THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

9 posts categorized "Guides"

06 August 2015

Voting Rights Act Fifty Years On

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800px-LyndonJohnson_signs_Voting_Rights_Act_of_1965

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 while Martin Luther King and others look on.  Image in the public domain and made available by the LBJ Library and Wiki Commons.

The Voting Rights Act Fifty years ago today, on 6 August 1965, President Lyndon B Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act – arguably the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by the US Congress. Yet the journey to this point was bitter and hard-fought.

In 1870 – five years after the Civil War – the Fifteenth Amendment had prohibited federal and state governments from restricting voting rights on the basis of race, colour or previous condition of servitude. By the 1890s, however, southern states were enacting laws that, while superficially colour blind, were explicitly designed to stifle black electoral participation and re-establish white political supremacy.

Six decades later the tide was finally beginning to turn: federal legislation passed in 1957, 1960 and 1964 included voting-related provisions; a series of Supreme Court decisions – most notably Baker v Carr (1962) – began applying the Constitution to overturn disenfranchisement via unfair redistricting practices; and public outrage at both the murder of the three voting rights activists in Mississippi in 1964 and the attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers at Selma, Alabama in 1965 persuaded Congress and the President that effective voting rights legislation could no longer be delayed.

We hold numerous databases that can be used to explore all of these issues further:

America: History and Life: indexes articles on US and Canadian history, culture and current affairs published in over 1800 journals. It began in 1964 but many of the journals have now been retrospectively indexed, including the American Historical Review (1895– ), Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1914– ) and Journal of Southern History (1935– ). It also provides citations to books and book reviews.

PAIS International: indexes journals, books, government and international agency reports, conference proceedings and web-based information sources covering social issues, economic issues, politics and international relations, environmental and energy policy. Its indexing dates back to the 1970s and it currently contains more than 600,000 records.

International Political Science Abstracts: contains details of articles in more than a thousand political science journals and yearbooks published worldwide, 75 of which are indexed in full. Social Sciences Full Text: includes full text articles from more than 330 journals and indexes over 750 periodicals, more than 700 of which are peer-reviewed.

Finally – and somewhat tangentially, though in keeping with the Animal Tales exhibition that opens here tomorrow – readers might be interested to know that we hold a 23 second recording of a domestic goat (capra hircus) living on the Lyndon B Johnson Ranch near Stonewall, Texas in 2010! It was a sunny 28 degrees on the day of the recording, insects can be heard in the background and the goat was apparently standing one metre from wildlife sound recordist, Richard Beard.

– Jean Petrovic

 

24 June 2015

Reading the #Charlestonsyllabus

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The_steeple_of_Emanuel_African_Methodist_Church,_Charleston,_SCAbove: steeple of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC. Image from Wikipedia.

As you will no doubt know by now, the British Library holds a vast collection of written material from all of the world. It is historically deep and continues to grow to this day and our North American collections are no exception to this. Why do I mention this now? Well, you might have seen on the web and social media the #Charlestonsyllabus circulating and you may have thought, 'it's an important reading list but how do I get access to its sources in the UK?'

Team Americas have been saddened by the tragic events of last week and we would like to do our bit to show solidarity with the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the families affected and the community of Charleston in general. We can't do much, but we can give access to books and materials to help people learn more about the context behind this crime - and this brings me back to the #Charlestonsyllabus.

The Library is one of the few locations in the UK where a reader can get access to many of the books, papers and articles listed in the syllabus, by virtue of our long history of North American collecting. There are gaps (and I've been busily finding them today) but we will try and fill them as best we can in the coming weeks and months.

So, should you wish to know more about the history of the American South, Charleston and the context behind last week's events the British Library is open to all who provide the appropriate forms of identification (more info here) and many of the books in the list can be found using our catalogue. If you have any questions, you know where we are.

[PJH]

30 April 2015

From the Collections: US Historical Newspapers

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Americansml      Federalsml      Vermontsml
Above: three of the Library's early American papers, as noted on our resource page.

This third and final blog about American newspapers will focus on the Library’s holdings of historical titles – both digital and microfilm.   

DIGITAL RESOURCES:

The Library currently subscribes to a couple of fantastic databases (listed below) which offer access to hundreds of newspaper titles from the late seventeenth to the twentieth century. Also listed is a Library of Congress resource for newspapers published between 1836 and 1922, and one that focuses upon coverage of the performing arts in the colonies:

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998

This database provides fully searchable facsimiles of approximately 270 historically significant African American newspapers from more than 35 states. It offers a unique record of life in the Antebellum South, the growth of the Black church, the Jim Crow Era, the Great Migration to northern cities, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement, political and economic empowerment and more. Remote access is available for registered Reader Pass holders.

Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876

Offering more than 350,000 fully searchable facsimile issues of more 700 newspaper titles published in 23 states and Washington DC, this database provides an unparalleled record of daily life in hundreds of diverse American communities. Searches automatically extend to African American Newspapers, 1827-1998 and Caribbean Newspapers, Series I, 1718-1876. Remote access is available for registered Reader Pass holders.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

This Library of Congress resource is freely available on the Internet and offers millions of digitized newspaper pages for the period 1836–1922. Also available on this site is the U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690–present which enables users to identify both which titles exits for a specific time and place and the libraries (in the United States) that hold them. 

The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers, 1690-1783

Available both on CD-ROM in the Newsroom and on the Internet.

Microfiche

Above: non-digital resources [photo by PJH]

MICROFILM RESOURCES: GENERAL

The Library’s microfilm holdings of early American newspapers are extensive and can be found via our main catalogue, Explore. They include eighteenth and nineteenth century regional papers, such as The Boston Gazette (1719-1798), The New York Mercury (1752-1783); ethnic newspapers, including The Jewish Messenger (1857-1902) and The Irish World (1870-1950); political papers, such as Socialist Call (1935-1962); and special interest papers, such as the US Armed Forces’ Stars and Stripes (1942-1945). Please note that most of these titles can be found in the Early American Newspapers database listed above.

MICROFILM RESOURCES: THE TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE NEWS CLIPPINGS FILE

This microfilm set (shelf-mark: M.A.410) consists of 252 reels of press cuttings and other materials relating to people of colour in the United States, Africa and elsewhere which were collected by the Tuskegee Institute between 1899 and 1966. The clippings were compiled from more than 300 major American national dailies, African-American newspapers, magazines, religious and social publications and non-US newspapers. All items are listed in The Tuskegee Institute News Clippings File: Reel Notes, a hard-copy volume shelved in the Newsroom.

INDEXES

The New York Times Index, 1863-1905, is included in the database 19th Century Masterfile and a printed version of the index from 1851 is available in the Newsroom. The New York Daily Tribune Index, 1875-1906, is also included in 19th Century Masterfile and a printed version of the subject index, 1875-1881, is available in the Newsroom. 

See our other blog posts on historical newspapers:

1. Americas News Dailies and Weeklies

2. Slavery in America: newspapers and travellers' reports

[JP]

05 December 2014

American news dailies and weeklies: current acquisitions

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Inspired by the recent opening of the Library’s Newsroom, we thought we’d write a few blogs about the American newspaper holdings, both historic and contemporary. First up, a guide to the dailies and weeklies we currently subscribe to. On microfilm these titles may only be read in the Newsroom and there is usually a three month time-lag in availability; any relevant indexes are held in the Newsroom on open access. In the Reading Rooms, access to the online version of both the dailies and weeklies is variable, so please check the listing below.

DAILIES

Chicago Tribune, 1849 –  : The microfilm shelf-mark for the Chicago Tribune is MFM.MA207, although our holdings are imperfect for the first decade or so; its Index (1972 – ) is on open access in the Newsroom at shelf-mark NRR071.94. Online access to the Tribune’s business-focused articles is provided via two databases: Gale Cengage Business & Industry (1987 – 2002), which is available in all Reading Rooms, and Factiva (from 2003) which is available in the Business & IP Centre, the Social Sciences Reading Room and two PCs in the Newsroom.

International New York Times, 2013 –  : This paper was first published as The New York Herald (European edition) on 4 October 1887. Since then it has had numerous titles, including the International Herald Tribune (1966 – 2013). In all its incarnations it has microfilm shelf-mark MFM.MA1*. Full-text access to the International Herald Tribune (1994 – 98) is available on CD-ROM in the Humanities 2 Reading Room; this may be extended to other Reading Rooms soon.

Los Angeles Times, 1881 –  : The microfilm shelf-mark is MFM.MA46 and the Index (1972 – ) has Newsroom shelf-mark NRR071.94.  Full-text online access to the LA Times (from 1985) is available in all Reading Rooms via Newsbank/Access World News; my next blog will focus on this extraordinary database.

 The New York Times, 1851 –  : The microfilm version has shelf-mark MFM.MA3 and the Index (1851 – present ) has Newsroom shelf-mark NRR071.47. The New York Times, 1851 – 2010, is available as part of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database: this provides full facsimile page and article images and can be accessed in every Reading Room. Beyond 2010, access to business-focused news is offered via Factiva (from 1980), which can be accessed in the Business & IP Centre, the Social Sciences Reading Room and two PCs in the Newsroom, and Gale Cengage Business & Industry (from 1994), which is accessible in every Reading Room.

The Wall Street Journal, 1889 –  : The microfilm shelf-mark for the American edition is MFM.MA78 and its Index (1967 – ) has Newsroom shelf-mark NNR071.47. Online access (1990 – today’s edition) is available via Factiva in the Business & IP Centre, the Social Sciences Reading Room and on two PCs in the Newsroom.

The Washington Post, 1877 –  : The microfilm shelf-mark is MFM.MA370. Full-text online access to the Post’s business articles (from 2007) is available via Factiva in the Business & IP Centre, the Social Sciences Reading Room and two PCs in the Newsroom.

 WEEKLIES

The New Republic, 1914 –  : Now published twice a month, for most of its life The New Republic was published weekly, hence our decision to list it here; it has microfilm shelf-mark MFM.MA57. Online access (from 1993) is available in every Reading Room via Newsbank/Access World News: once in this database, click on ‘America’s News Magazines’ which is listed in ‘Shortcuts’.

Newsweek, 1933 –  : The American edition  (1933 – 1998) has microfilm shelf-mark MFM.MA390 and the hard-copy Overseas edition (1948 – 2009) has shelf-mark LOU.A391. Full text online access to Newsweek (from 1991) is available in every Reading Room via Newsbank/Access World News: as above, once in this database, click on ‘America’s News Magazines’ which is listed in ‘Shortcuts’.

Time, 1923 –  : The microfilm shelf-mark is MFM.MA397. Online access to Time’s business articles is available in every Reading Room via ESBSCOhost Business Source Complete (from 1990) and ProQuest ABI/Inform (from 2000, excluding the last three months).

The Village Voice (New York), 1955 –  : The microfilm shelf-mark is MFM.MA481.

- Plus, see our guide to US historical newspapers 

[J.P.]

 

 

25 March 2014

Early American science

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Inoculation of the Smallpox (1174 d 46) (2)
William Douglass, Boston, 1730. BL shelfmark: 1174.d.46 (3)  Public Domain Mark  

By the early 18th century the American colonies were well established along the eastern seaboard; indeed, their political, economic and cultural development had been remarkable. Yet without the libraries, universities and endowed institutions of Europe their capacity to participate in the new scientific thinking was distinctly disadvantaged. Nevertheless, the ideas of the Enlightenment enthused many throughout the colonies, and their observations and descriptions of natural phenomena – including earthquakes, meteors, comets and the 1761 and 1769 transits of Venus – supported the greater scientific community.

The cause, prevention (for example, by inoculation) and cure of a wide variety of diseases also received much attention in colonial and early American scientific tracts, particularly the Boston smallpox epidemic in 1721 and the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic in 1793. Other topics of special interest included the climate and the natural environment, with observations about the unfamiliar weather and the challenging landscape appearing in the earliest colonial writings and being frequently linked to implications for human health and the ability to develop the land.

  Voyage from Boston to Newfoundland (8561 bb 19) (2)
Boston, 1761. BL shelfmark: 8561.bb.19  Public Domain Mark  

 A bibliography of our holdings of early American scientific writing on these and other topics may be found here.

[J.P.]

 

 

04 February 2014

Federal Writers' Project publications

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  Photograph,_California_no__8,_Oakland_May_23,_1940,_Writers_Project,_and_centers_for_other_P_&_S_projects_____-_NARA_-_296093
Wikimedia Commons, provided by the National Archives and Records Administration

The Federal Writers’ Project was established by President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1935 – six years into the Great Depression. At its peak it provided employment for more than 7,500 writers, editors, historians and other white collar workers.

Yet while its primary aim was to provide economic relief, the Project’s highly ambitious first Director, Henry Alsberg, regarded it as a means by which to vividly document America’s rapidly changing cultural landscape.

Today, the Project is perhaps best known for its American Guide Series – a set of travel guides to the 48 states, plus Alaska territory, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. Unlike traditional guides, these included not only driving tours documenting what could be found at every stop, but long photographic essays detailing the economic, cultural and historical resources of each state. All but a few of these are held by the British Library, as are many of the regional, county, city and town guides that were also produced.

Festivals in San Francisco

Festivals of San Francisco,  James Ladd Delkin [in association with] Stanford University, 1939. Printed at the Grabhorn Press. This particularly fine edition was part of a gift of 90 American imprints to the Eccles Centre in 2002 from Princeton University Library to celebrate the 90th birthday of Lady Eccles.

In addition to the guides, the Project produced ethnic studies such as The Italians of New York (shelfmark: L.70/641) and The Armenians of Massachusetts (shelfmark: YA.1991.a.15502); urban and rural folklore collections, including Nebraska Folklore (shelfmark: X.700/21082) and Drums and Shadows: Survival Studies among the Georgia Coastal Negroes (shelfmark: 010007.h.70); and nature studies.

The Project also collected the narratives of more than 2,300 former slaves in seventeen states, although most of these remained unseen until the multi-volume The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography was published in the 1970s (refer to guide below).

The Library’s extensive holdings are listed in The Federal Writers' Project: a guide to material held at the British Library.

 [J.P.]

17 April 2012

Sheila Rowbotham, Writer in Residence: From Whitman to The Wire

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 Displaymedia

Sheila Rowbotham’s non-fiction Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in the US and Britain 1880 to 1910, will trace a small network of British and American radicals during the turn of the century

Prof. Rowbotham

Sheila Rowbotham is one of the two Eccles Centre Writers in Residence at the British Library for 2012.  Professor Rowbotham has written widely on women's history and is working on her next book, Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in the US and Britain 1880 to 1910, which will trace a small network of British and American radicals during the turn of the century.  Together with the other Writer in Residence, Naomi Wood, she will be posting to the Team Americas blog during her stay.

Four decades ago I discovered a book in the  Reader’s Room of the British  Museum, as it was then, edited by an American anarchist and Whitman enthusiast, Helen Tufts, in memory of her English  friend from Bristol, Helena Born. It was called Helena Born: Whitman’s Ideal Democracy and printed in Boston in 1902. Helen Tufts had only 500 copies done. Her friend was not a celebrity, but she was determined that a memory would live on.

I was researching the British socialist campaigner for homosexual rights, Edward Carpenter, and was intrigued by the account of how Helena Born bees-waxed her  home in  9 Louisa  Street, St Phillips, a poor working class area where she had chosen to live when Carpenter visited early in 1890. She was trying to live simply, absorbed in a great surge of union militancy in the city which brought women cotton  workers out on strike.

Later that year Born migrated to Boston with her friend Miriam Daniell, along with Daniell’s lover Robert Allan Nicol . Their baby, ‘Sunrise’ was born out of wedlock in the US and they became involved in a circle of Individualist anarchists around the journal Liberty.

I could not imagine back in the 1970s that so many years on I would still be pursuing them as an Eccles Centre/British Library  Writer in Residence and writing a book about them called  Rebel Crossings for Verso Books.

I kept coming across small pieces of information about Helena Born, Miriam Daniell and other new women who joined the socialist movement in Bristol in the late 1880s and 90s.

They would re-enter my life through Carpenter again when I began writing a biography of him.  But even when Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love was published I had no plan to write about the Bristol rebels who migrated to the States.

I was pulled in gradually, intrigued by the growing files I was accumulating on them and encouraged by the enthusiasm and help of friends in both countries. The drama of their lives fascinated me, so did the ‘crossings’ between countries, political boundaries, social classes and conventions.  Ideas as well as people migrated, travelling by word of mouth, letters, journals, books.

Since I became  a Writer in Residence this January I have been discovering the extent of the British Library’s North American holdings which the Eccles Centre for American Studies aims to promote.  These are vast. Along with newspapers and periodicals there are collections on women, immigration, Anti-Slavery, the West... the list could go on and on.

At first I roamed through catalogues, eventually settling down to explore the broader context of Boston in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Jean Petrovic’s Selective Guide to Materials at the British Library, 'The American City in the Twentieth Century' proved invaluable. See http://www.bl.uk/eccles/americancity.html.

I have embarked on the geography, social composition, architecture, race relations, politics and culture of the city my rebels migrated into through reading books and Boston newspapers online.

When not travelling in my head to Boston, I have been checking into Baltimore. Belatedly through my son I have become a fan of ‘The Wire’. I resisted when everyone else was watching it. No, I wasn’t interested in cops and robbers stories. I struggled with the plots and difficult sentence construction at first but then was hooked. These police in ‘The Wire’ are just like historians after all slowly piecing together all those bits of information. Oh for a Wire on nineteenth century Bostons anarchists, socialists, new women and Whitmanites!

[SR]

13 September 2011

USA: Olympic Rugby Champions

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Last weekend saw the start of the seventh Rugby World Cup. The Americas are well represented in the competition with three teams in the finals. I thought I’d take the opportunity to see what titles in our collection that explore the development of rugby union in the American continent. Arming myself with the Rugby Compendium [BL shelfmark: HLR 796.333 Open Access] compiled by John M. Jenkins (no relation) to see if it could offer any possible hints.  

September 11th saw the U.S. Eagles' first match of the tournament, against Ireland. The U.S. are currently the Olympic champions, beating France in the final of the 1924 Paris Olympics. This was the last time rugby union was included a competitive sport in the Olympics, though the Berlin Olympics did put it on has an exhibition event. The development of rugby union in the U.S. seems to focus on the West Coast, and the title California Football History by “Brick” Morse, 1937 [BL shelfmark: X.622/20122] appears to be a useful if brief introduction.

Turning to Canada, who have developed as a team recent years from their involvement in the Churchill Cup where they play their southern neighbour and the England “Saxons” regularly. As with the U.S. rugby union in Canada, plays third of forth fiddle to other sports although the lineage of the Canadian Rugby Football Union dates back to 1884. The tome Canada learns to play : the emergence of organized sport, 1807-1914, Allan Metcalfe, 1987, [BL shelfmark: YL.1989.a.1808]  covers the development of sports in nineteenth-century Canada.

As a number of teams have found out to their cost in previous World Cups, you cannot underestimate Argentina, whose prowess on the field shows through time and again. They were unlucky not to prevail in the Pool B clash with England on Saturday last.   The British influence in Argentine sport can be traced in Victor Raffo’s El origen británico del deporte argentino : atletismo, cricket, fútbol, polo, remo, rugby durante las presidencia de Mitre, Sarmiento y Avellaneda 2004 [BL shelfmark: YF.2006.a.19585].

Enjoy the World Cup!

[JJ]