Friday, April 28, 2017

The Digital Paxton Project

Will Fenton, the 2016- 2017 Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Dissertation Fellow created Digital Paxton to support research for his first dissertation chapter and to expand awareness of and access to the Paxton Pamphlet War. In particular, he aspired to create an interdisciplinary meeting space where historians and literary scholars can share documents and methods that will enrich both scholarship and pedagogy. 

Historically, the Paxton corpus has proven difficult to define. Scholars have identified anywhere from twenty-eight to over sixty-three pamphlets, some of which have been digitized and some not, and with little rationale; in addition, inconsistent distinctions between pamphlets and political cartoons makes it difficult to locate resources. For researchers, ad hoc archiving and partial digitization make it difficult to discern derivation and to account for the contingency, exchange, and intertextuality of the pamphlets of Paxton critics and apologists. To that end, Fenton has collaborated with archivists across Pennsylvania to create a digital archive and critical edition of the pamphlet war. 

Political Cartoon form the Digital Paxton Archive 

Digital Paxton for the first time collects in one open-source repository all surviving pamphlets, broadsides, political cartoons, and correspondence related to the Paxton incident. In addition to digitization efforts by the American Philosophical Society, Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections, and Moravian Archives of Bethlehem, the project has benefited from the generosity of my founding partners, the Library Company and Historical Society of Philadelphia, both of which assigned summer interns to digitize and transcribe resources.

Today, Digital Paxton features more than 1,600 free, open-source, print-quality images, many of which were previously unavailable online. As a web-based critical edition, Digital Paxton also accommodates various forms of scholarly contributions: Fenton solicited and edited historical overviews from Kevin Kenny (Boston College) Darvin L. Martin, and Jack Brubaker; conceptual keyword essays from Nicole Eustace (New York University), Scott Paul Gordon (Lehigh University), James P. Myers, Jr. (Gettysburg College), Angel-Luke O’Donnell (King’s College, London), and Judith Ridner (Mississippi State University); and teaching materials from faculty at Lehigh University, Loyola University, Shepherd University, and HSP Education.

The exhibition at the Library Company, A New Looking-Glass for the 1764 Pamphlet War, seeks to showcase some of those wonderful resources and to reframe the Paxton pamphlet war as a crisis of representation that in many ways foreshadowed the American Revolution. To increase access, he has created a digital companion that both reproduces and extends that material exhibition (

Will Fenton
Albert M. Greenfield Foundation 
Dissertation Fellow

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