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8 posts from November 2012

27 November 2012

A Disputed Boundary: mapping the Gadsden Purchase Treaty

K90131-78

Map illustrating the disputed Boundary between the United States and Mexico (New York, 1853) Maps 71495.(25)

Public Domain Mark
This work (Map illustrating the disputed Boundary between the United States and Mexico, by creator: G. Schroeter; producer: British Library), identified by The British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

This map is being digitized as part of the US Civil War project.  It predates the war, of course, but is a record of the western expansion that helped to spark it.  It shows the disputed territory between New Mexico and Mexico following the Treaty of Gaudaloupe-Hidalgo, which ended the Mexico-American War of 1846-48.  The Mesilla Valley offered an important potential railroad route to the West via a Southern route (important to the slave states), but the treaty was based on an out-of-date map favoured by the United States.  New surveys demanded by the treaty revealed the error.

In 1847, a British bank had brought rights to the land, leading to fears of British influence in the American hemisphere (the fears of which Mexico used to good effect with its negotiations with the States), while the Gold Rush of 1848 gave the potential route even more importance. In 1853, the newly elected Pierce administration, which included the future Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, favoured a more bullish policy towards southern expansion and, taking advantage of economic and political turmoil within Mexico and the New Mexico governor's claim to the disputed territories, James Gadsden purchased six packages of lands for $15 million.  Mexico unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Britain to become involved in the negotiations, and the treaty was ratified in 1854.  The US Army took possession of the lands, and became responsible for suppressing the Apache tribes noted on the map (under the terms of the Guadalup-Hidalgo treaty, the US was responsible for protecting Mexican citizens from Apache raiding parties; for their part, the Apaches had been resisting Mexican intrusion into their lands for the best part of three centuries).

The Southern Pacific Railroad, which headed west from Los Angeles, was completed in December 1881.

Detail
(Detail of Maps.71495(25) above)

22 November 2012

Mapping risk: Goad's Fire Insurance Plan of Québec

Goad plan Quebec (cover)

Public Domain Mark 
This work (Charles E. Goad, Fire Insurance Plan, City of Québec, 1910) identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

One of my current projects at home has been to find the first OS map that shows the development of the street I live on from a track to a row of houses. Seeing the area around the street develop and change over time is fascinating and explains some of the road’s current quirks – it also illustrates why we have a fascination with old maps.

Hopefully the illustrations for today’s blog will have the same effect for some. While not the oldest map of Québec the Library holds (see here and here for some of those), the Charles E. Goad ‘Insurance Plan of the City of Quebec’ [BL Shelfmark: Maps 147.b.24(1)] is a fascinating depiction of the city in the early twentieth century.  

Goad was a British migrant to Canada who started producing fire insurance plans in 1875 before opening a highly successful branch of his business back in London in 1885. The function of his plans was to show companies the fire risk in different areas or buildings in urban locations; and this resulted in a unique visual illustration of the city.

 Goad plan Quebec (sheet 2)

 Public Domain Mark 
This work (Charles E. Goad, Fire Insurance Plan, City of Québec, 1910) identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

The above sheets are an overview of the city, showing which areas are covered by particular parts of the plan. The detail sheets, operating at 1:600 scale, are a mix of vividly coloured blocks. This design helps the different materials of each building stand out and means fire risks can be easily identified. Today they are also a record of what has changed in the city and what remains the same – and for those buildings which remain unchanged, the maps provide a wonderful insight into the construction of urban landmarks.

What further complements these maps and others like them in our collections are the Canadian photographs that were collected between 1895 and 1924 (you can read a bit more about them here. These can provide views of the streets and businesses depicted on Goad’s (and other) maps, creating a useful hybrid view. This is one of the reasons we are currently working on digitising the photographs, a sneak preview of which you can see here, courtesy of the Europeana WWI project (Europeana Collections 1914-18)

[PJH]

15 November 2012

From the Collections: Captain Cook and the Nuu-Chah-Nulth

 View of Habitations in Nootka Sound

‘A View of the Habitations in Nootka Sound’ plate held at BL: 456.h.24

Public Domain Mark 
This work (A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean...,London: W & A Strahan, etc., 1784), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

 Once again I’ve been calling up some of the many works of Captain James Cook from the Library's storage areas, this time to look at his notes and illustrations relating to his searches for the fabled 'great southern land' and the North-West Passage. While my reason for calling the items up was more concerned with the frozen seas of the Arctic and the Antarctic, as usual I was waylaid by some other writings and illustrations that I came across.

In October I was able to take something off my long ‘to-do’ list when I visited UBC's Museum of Anthropology. The collections held there, together with the various economic and political issues affecting today’s inhabitants of British Columbia made me think of the dramatic changes that have happened subsequent to Cook’s contact with the area. With this in mind I let myself wander to a series of plates dedicated to the people and material culture of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth.

Various Articles at Nootka Sound
‘Various Articles at Nootka Sound’ plate held at BL: 456.h.24

The illustrations of the area (I think done around Yuquot), its people and material culture, are both interesting and useful records. But, as with many travel accounts of the period, they (together with the notes and images which document all of Cook’s three voyages), are indicative of an imperial way of seeing the various peoples encountered, an emphasis being placed on their 'Otherness' to European eyes.

Indie of a Hippah
‘The Indie of a Hippah in New Zeeland’ plate held at BL: 456.h.24

The materials relating to Cook’s voyages have been published in many forms, including the exhaustive ‘A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean…’ [BL Shelfmark: 454.h.9 -11], with which these plates are associated [but stored separately at BL Shelfmark: 456.h.24]. The Library also holds various accounts of Nuu-Chah-Nulth culture and post-contact history, although many of these need to be searched for using the term Nootka (as used in the works’ titles).

[PJH]

13 November 2012

Exploring Cuba - from St Pancras


It has been 110 years since the United States ended its official occupation of Cuba in 1902, which began in 1898 at the end of the so-called ‘Spanish-American War.’ Digging around our manuscripts collections I recently discovered that we hold the papers of a certain Melville Preston Troy, who worked in the customs office of U.S. occupied Havana (Add MS 71718). On the face of it one may think detailed accounts of tariffs and customs checks hardly qualify as stimulating reading. However, the papers are a truly fascinating collection, comprised predominantly of letters and reports that shed light on the increased role of the U.S. in Cuba’s economy in the 20th century. One report in particular goes into great detail regarding the importance of lowering tariffs on sugar, cattle and tobacco imports from Cuba- as these would prove to be major areas of investment for U.S. companies. The papers also reveal the ways the Caribbean and Latin America figured significantly in the lives and consciousness of Americans in the 19th century. Incredible historical sources, the papers are also unique biographical documents that offer a window on to how one man from North Carolina found himself in involved in one of the great anti-colonial conflicts, and then later came to London as an executive in a tobacco company – which is how his papers eventually ended up at the British Library. 

The long and devastating struggle for Cuban independence from Spain started long before the United States became involved in 1898 and was comprised of three conflicts: the Ten years War 1868-78, the Little War (La Guerra Chiquita) 1879-80 and the Cuban War of Independence 1895-98. Students of Cuba’s protracted fight for independence will be interested to know that the Library has a copy of Album Histórico Fotografico de la Guerra de Cuba desde su principio hasta el reinado de Amadeo I., etc. (BL shelfmark 9771.h.7). Published in Havana in 1872 the book contains rare photographs from the Ten Years War such as this one of the pro-Spanish 1st Battalion of Volunteers of Havana:

 Cuba

Public Domain Mark
This work (Album Histórico Fotografico de la Guerra de Cuba desde su principio hasta el reinado de Amadeo I., etc.), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Reaching back to nearly a century earlier, the Library has another interesting set of papers on occupied Havana when the British took the city in 1762.  The Keppel Papers consist of papers of and collected by Sir George Keppel, including port permits, trade licences, and Keppel’s personal correspondences. Our Cuban holdings don’t stop there, though. Which is just another reason to come and dig around for yourself!

[E.N.C.]

08 November 2012

Tecumseh's warriors: First Nations and the War of 1812

 Subscriptions for Brock Monument (title sheet)

Public Domain Mark
This work (Correspondence, addresses, &c. connected with the subscriptions of various Indian tribes in Upper Canada, in aid of the funds for the re-construction of Brock's monument on Queenston Heights, by publisher: R. Stanton), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

With work still continuing on our War of 1812 digitisation project, Team Americas’ ex-intern Brendan Cull delves back into some of the items he discovered during his time here:

 

While at the Library I had the opportunity to sift through a variety of resources related to the War of 1812. As I dove feet first into historical documents and current research, it became clear to me that the reverberations of the battles fought were far-reaching both geographically and historically. Recently, many communities and groups in North America have been organizing re-enactments and celebrations to commemorate and explore the period. For example, the Royal Canadian Mint has honoured national heroes such as Sir Isaac Brock, Tecumseh, and Laura Secord with special issue coins

The War of 1812 affected many cultural groups and highlights the complex relationships between European settlers and First Nations. One item which caught my attention in particular contains a collection of official communications between Canadian government officials and First Nations leaders. “Correspondence, Addresses Etc. connected with the subscriptions of various Indian tribes in Upper Canada, in aid of the funds for the re-construction of Brock’s Monument, on Queenston Heights” [BL Shelfmark: C.42.b.1] contains a series of letters which connect various First Nations groups to the aforementioned British war hero, Sir Isaac Brock (who was killed in the Battle of Queenston Heights alongside his British and First Nations comrades). It begins with an appeal for fundraising, but fast becomes a fascinating record of the thoughts and feelings of various groups, including the Chippewas, Hurons, Wyandotts, Munsees, Oneidas, Mississagas and Mohawks, regarding their involvement in the war effort. These formal statements express outrage towards the defacement of Brock’s final resting place and their commitment to honour Brock’s memory, and by proxy that of their relatives who fought alongside him. By making financial contributions towards the re-erection of Brock’s Monument, the First Nations strove to commemorate their own involvement in many of the same battles in which Brock and, famously, Tecumseh had fought.

These letters are made even more telling when one considers that the American Army would not accept First Nations men amongst its ranks, whereas the British showed some encouragement to them to join in the conflict. An article entitled “Canadian Indians” in the March 9, 1813 edition of the Montreal Gazette [BL Shelfmark: MC270] reports that President James Madison mocked the British for fighting alongside the “red people”. The author makes it clear that while Madison had a negative view of First Nations people, not all Americans subscribed to this judgement; in fact, he draws on personal experience to counter Madison’s stand. These documents give us a sense of not only the politics of the conflict but also the role of the First Nations groups who had an important stake in its outcome.

[B.C.]

06 November 2012

US Presidential Election: Bill Clinton at Penn

 

PB060304
Bill Clinton at the Penn rally (photo: E. Gee)

The University of Penn runs a great series of seminars on 'Material Texts'. Yesterday, I left the Library Company early and headed across the Schuylkill to University City, with the plan of doing some writing, and then hearing Dan Hobbins (Notre Dame) discuss the early history of the colophon.  

But, on the way towards the Van Pelt library, we spotted a bunch of TV crews, and thought we'd take a look.  There were long lines of people, and lots of young people with clipboards and Obama badges.  I asked what was up.  The answer:

"Bill Clinton"

The 42nd President of the United States was doing a rally in a couple of hours.  This was at once exciting, and troubling, as it underlined how much Pennsylvania is a swing state (apologies if this reveals my political bias).  We followed the line (there are no queues in America).  It swept around the sports stadium.  There were thousands of people.  Taking a punt, we decided to see if we could get in before the colophon talk started.  An hour later, and we were in, as participant observers.

As expected, we got political razzmatazz.  I was disappointed by the lack of straw boaters and puzzled by the oddly low-key security, but there was a band, sousaphones, banners, a huge US flag (Philly is the home of Betsy Ross after all), and lots of call-and-response shouting.  We were whooped into action by a couple of congressmen, the governor, Mayor Nutter, swore allegiance to the flag, got a stunning rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and were urged to go 'Forward!'.  Then, Bill arrived, and delivered a masterful half-hour of political wonkery and homely homilies.    

 

PB060171
Bill Clinton (Photo: M. Shaw)

A few people drifted out before the end. Perhaps they had trains to catch.  But the buzz was real enough afterwards, as people mobbed Clinton, asking for autographs, photographs and to sign their placards (one guy delightedly showed us his afterwards).

We walked back across the Market Street Bridge, and spotted the 'Beast' waiting to whisk the ex-President away, on to the next engagement, next to a pile of snow cleared from the Class of 1923 Ice Rink.  Some pumpkin beer, onion rings, and a quarter of the Philly 76ers, and it was a very American night.  The colophon talk, by all accounts, was great, too. 

[@_MattShaw]

Down to the wire: the U.S. election

It appears that the 2012 U.S. election is going down to the wire.  There are obviously many reasons why the race is so close, but political commentators also always argue that a second term election is there to be lost by the incumbent.

 George Bush came a cropper in the 1992 election when his public approval ratings nose-dived due to (amongst other things) his apparent confusion over the pressing economic issues of the day. In 1980, the 39th President, Jimmy Carter, ran for a second term in what is often cited as the most disastrous campaign in US Presidential history. Carter had to fend off attacks from an effective campaign on the right by Ronald Reagan, the Republican nominee, whilst also defending his position against Edward (Ted) Kennedy, the Senator for Massachusetts, on the left of his own Democratic Party. Kennedy had refused to drop out of the Democratic Primary after the first vote, leading to a dirty and prolonged mud slinging match before Carter secured the nomination. Somewhat ironically Carter found himself running against his own economic record, with high inflation causing stagnation in economic growth and unemployment remaining stubbornly high.            

Many factors will play a part in influencing the outcome of this election - money and ‘Obamacare’ to name just two. Enormous campaign contributions have been amassed by both the Obama and Romney campaigns, and this has been made possible the Supreme Court decision which states that Federal Government cannot curtail independent expenditure for political purposes by groups, corporations and committees. The primary purpose of these political action committees or Super PACs, is to influence elections via corporations, unions or wealthy individuals. There is no limit on the amount of money they can raise as long as it is spent independently of the candidate’s campaign.

Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been a particularly contentious and divisive piece of legislation. The Act became law in March 2010 and the Republicans have already raised no fewer than 33 Bills in an attempt to repeal it. Why would the Republicans continue to raise bills which seem doomed to failure? It could be argued that this strategy is less about having Obamacare repealed in the first instance (although that clearly is a goal), but more a case of using these continuous legislative attacks on the Act in order to keep the issue at the top of the political agenda (and thereby subvert the Democrats own campaign agenda).

I was planning to finish off this post with a few light-hearted remarks on much smaller factors which potentially could influence the vote  (- such as the latest incarnation of the Halo series computer game Halo: 4 which is due for release today). But following the devastation that Hurricane Sandy has inflicted on the eastern seaboard, it is clear that many Americans are now faced with huge issues which may well have an impact on a knife-edge election where every vote really does count.

Matt is still in Philadelphia, and our Eccles Centre Professor Davies is now in Boston for the election, so they will have front row seats. But I and the rest of Team Americas will be glued to our TVs tonight to see how things unfold. There will no doubt be a few sleepy curators in the office tomorrow.

And you might like to know that we have a number of databases relating to U.S. Official Publications.

[J.J.]

01 November 2012

A History photographed: Canada in World War 1

 

Joker (fund collector)

Joker, patriotic fund collector

Public Domain Mark
This work (Joker, waiting for the call, shelfmark HS85/10, by creator: D. Will McKay, producer: British Library), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

A milestone to celebrate with you all today. After much selection, work-flow organisation, scanning, quality checking and metadata addition, a selection of photographs of Canadian troops departing for war in Europe is now available via the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts catalogue. The photographs are a small part of the Library’s contribution to the Europeana Collections 1914-1918 project and will be co-hosted on the British Library and Europeana sites.

The Canadian WWI photographs are part of a collection we’ve written about here before; it contains the work of Canadian photographers who copyrighted their work between 1895 and 1924. As a result, the collection contains a number of photographs relating to the war, although almost all of them are produced on Canadian soil. These have been digitised for the Europeana project and just over 150 pictures of regimental mascots, soldiers leaving for Europe, Canadian war work and military inspections are available to search and view in detail.

26th Battallion departing
26th Batt. departing

Public Domain Mark
This work (Scene at embarkation of 26th Battalion and ammunition column, by creator: D. Smith Reid, producer: British Library), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

The bulk of the pictures are battalion panoramas and the scale of these always drives home to me the horror of the war – rows and rows of individuals marching off to a mechanised war which consumed the lives of so many. With that in mind, making these items available online is perhaps a good way to mark the centenary of the war; a forceful reminder of the individual and social cost of the conflict.

If you would like to browse the whole collection of photographs the best way to do this (at the moment) is to use the search function on the homepage of Digitised Manuscripts. Simply add ‘Canada’ as a keyword and reduce the date range to ‘1875 – 2000’, this should bring up just over 150 results. There are a few teething problems to sort out and we’re working on them right now, but if you find any you have my apologies.

[PJH]