In the past, the only way to find materials within the vast set of collections previously known as “Miscellaneous Manuscripts” was to ask a librarian or grapple with an incomplete card catalog. Now, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Library is creating online catalog records that will provide intellectual access to each of the 12,000 small collections now known collectively as the American Historical Manuscript Collection (AHMC).
Starting on March 30, a selection of notable items from the AHMC will be on view in the reading room of the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library. These include a ticket to the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, an illustrated letter from an American soldier during WWII, a letter from Rev. Jonathan Edwards on his observations of spiders, and a letter written during the War of 1812 introducing a cipher for military communications.
On display in the reading room are two pages from the illustrated volume above. This detailed watercolor is the work of Pennsylvania German-American folk artist Lewis Miller (1796-1882). Although he was a carpenter by trade, Miller was driven to make detailed drawings of everything around him. His illustrations of life in York, Pa., contribute greatly to our knowledge of everyday life in 19th century Pennsylvania. He also depicted slavery in Virginia, a trip to Europe in the 1840s, and the American Civil War.
This image shows his father, Ludwig Miller (sometimes known as Johann Ludwig or Lewis), teaching at the Lutheran school house in York. He lists the names of all the students pictured, including “the colour’d boy Abbe, belonging to Mr. James Smith, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence” in the lower right-hand corner. Lewis Miller created this volume, with some text by his father, to commemorate the Lutheran Church at York.
Also on view is an anting-anting or charm enclosed in a letter from U.S. Army officer Charles B. Hagadorn (1866-1918), who served in the Philippine-American War (1899-1902) as a camp commander. As he explains in the postscript below, he sent the anting-anting, which he removed from the body of a Filipino solider, in a letter [not on display] to a Mrs. Babbitt (probably Emily Fenno Babbitt, wife of General Edwin Burr Babbitt). Hagadorn explains that the charms were meant to prevent bullets from harming the soldier.
These are just a few of the many treasures we have uncovered during this project. We invite you to view these items and the rest of our exhibit during library hours, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 4:45 pm.