Thursday, January 17, 2013

Commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln, A Proclamation (1862). Manuscript.
In addition to printed copies of the final Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, and a September 1862 “preliminary” Proclamation, giving the Confederacy 100 days’ notice of the President’s intention to end slavery, the Library Company possesses a rare manuscript copy in Abraham Lincoln’s hand from July 25, 1862. In it he warns rebels that they risked forfeiting their property, implicitly including their enslaved human property, unless they surrendered. A predecessor to the Emancipation Proclamation, this document marks an important instance of Lincoln wielding his presidential authority to strike a blow against slavery.

The penultimate document is currently on display in the Library Company’s Logan Room, together with a collection of related publications and news items, including coverage of a commemoration of the September document by noted abolitionists decades after the Civil War. The manuscript Proclamation will be installed on January 28, having recently returned from the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, where it formed part of an exhibition entitled “Proclaiming Emancipation: Slavery and Freedom in the Era of the Civil War.” Program in African American History Director Erica Armstrong Dunbar contextualizes this historic document in her article Freedom Bound: The Sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation.
All Slaves Were Made Freemen by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, January 1st, 1863 (Philadelphia, 1863). Lithograph.

The Library Company will also partner with the African American Museum, the National Park Service, and the University of Delaware to present a teaching symposium entitled “Beyond the Proclamation: Interpreting Emancipation for Today’s Youth,” which will include two panels and a keynote address by University of North Carolina at Greensboro Associate Professor and Director of Public History Dr. Benjamin Filene.

Professor Dunbar will introduce the first panel on "Reaching Students in the Classroom and the Field," made up of Naomi Coquillon from the National Museum of American History; Michelle Evans of Connor Prairie Interactive History Park; Masterman High School’s Amy Cohen; and Krystal Appiah, African American History Specialist at the Library Company.

"Beyond the Proclamation: Interpreting Emancipation for Today’s Youth" will be held on Saturday, February 23, 2013, at WHYY, Independence Mall West, 150 N. Sixth Street, Philadelphia. Visit to register and receive more information. You can also register by calling the Friends’ office at 215-861-4971 or by e-mailing

PBS’s "Abolitionists" Draws on LCP Expertise and Collections

John Sartain, Burning of Pennsylvania Hall (Philadelphia, 1838).  Mezzotint.

To coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, on January 8 PBS aired the first segment of its three-part miniseries "The Abolitionists," which chronicles the development of the movement from the 1820s to 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. The series’ creators interviewed Program in African American History Director Erica Armstrong Dunbar for her perspective on key figures in the abolitionist struggle. The program also features historical images from the Library Company’s collections illustrating the destruction of abolitionist meeting-place Pennsylvania Hall in 1838, burned to the ground by pro-slavery mobs four days after its completion.

The program follows five leading abolitionist figures — Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimke, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown — and tells their stories through an innovative mix of dramatic reenactment and documentary technique. Professor Dunbar believes the show’s creators did a good job of portraying the complexities and evolution of the long process that preceded the Emancipation Proclamation and the great bravery of the early abolitionists. Her on-air comments focus centrally on Frederick Douglass and his leadership in securing emancipation.

J.C. Wild, Pennsylvania Hall (Philadelphia, 1838). Lithograph.

The series' makers also used images from the Library Company’s collections to illustrate the narrative of Pennsylvania Hall, constructed at Sixth and Haines Streets in Philadelphia as a meeting place for local abolitionist groups and dedicated on May 14, 1838. Four days later, on the night of May 17, a mob stormed the Hall and set it on fire. Fire companies refused to fight the blaze, and the building was completely destroyed. John Caspar Wild’s ca. 1838 hand-colored lithograph and an engraving by John Sartain, a member of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and a premier 19th-century Philadelphia engraver, both depict the Hall engulfed in flames.

As a supplement to the program, PBS has partnered with HistoryPin, a website that allows visitors to “pin” images to geographic locations, to create an abolitionism map. The Library Company has contributed a number of historic images of significant antislavery sites that highlight our strengths in African American and local Philadelphia history. Our HistoryPin channel features several images of the nation’s earliest African American churches, including the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the African Zoar Methodist Episcopal Church, and the early 19th-century edifice of the Bethel AME Church where Richard Allen preached, all buildings which are no longer standing. Other images include 18th-century abolitionist Anthony Benezet’s home ( the sole dwelling on a rustic section of Chestnut Street) and the Sartain engraving of the Pennsylvania Hall fire which appears in the miniseries. The remaining segment of the three-part series will air on January 22.

PBS films historian Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr., in the Library Company's Logan Room. LCP's African American History Specialist Krystal Appiah shares her knowledge of the collections while Director John Van Horne (far right) looks on.

The makers of another high-profile PBS documentary series, "African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross," stopped by the Library Company last month to view material in our collections. Program host and Harvard historian Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., and his crew were in Philadelphia to film a segment on Richard Allen. The production had been filming at Mother Bethel Church, where they learned about the related material in our collections. The production team’s impromptu visit was rewarded with a viewing of originals of engravings of Allen and the Bethel AME Church’s 1806 structure. "Many Rivers to Cross," a six-part series, will explore almost 400 years of African American history; producers are currently exploring using other materials from our African Americana collection.

The Junto Celebrates Typee, Trenton, and Turtles

Junto panelists Bill Reese, Joe Felcome, Librarian Jim Green, and Clarence Wolf share collecting tales with renowned collector Michael Zinman (seated).  

Members of the Library Company Junto gathered on December 4 for a panel discussion on collecting featuring shareholders and notable collectors Bill Reese, Joe Felcone, and Clarence Wolf. Reese, who owns the William Reese Company in New Haven specializing in Americana and Literature, collects the works of Herman Melville; Joseph Felcone, proprietor of Joseph J. Felcone, Inc., of Princeton, is an authority on and specializes in the history and geography of New Jersey; and Clarence Wolf, owner of the MacManus Company in Bryn Mawr and an early Americana expert, has collected American herpetology since he was a boy.

Clarence Wolf, a Library Company Trustee, organized the event, which also featured an informal exhibition of some of the collectors’ prized finds. Bill Reese brought a number of Melville books and manuscripts, the best of which was Melville’s copy of a prime source for Moby Dick, Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket, Boston, 1835. Joe Felcone brought a number of rare New Jersey imprints, including the first book printed in South Jersey, a forgotten anonymous novel called The Glebe House, Salem, 1799; the first American edition of DeQuincy’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which was printed in Bridgeton in 1823; and the first printing Benjamin Franklin did for the government of New Jersey, a compilation of the acts and laws passed by the Assembly in 1733, of which only two other copies are known. Among the items Clarence Wolf brought were the first American herpetological book, Benjamin Smith Barton’s 1796 Memoir Concerning the Fascinating Faculty Which Has Been Ascribed to the Rattle-Snake, and (described as his most-valued possession) Barton’s original watercolor depiction of the spotted salamander, which was made into a copperplate illustration published in the American Philosophical Society’s Transactions in 1804.

Attendees were on the edges of their seats for more than an hour of great tales of book and print collecting. Members of the Junto provide financial support for the acquisition of rare books, prints, and photographs. The name is taken from the “Club for Mutual Improvement” formed by Franklin in 1727, which turned out to be the nucleus of the Library Company. Members of the original Junto shared an interest in books and an enjoyment of good fellowship—and our Junto carries on this tradition with a lively annual get-together. Support the Junto today with a gift of $100 or more and reserve your place at this year’s event.

LCP Contributes History of Oil to Global Commodity Database

Library Company collections related to the exploitation of oil will be included in an online database exploring global commodity trade that is being assembled by Adam Matthew Digital. The Global Commodities database brings together manuscript, print, and visual primary source material dealing with chocolate, coffee, cotton, fur, oil, opium, porcelain, silver, gold, spices, sugar, tea, timber, tobacco, wheat, wine, and spirits—commodities that changed the course of world history.

The featured commodities have been transported, exchanged, and consumed around the world for hundreds of years. They helped transform societies, global trading operations, habits of consumption, and social practices. The site includes a fully searchable interactive chronology; maps; digital images of photographs, artworks, advertising materials, and ephemera; online exhibitions; and scholarly essays. Users also have the ability to explore commodity prices across time and space using a unique data visualization tool.

Material representing Library Company collections, which will be available on the site within the year, includes Abraham Gesner’s 1864 A Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum, and Other Distilled Oils; a large number of mid-19th-century marketing and governance documents from oil companies with names such as Great Basin, Hickory Farm, Lightfoots Currying, McClintock Reserve, Maple and Wyle, National Oil Creek, Muskingum, Story Farm, and Burning Spring; as well as a variety of maps and geological reports. Along with distinguished research collections, private company archives such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Cadbury’s, General Mills, Harveys of Bristol, and Imperial Tobacco are contributing material to the database.

The resource is available free of charge to readers in our Reading Room as well as by subscription.

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