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Home » About » Blog » New Manuscripts Finding Aids, Spring 2022: Cuba, War of 1812 Privateering, Teenagers, Labor, and More

The William L. Clements Library is pleased to share 23 new finding aids for manuscripts collections.  Many represent new acquisitions, such as our growing collection of materials related to Cuba in the 19th century. Others include two journals kept aboard privateer vessels during the War of 1812, one of them by a sailor and the other by a ship physician.  We continue to improve our collections related to the lives and activities of teenagers, particularly in the form of diaries and education-related papers. Among the highlights might be the Civil War diary of Fannie Preston, kept while she stayed in Baker County, Georgia. Another may be the teenage scrapbook of author, poet, orator, and playwright Grace Adele Pierce.  Additions to our labor materials include a selection of account books, journals, documents, and more. Among them are an account book of a father-son undertaking firm in Virginia and two ledgers of a for-profit bureau in Philadelphia, which sought to place immigrants, African Americans, and others into places of employment.

The Clements Library continues to process its wealth of manuscript materials and make them available to scholars and other researchers.  We would like to express our gratitude for the vital work that the University of Michigan Library’s Digital Content and Collections (DCC) department continues to provide in making these finding aids digitally available to the public.

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Charles E. Barthell letterbook (1893-1895)

Charles E. Barthell’s letterpress volume of correspondence primarily relates to his business in real estate, loans, and retail management, particularly in Superior, Wisconsin, March 18, 1893-August 24, 1895. Approximately 1,000 pages of letters pertain to mortgages, deeds, real estate transactions, property taxes, and the collection of rental payments. Other content includes his efforts to secure a position in customs in Superior, as well as occasional references to the local steel business and conditions in the region. He sporadically commented on economic markets, noting bank closures, financial hardships, and how Superior withstood the changes. Only a small minority of letters contain personal or family content.

Walter Gibbs Beal letter book (1877-1879)

This volume contains around 300 letterpress business letters from commission merchant W. G. Beal in Caibarién, Cuba, to recipients in Cuba, France, Spain, Boston, and London respecting administration of nearby sugar plantations Floridanos and Prudencia from December 10, 1877, to February 3, 1879. Working on behalf of Benjamin Burgess & Sons of Boston, Beal’s letters provide detailed, day-to-day documentation of mechanical aspects of growing sugar cane, processing it, storing it, transporting it, securing buyers, shipping it, and financing the efforts. Beal also wrote about slavery, contract labor, other labor issues, impending emancipation, the final days and conclusion of the Ten Years’ War, and the beginnings of the Little War.

Emma M. Biddle family collection (1861-1862)

This collection contains one receipt, two letters to Philadelphian Emma M. Biddle from her husband Charles J. Biddle, one to Emma from her niece Agnes, and one from Ann S. Biddle to Charles Biddle, all dating between 1861 and 1862. The letters from Charles Biddle provide news about his life with the U.S. Army at Camp Pierpont, Virginia, and as a senator in Washington, D.C. The letter from Agnes is a request for Emma to pick up photographs from the McClees studio. Ann Biddle recommended an acquaintance to Charles for a military appointment. One additional item is a receipt for a payment made by Emma Biddle to a Philadelphia hoop skirt maker.

Mark and Frank Bigler account book (1880-1907, bulk 1882-1904)

Undertakers, carpenters, and farmers Mark Bigler IV and his son Frank Earnest Bigler of Botetourt County, Virginia, kept this volume of financial records. The primary accounting documents coffin-making and burials from 1891 to 1909, with names of the deceased, names of the parent(s) of the deceased in cases of infant’s and children’s deaths, in two cases race (African American men), costs, and payment statuses. Other accounts pertain to mending, clerking, sawmill labor, wagon making, house and barn work, repair work on fences, plank, lumber, agricultural labor (related to hay, corn, potato, wheat, etc.), harvesting, rail splitting, and other work. The accounts with L. W. Painter include castor oil, whiskey, medicine, pills, “morphia,” and needles.

Cuba collection (1830-1893, bulk 1845-1858, 1865-1883)

The Cuba collection contains around 80 individual manuscripts (largely documents) related to the economic, racial, and political history of Cuba from the early to the late 19th century. The collection primarily focuses on the indentured servitude of Chinese workers, as well as Cuba’s enslavement, trade, and manumission of largely African people. Another subset of the materials relates to 19th century insurrections and filibusters on the Island, including the López Expedition and Cuban resistance pertinent to the Ten Years’ War.

Belle Danforth student map composition book (1891)

Belle D. Danforth compiled geography exercises in this composition notebook during 1891, when she was approximately thirteen years old. The volume principally focuses on the United States but also includes entries relating to Africa, Asia, and North America. Belle Danforth’s exercises provide information on a standard list of topics, including details on the location, the “race of man” to be found in the area, native animals, vegetable life, resources, industries, productions, cities, countries and capitals, and government. However, Danforth did not always include answers for each in her entries, in particular only noting racial groups when writing about larger regions. She also included a hand-drawn map of the area with descriptive text relating to boundaries, bays and gulfs, capes, mountains, rivers, lakes, and cities.

Schooner Dart journal (1812)

The Schooner Dart Journal documents the voyage of an American privateering vessel under the command of Master Thorndike Symonds from July 16, 1812, to August 8, 1812. The schooner departed from Salem, Massachusetts, and stopped at Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia, before ranging along the Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts coasts in search of British prizes. The journal’s author notes wind and weather conditions, places passed, and encounters with other ships, which were principally American privateers, merchant vessels, and fishermen.

Manuscripts fanned out

The William L. Clements Library has increased its printed and manuscript holdings related to 19th century Cuba. The array shown here are examples from the Cuba Collection of individually acquired items. Another new manuscript and finding aid related to the island is the Walter Gibbs Beal Letter Book.

Robert Eugene Davis letters (1944-1945)

The Robert Eugene Davis Letters comprise eight letters (with seven envelopes) written by Seaman First Class Robert Eugene Davis home from the USS Philip (Pacific Theater) to his father, Oscar L. Davis of Anderson, Indiana, during the last year of World War II (September 1944-September 1945).

Fabric Weaver’s journal and spec book (1845-1855)

This volume contains 16 pages of notes from an unidentified textile weaver (who wove by hand), produced between 1845 and 1855. Entries contain information on the types of textiles woven, weaving techniques, weave pattern and color, number of biers in the weave, size of the textiles, and design elements associated with the textiles.

Alice L. Gardner diary (1886)

This partially printed, annual daily diary was kept by 12-13 year old Alice L. Gardner of Warren, Rhode Island, over the course of 1886. Her brief entries reflect on social matters, local news, church activities, games, school, dance, theater, and musical lessons.

Carlyle Harris trial postcards (1893)

This collection is made up of eight partially printed postcards addressed to Governor of New York Roswell P. Flower, respecting the trial of convicted murderer Carlyle Harris (1868-1893). Harris secretly married Mary Helen Potts in 1890. After a traumatic termination of pregnancy and ensuing family issues, Helen took medication tainted with a lethal dose of morphine given to her by Harris. These postcards are from citizens in New York, Chicago, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., offering their opinions on Harris’ sentence. They suggest commuting his sentence to 10 years, examining him to find out if he suffered the effects of being “electro magnetised”, endorsing capital punishment for the “devilish” crime, and believing that he was innocent.

James W. Hawn diaries (1862-1867)

This collection is made up of six diaries kept between 1862 and 1867 by James W. Hawn, “First Telegrapher,” clerk, and manager of the Corn Exchange bank office in the Western Union Telegraph Company building on 145 Broadway in New York City.

Daniel Hewett diary (1861, 1863, bulk 1861)

This is the 1861 pre-printed pocket diary of Daniel Hewett, a stonecutter, quarry worker, and machinist in Waterbury, Vermont. His brief daily entries include notes about the wind and weather, home and employed work, and occasional other remarks. The diary entries are followed by the writer’s financial accounting for the year. The printed portion of the diary is titled, “The Vermont Diary containing Commercial Almanac, and Vermont Directory for 1861, between February 6 and December 31, 1861” (Rutland, Vt.: George A. Tuttle & Company, [1860]).

Andrew Hicks checks (1842-1865, bulk 1855)

This collection is made up of 41 checks, almost all of which are drawn on the Merchants Bank of New Bedford and signed by ship agent, merchant, and bank director Andrew Hicks of Westport, Massachusetts. A number of these partially printed documents are checks of different banks, such as the Marine Bank and Bedford Commercial Bank, with the bank names crossed out and replaced in manuscript with “Merchants” Bank. Recipients of the checks include Andrew Hicks himself, insurance companies, suppliers, and various individuals. Many also include small, engraved images and vignettes of whales, ships and ship scenes, and a floundering whale capsizing a rowboat.

Keystone Employment Bureau records (1897-1898)

These two volumes contain records of job seekers that hired the Keystone Employment Bureau of Philadelphia to connect them with opportunities. Proprietor Charles Bradley kept this documentation. Each entry contains one or more of the following types of information: source of the client, address or contact information, age, rudimentary physical description, personality, impression, job experience, type of requested work, type of work not wanted by individuals, desired wage, race, ethnicity, nationality, Christian affiliation, desired geographical location of the job, whether or not the client paid, and other remarks.

Ormond P. Loomis collection (1828-1830)

This collection is made up of penmanship, mathematical, astronomical, and cartographic educational manuscripts created by circa 15-17 year old Ormond Pinneo Loomis while attending school in his hometown of Columbia, Connecticut, between 1828 and 1829. It also includes documentation regarding his teaching, classroom, and students for Fall-Winter 1829-1830.

Projection of solar eclipse

Sixteen-year-old student Ormond Loomis of Columbia, Connecticut, created ornate calligraphy and cursive as part of his education. He also created mathematical copybooks and beautiful projections of the eclipses of 1830 and 1836. The one pictured here anticipates the solar eclipse of May 15, 1836. Ormond P. Loomis Collection.

John Manning, “Diary of the Sick on board of the Mammoth” (1814-1816)

John Manning, the physician aboard the large privateer schooner Mammoth, kept this volume during the ship’s voyage from Portland, Maine, to the Madeira Islands and Cape Verde region during the War of 1812. Entries range from December 30, 1814, to April 13, 1815, when the ship returned to New York. The volume lists the patients’ names, symptoms, and treatments, as well as occasional notes on weather conditions, locations, and activities. One partial medical exemption for John Schwartze of Capt. Thomas Simmons’ Company of Militia, dated May 6, 1816, from Waldoboro, Maine, appears at the end of the volume. An undated list of twenty exempt men and their medical conditions is written on the back cover.

M. T. Bennett, Jr. & Company ledger (1875-1896)

M. T. Bennett, Jr. & Co. kept this pre-printed business ledger of detailed information about shipments of coal by this Fall River, Massachusetts, company (87 pages used out of 384 total). Each entry includes the date, No. of Pock., name of vessel, received/credited to, delivered/charged to, article (i.e. type of coal), No. of B. L., tons & 20th, price of freight, gross freight, advance to captain, discharging, net freight, invoice price, amount of invoice, and other remarks. The company’s letterhead reads “M. T. Bennett, Jr. & Co., wholesale and retail dealers in Delaware and Hudson Canal company’s Lackawanna, ‘Fulton,’ Stout,’ (Lehigh,) Scranton, Wilkesbarre and Bituminous Coal.”

Grace Adele Pierce scrapbook ([1890-1894])

Writer, lecturer, poet, and playwright Grace Adele Pierce compiled this stab-stitched volume of newspaper and other serial cuttings, autographs, manuscript texts, portraits, and drawings around 1890-1894 while she lived at home with her parents in Randolph, New York. The newspaper/serial clippings include announcements for Pierce’s lectures, talks, and readings, as well as printed portraits of women writers and original poetry. Two drawings include a sailboat with very finely drawn seaweed; and a pencil portrait of Grace Pierce at her desk, reading a book (by Helen A. Winsoe). Several clipped autographs include those of Jane Mead Welch, Christine Terhune Herrick, and J. Ellen Foster. Pierce also pasted in a handwritten list of books by writer Margaret E. Sangster, titled “Best in my judgement.”

Pencil portrait of Grace Adele Pierce

Helen A. Winsoe created this accomplished pencil portrait of author, poet, and playwright Grace Adele Pierce (1858-1923) when Pierce was around 32 years old. The illustration is pasted onto a page in her scrapbook. Grace Adele Pierce Scrapbook.

Police and Detective wanted and reward scrapbook (1916-1918, bulk 1917-1918)

These 12 scrapbook pages contain announcements, reward and wanted advertisements and circulars, typed notes, and police letters and telegrams for individuals wanted by the law. The crimes include illegally collecting subscription money, destruction of a powder magazine at the Navy Yard on Mare Island, family desertion, failure to provide for the family or minor children, auto theft, murder, embezzlement, horse stealing, larceny, bank robbery, burglary, fraud, and others. The primary geographical locations are Sacramento and San Francisco, California; other advertisements are from Georgia, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, and other California locations. The bulk of the wanted individuals are white, but several represent Japanese, Greek, and Mexican perpetrators. One letter from the William J. Burns International Detective Agency, Inc., dated April 20, 1918, includes a pasted-on mugshot photograph of Manuel Schenone.

Fannie Preston diary (1861-1863)

Fannie Preston’s diary spans 120 pages and reflects her experiences during a stay in Baker County, Georgia, from November 1861 to September 1862, and of life in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1862 to 1863. Preston discussed daily life, wartime hardships, battles, Confederates, Confederate-sympathizers, African American people, slavery, religion, education, and wartime hardships.

Selma (Ala.) Private Library manuscript inventory ([1870s?])

This private or personal library manuscript inventory includes approximately 800 titles. The first section is a list of titles or authors on each of three bookshelves, while the second section contains lists organized by subject. The manuscript came from the estate of Belzora Baker Kemp (1901-1988), a wealthy Selma, Alabama, woman whose library occupied two houses. The inventory pre-dates Belzora’s birth, thus could not be her own inventory, but it is currently unknown whether or not it represents titles and authors in her own collection.

State of Ohio vs. William S. Bergin documents (1877)

This collection is made up of briefs, arguments, lists of precedents, manuscript form affidavits, and other documents related to the trial of William S. Bergin for the murder of Thomas J. McBride, barkeeper and proprietor of the Bergin House hotel in Mount Vernon, Ohio, on June 15, 1877. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity (i.e. he was intoxicated when committing the murder), but the jury convicted him and he was sentenced to death. These papers appear to have been compiled by Bergin’s defense counsel during the process of seeking a retrial in August 1877.