New-York Historical Society

Category Archives: Manuscripts

The Half Moon Club

Few people are aware that the Half Moon Club even existed and this probably wouldn’t have bothered its members very much. Although it wasn’t a secret society, its surviving club “log” suggests that it was on par with other leading Progressive Era social organizations — elite, sophisticated and enormously selective. Beginning in 1906, the Half [...]

“The Star-Spangled Banner” Watched O’er the Ramparts of Fort McHenry

This post was written by Mariam Touba, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections  Frank Key, as his friends knew him, had little use for this war, particularly as he viewed the War of 1812 as an aggressive one directed at Canada.   The Georgetown lawyer’s patriotism kicked in, however, with the threat of the British invading the [...]

“Lamenting the Disgrace of the City”: The 1814 Burning of Washington, D.C.

This post was written by Mariam Touba, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections. “Our preparation for defence by some means or other, is constantly retarded but the small force the British have on the Bay will never venture nearer than at present 23 miles,” First Lady Dolley Madison wrote to her friend in her letter of [...]

Damn the torpedoes! The Battle of Mobile Bay

This post was written by Alice Browne, Ebsco Project cataloger. The Battle of Mobile Bay, fought on August 5, 1864, led to Union control of one of the last significant Gulf ports remaining in Confederate hands. The New-York Historical Society holds letters and papers from several participants in the battle. It was widely anticipated, and [...]

“I wish to be honorable & right in my dealings all round” — Letters from Louisa May Alcott to James Redpath

This post was written by Miranda Schwartz, cataloging technician. The New-York Historical Society Library has a collection of eighteen letters by Louisa May Alcott, best known as the author of the 1868 novel Little Women, a classic of American children’s literature. The Alcott letters are in the American Historical Manuscripts Collection, a trove of 12,000 small [...]

The Preservation of 18th Century Parchment

This post was written by Janet Lee, Conservation Assistant  Parchment is a kind of processed animal skin that has been used for centuries as a writing surface. Considered strong and stable, parchments have traditionally been used for important documents. These parchments are late 18th century colonial land grants from the Banyar manuscript collection. Like most [...]

George Frederick Seward and the Chinese Exclusion Act

This post was written by Heather Mulliner, spring semester intern in the Department of Manuscripts. A career in politics seemed all but inevitable for George Frederick Seward, the nephew of Lincoln’s famed Secretary of State (and one-time Presidential rival) William Henry Seward. But like his better-known uncle – whose vocal opposition to slavery cost him [...]

“To blossom as a rose”: the Society and the New York Wilderness

While the rain falls outside and spring continues to give us only tantalizing glimpses, it seems like a good time to visit a curious little story about the conflicted relationship we Americans have long maintained with nature. In fact, it actually involves the New-York Historical Society itself. By September 1809, just shy of five years [...]

What does the ‘S’ in Ulysses S. Grant stand for?

You might expect to hear this kind of question in a game of Trivial Pursuit, and if you’re inclined to say “Simpson”, you’re right – sort of. In truth, Simpson was not part of his name at all and that’s on the authority of the man himself. On June 23, 1864, Grant wrote to Congressman [...]

Keeping the Peace with Samuel Colt

Post written by Tammy Kiter, Manuscript Reference Librarian “If I can’t be first, I won’t be second in anything.” – Samuel Colt, 1844 Born in Hartford, CT, in 1814, Samuel Colt transformed the evolution of firearms. An ambitious inventor and successful industrialist, Colt was fascinated by machinery from an early age. He enjoyed taking things [...]

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This is a blog created by staff members in the library to draw attention to the richness and diversity of our collections.

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