaret Isabella Balfour or Stevenson. San Francisco : Printed for John Howell by J.H. Nash, 1922. Collection of the Rosenbach.

The introductory text by Katherine D. Osbourne, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson's stepson, claims that

THIS Baby Record was meant by the young mother who wrote it as all such Records are to keep for memory's sake an account of the first years of her adored child, A few of the notes were added by her in later years.... With every passing year this Baby Record grew a more precious possession to the mother.

However, a closer look indicates that something more complicated must be going on. The baby book involved is Baby's Record by Reginald Illingsworth Woodgouse (R.I.W.), which seems to have come out in 1889. " So although the notes inside are detailed, they must have been copied into the baby book from an earlier source sometime near the end of Stevenson's life, or even shortly afterward (he died in 1894 and the book was still available then; his mother died in 1897)

Stevenson's baby book ; being the record of the sayings and doings of Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, son of Thomas Stevenson, C.E. and Margaret Isabella Balfour or Stevenson. San Francisco : Printed for John Howell by J.H. Nash, 1922. Collection of the Rosenbach.

It seems that commercial baby books weren't really available in 1850, when Stevenson was born. The earliest example in the baby book collection at UCLA is from 1882 and the librarian there notes that it "feels like a new, unfamiliar includes a ‘specimen page’ that shows the parent how to fill in the blanks." Similarly, an advertisement for Baby's Record from 1889 seems to need to explain what it's for.

But parents certainly kept notes on their children even before there were special books for the subject. Maria Edgeworth's Practical Education recommends "writ[ing]  notes from day to day all the trifling things which mark the progress of the mind in childhood" as an important means for  putting proper educational processes into practise, although she cautions that children shouldn't see the notebook because it would make them self-conscious. She records a number of anecdotes, such as "Y (a girl of three years and a half old) seeing her sister taken care of and nursed when she had chilblains, said, that she wished to have chilblains".  An alphabet book in the Cotsen collection at Princeton was annotated by a mother who recorded how her son explained each picture.

Back to Stevenson. Looking through the book, it seems that when his mother transferred her earlier notes from wherever she had kept them into this commercial baby book she was less interested in filling out all of the pre-printed milestones than in using the book's many journal pages to record more free form entries of little Lou's childhood. She does record his first journey, first crawl, and first steps in the "proper" places, but the section on his favorite foods is blank, although she notes elsewhere that he "[began] to evince a decided partiality for eggs" at around 10 months. (See below)

Stevenson's baby book ; being the record of the sayings and doings of Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, son of Thomas Stevenson, C.E. and Margaret Isabella Balfour or Stevenson. San Francisco : Printed for John Howell by J.H. Nash, 1922. Collection of the Rosenbach.

Obviously since Stevenson grew up to be an author, one of the fun parts of looking through the book is finding early references to books and reading. On the same page as the note about eggs, his mother noted when Stevenson was 10 months old that "this month he also learns to shew how big he is— clap his hands (the backs) read a book and eat a piece- got boots on. " A year later he had been introduced to Uncle Tom's Cabin's: at the age of 23 months "Smout knows all the story of Eve and Uncle Tom, besides a great many out of the Bible, including the flood and the burning bush. He remembers them wonderfully well. When he was four years old "Lou dreamt that "he heard the noise of pens writing."

In addition to the Stevenson content, I found the book itself interesting as an element of the material culture of childhood.  Baby's Record, unlike many in the UCLA collection, which were sponsored by baby food or banks, does not appear to be linked to advertising.  But I was interested to see that it was clearly gendered and also clearly aimed at a well-to-do audience (who I guess were willing to buy a book rather than get a baby food handout version), as evidenced by an (unused) page for "Boys' amusements" that included spaces for recording "First cricket match," "First game of chess,""First game of lawn tennis" and "First rowing match," among others.

Stevenson's baby book ; being the record of the sayings and doings of Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, son of Thomas Stevenson, C.E. and Margaret Isabella Balfour or Stevenson. San Francisco : Printed for John Howell by J.H. Nash, 1922. Collection of the Rosenbach.

In the end, I still have a lot of questions about this book, especially regarding when and why the recollections were transferred in. Did it have to do with Stevenson's death? Were baby books suddenly fashionable in the 1890s and lots of people created them ex-post facto for their children? If anyone reading this post know more about this, I'd be fascinated to learn.

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Souvenir of World War I

This small French flag is a nearly 100-year-old souvenir of the visit of an important World War I figure to Philadelphia. According to its envelope, this is a "Flag thrown from Marshal Joffre's automobile while visiting Phila. Pa- May 9-1917."

French flag, 1917. 2005.0001. Collection of the Rosenbach.    
Joseph Jacques Joffre had been commander of the French army during the Battle of the Marne in September 1914. He had kept the French forces together and pushed back the Germans in that important early battle. He did not fare so well in the prolonged trench warfare that followed and in December 1916 was removed from command of the army. But he was still a hero, and was well-known in America, so when America declared war on Germany in May 1917  the French sent him along with Lord Chancellor Rene Viviani as part of a delegation to the United States.

The delegation's main aims were in Washington, where they hoped to gather information and influence budding military policy. But Joffre and Viviani also embarked on a weeklong goodwill tour; among their stops were St. Louis, where John S. D. Eisenhower notes that Joffre "endeared himself to democratic Americans by going to a barbershop and unobtrusively waiting his turn for a haircut," New York, and of course Philadelphia.

In the course of a 5-hour visit, the delegation was whisked to the city's most iconic sites, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Ben Franklin's grave, and those with a Franco-American bent, including Girard College and the statue of Joan of Arc in Fairmount Park.   Philadelphians thronged the streets to see the motorcade, the crowd presumably included the man who collected and saved this flag. The article below from the May 19, 1917 edition of Editor and Publisher gives a brief account of Joffre's time in Philadelphia and includes a picture of him receiving a ceremonial sword. The child on the left may be the "Little Miss 1776" mentioned in the article, there was also a "Little Miss Belgium"--the daughter of an actual Belgian refugee, and a "Little Miss France"

In accepting the sword Joffre claimed that "the honor of this gift is particularly dear to me because it is an honor conferred on me in the place where American independence was born and I am here as a representative of that other great democracy. But above all what gives me the deepest pleasure and touches me most closely is that this gift is a present of the people."

For more on Joffre's visit to Philadelphia including additional pictures, you can check out the Library Company of Philadelphia's blog.'s article on Joffre also goes into great detail about his full American trip and what it accomplished.

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog

Friday, November 04, 2016

Dispatches from the 1800 Election

Between the crazy drama of this election season and the crazy popularity of the musical Hamilton, it seems an apropos time to look at some on-the-spot reporting from the crazy election of 1800. For those of you who have seen or listened to Hamilton, or just remember your history books, you'll recall that the election of 1800 came out as tie in the electoral college between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

Details from Thomas Jefferson, autograph letter signed to to Rev. Charles Clay. 1799 Oct.12 . AMs 526/25 and Aaron Burr, autograph letter  signed to Benjamin Edwards. [1779 or 80] Aug. 5. AMs 529/27.  Collection of the Rosenbach.

The general election had pitted the Federalists John Adams and Charles Pinckney against Jefferson and Burr from the Democratic-Republican party (generally called "the Republican party" by historians). Constitutional election rules had not foreseen the rise of political parties and did not separate presidential and vice presidential voting; instead, each member of the electoral college voted for two men with the overall winner becoming president and the runner up becoming vice president. When the electoral college met, one Federalist elector cast a throwaway vote for John Jay rather than Pinckney, giving Adams 65 and Pinckney 64. However, despite the fact that the Republican party had seen Jefferson as the Presidential nominee and Burr as V.P., all of the Republican electors voted for both Jefferson and Burr, leading them to tie at 73 votes apiece .

With the electoral vote tied, the choice between Jefferson and Burr was to be decided by the House of Representatives.  In the run-up to the House vote Alexander Hamilton tried to convince his fellow Federalists to back Jefferson, who "though too revolutionary in his notions, is yet a lover of liberty and will be desirous of something like orderly Government – Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself – thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement – and will be content with nothing short of permanent power in his own hands." Hamilton, an experienced political deal-maker, argued that Federalists would not be able to trust the self-interested Burr, since "no compact, that he should make with any passion in his breast except Ambition, could be relied upon by himself – How then should we be able to rely upon any agreement with him?"  Hamilton thought Jefferson might be willing to accept a  bargain that including retaining the Federalist monetary system, the navy, and low-level Federalist office holders in exchange for Federalist support in the House vote. But Jefferson declined.

Voting finally began in the House of Representatives on Wednesday February 11, 1801. Each state delegation would get one vote; since there were sixteen states at the time (the original thirteen plus Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee) nine votes were need to win. The Republicans controlled eight congressional delegations and the Federalists, who backed Burr despite Hamilton's efforts, controlled six, with two states deadlocked.  As the day wore on, in ballot after ballot neither Jefferson nor Burr could reach nine votes.

A letter in our collection was written from Connecticut Representative Elizur Goodrich to a New Haven lawyer "at two clock in the morning  & we have just this moment closed the twenty first balloting for president. The votes have uniformly been eight for Jefferson, six for Burr, & two divided."  

Elizur Goodrich ,  autograph letter signed to Stephen Twining.
12 February 1801. AMs 375/21. Collection of the Rosenbach.

Congress remained in session and an hour after Goodrich's dispatch, representative Samuel Smith from the deadlocked state of Maryland wrote a letter to Republican-party organizer Alexander Dallas indicating, "We are now at 3 o'clock of the 12th February A.M. The votes continually  8 for Jefferson, 8 for Burr, & 2 divided. I have not the most distant idea that there will be any change this session."

Samuel Smith, autograph letter signed to A.J. Dallas. 12 February 1801.
AMs 1186/18. Collection of the Rosenbach.

Smith's letter mentions that "attempts are some of us" to convince members of his deadlocked delegation, but concludes, "On the whole make up your mind to have no legal president--they talk of President pro tem being made on the 4th March."  The specter of having of having no President in place by election day was alarming and as the days went on with increasing numbers of House votes leading to no decision, the situation grew increasingly tense. As historian Gordon Wood explained, "Republican newspapers talked of military intervention. The governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania began preparing their state militias for action. Mobs gathered in the capital and threatened to prevent any president from being appointed by statute."

Samuel Smith would actually play an important role in breaking the deadlock. On Monday February 16, Smith relayed assurances to the lone Delaware representative, James Bayard,  that Jefferson would be willing to accept the Federalist's deal. Burr apparently was not; Bayard later wrote to Hamilton that "Burr was resolved not to commit himself." On Tuesday, February 17, Bayard and the Federalists in three other states abstained and Jefferson was finally elected on the 36th ballot by a margin of 10-4 with two abstentions. 

In the aftermath, Jefferson himself disavowed that he had many any deals, leaving historians to fight over exactly what was or wasn't said. Congress was also determined to to repeat this particular fiasco, so it passed the 12th amendment in 1803 (ratified in 1804) to separate the electoral college's balloting for President and Vice President.

Had enough yet? This was only a small sliver of the crazy election of 1800. We didn't get into the partisan nastiness or any of the electioneering. But if you're feeling overwhelmed, I'll leave you with the much more succinct version from Hamilton.