The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals is comprised of books and periodicals published in the United States primarily during the second half of the nineteenth century. The materials selected provide a social history of the century, illuminating the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The collection also includes volumes of American poetry.
These online presentations provide context and additional information about this collection.
These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection although they may not be all-encompassing.
- Expansion and Reform, 1801-1861
- The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850-1877
- Development of the Industrial United States, 1876-1915
Related Collections and Exhibits
- African American Perspectives, 1818-1920
- American Landscape and Architectural Design, 1850-1920
- America's First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotypes, 1839-1864
- California As I Saw It: First Person Narratives, 1849-1900
- A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, 1774-1873
- Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
- Inventing Entertainment: The Edison Companies
- Music for the Nation, 1870-1885
- Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets
- Pioneering the Upper Midwest, ca. 1820-1910
- Walt Whitman Notebooks, 1847-1860s
Recommended additional sources of information.
Specific guidance for searching this collection.
To find items in this collection, search by Keyword or browse by Subject Index, Author Index, or Title Index. One may Search the collection's periodicals, perform an Advanced Search, or Browse its contents.
For help with general search strategies, see Finding Items in American Memory.
The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals is one of two components of the Making of America project of the University of Michigan and Cornell University in collaboration with the Library of Congress. The periodicals component of The Nineteenth Century in Print includes more than 20 popular periodicals digitized by Cornell University Library and the Library of Congress. Included are such general interest magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, and Putnam's Monthly, which are a rich source of American literature (short stories, poems, and serialized novels) as well as a range of articles on art, history, science, and more. Other publications, including Manufacturer and Builder, Scientific American, The United States Democratic Review, and The American Missionary catered to specific audiences. In addition, the collection features the entire run of Garden and Forest: A Journal of Horticulture, Landscape Art, and Forestry, the first U.S. magazine about horticulture; a series of "Historical Essays on Garden and Forest" provides context for understanding the significance of this specialized journal.
Articles can be viewed in two forms: page images and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scans. The OCR scans are uncorrected and can be difficult to read. However, full-text searches of the optical scans are possible, whereas only descriptive information can be searched for the page images. If students cannot locate what they need using a search of descriptive information, they can locate items using full-text search of the OCR scans but then view the page images. The individual periodicals can also be browsed.
The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals collection spans several eras of the American history curriculum. Documents in this collection, although not all encompassing, are useful tools in studying aspects of the social and political history of these eras in U.S. history:
- Expansion and Reform, 1801-1861
- The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850-1877
- Development of the Industrial United States, 1876-1915
The collection also includes a notable document from an earlier era: a previously unpublished account by George Washington of the Braddock Campaign, which preceded the French and Indian War during the colonial era. This article appeared in the May 1893 issue of Scribner's Magazine.
The War of 1812
The War of 1812 was the new nation's first military effort to defend its sovereignty and its right to be treated as an equal in foreign relations. A number of articles written during the Civil War reflected on events during the War of 1812. One such article in the September 1861 Harper's examined the youthful military career of General Winfield Scott who, in 1861, served as General-in-Chief of the Union army. A keyword search using War of 1812 as a search term also reveals an 1850 article, "Memoir of Lewis Clover, A Prisoner of War," relating the story of a young sailor's involvement in events leading up to the war and his imprisonment.
Read the two articles cited above and look at your textbook's coverage of the War of 1812:
- The author of the article on Winfield says, "Apparent misfortunes are often mercies in disguise." What events in Winfield's life is the author referring to as "misfortunes"? Why does the author regard these events as "mercies in disguise"?
- In what campaigns during the War of 1812 was Scott involved? What information about these campaigns does the article provide that your textbook does not?
- Would you describe the article as providing a positive or negative perspective on Scott? Why might such an article have been written and published in 1861?
- What events leading up to the War of 1812 does "Memoir of Lewis P. Clover" discuss? According to the author, how did these events affect young Clover?
- Make a timeline of the events of April 6, 1815, as recounted by Clover. What does your textbook say about the events? Does your textbook include any mention of prisoners of war?
- What aspects of textbooks make reading sources such as these articles useful supplements to reading textbooks? What limits do these articles have as sources?
With the growth of the European American population in the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, clashes between European Americans and Native Americans intensified. The movement of white settlers west of the Appalachians and the discovery of gold in Georgia led to passage of laws at the state and national levels calling for the removal of Native Americans from their lands east of the Mississippi. In 1828, the Georgia legislature passed several laws intended to strip the Cherokee people of their rights and force them to move. Fearing that President Andrew Jackson would not be sympathetic to their cause, the Cherokees petitioned Congress to protect their lands. Many in Congress, including Senators Henry Clay, Theodore Frelinghuysen, and Daniel Webster and Representatives Ambrose Spencer and David (Davy) Crockett, believed the Cherokees' cause was just. The majority of Congress, however, enacted the Indian Removal Act in 1830, putting into law the President's plan to remove Indians to a newly created "Indian Territory" in the west.
In October 1830, The North American Review published a long essay on "Removal of the Indians," concluding with the following question:
How, then, can the people of the United States justify to themselves, or to the world, a course of measures, which is not called for by any exigency, which appears inconsistent with the most obvious principles of fair dealing, and which, as many of the best and wisest men among us fully believe, will bring upon the Indian tribes either a speedy or a lingering ruin, and upon ourselves the deep and lasting infamy of a breach of faith?
From "Removal of the Indians," The North American Review, Volume 31, Issue 69, October 1830, page 442
Less than a year later, The North American Review printed an article entitled "The Cherokee Case," responding to the Supreme Court's opinion in the case of The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia, in which the Cherokee sought an injunction to stop the state of Georgia from implementing the laws that the Cherokee believed infringed on their rights.
- What arguments does the October 1830 essay make against the Indian Removal Act?
- What was the Supreme Court's decision in The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia? (The decision is reprinted in "The Cherokee Case.") Pick a paragraph in the decision that you think is important. Write a brief response to that paragraph. Then read farther in "The Cherokee Race" to see how the author responded to that paragraph. Do you agree with the author's analysis?
- The North American Review had a strong position on the Indian removal policy. Given the arguments that it marshaled in support of that position, what do you think the opposition argued? What reasons supported the Indian removal policy? Which position would you have supported had you been a member of Congress at the time? Explain your answer.
Expansion in the West
Expansion of the United States was also seen in events in the Southwest, events that were chronicled in the periodicals in the collection. In July 1836, The North American Review explored in some depth the history of Texas from Spanish rule to the establishment of the Republic of Texas. The author summarized the situation as of July 1836 as follows:
In Texas, the emigrants from the United States, who have formed extensive colonies under the authority of the Mexican Republic, have taken up arms against what they call the usurpation of the central government, and a declaration of Independence has been published to the world. On the other hand, the Mexican commander's proclamation, at the commencement of the present extraordinary campaign, denounced the insurgents as a mob of ungrateful adventurers, on whom the authorities of Mexico have incautiously lavished favors which they had failed to bestow on Mexicans, and who have raised the standard of rebellion in order that that extensive and fertile department may be detached from the Republic.
From "Mexico and Texas," The North American Review, Volume 43, Issue 92, July 1836, page 227
- What echoes of earlier events in U.S. history do you hear in this account of the conflict in Texas?
- The author went on to say that to understand the current situation, one needed to look at previous events in Mexico. Read the author's account of these events. You may find it useful to make a simple timeline of the events. What insights do these events give you into the reasons for the conflict over independence for Texas?
- According to this article, why did the settlers in Texas want independence? Do you think their reasons were valid? Why or why not?
- In what ways did the Americans in Texas fail to prepare themselves for the response to their declaration of independence? What might account for this failure? What might be the result?
- What does the author predict the U.S. government will do in the future regarding Texas? Were those predictions accurate?
Texas became independent in 1836, although Mexico never recognized that independence. In 1845, Texas was annexed into the United States, becoming the 28th state. That same year, the Polk Administration sent John Slidell to Mexico City to try to negotiate the purchase of Mexico's California and New Mexico territories. Numerous changes in government and the disapproval of the Mexican people doomed the effort, however. A dispute over the location of the U.S. border with Mexico led to the massing of forces on both sides of the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo in Mexico). War resulted, but U.S. involvement was not universally popular.
The collection contains several items regarding the Mexican-American War:
- "Mr. Slidell's Mission to Mexico," The American Whig Review, Volume 5, Issue 4, April 1847
- "The Mexican War - Its Origin and Conduct," The United States Democratic Review, Volume 20, Issue 106, April 1847
- A two-part article on the justification of the conflict in The United States Democratic Review in January 1848 and February 1848.
- Representative Abraham Lincoln's famous "Spot Resolution" proposed in Congress upon the outbreak of hostilities is available in another American Memory collection, The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.
- Reviews of The Other Side; or Notes for the History of the War between Mexico and the United States translated from Spanish and edited by Albert Ramway; the reviews of this different perspective on the war appeared in February 1850 in The American Whig Review and The United States Democratic Review.
Read several of these documents about the Mexican-American War and consider the following questions:
- What was at the heart of opposition to the Mexican-American War?
- Why did Lincoln introduce the "Spot Resolution"?
- What similarities do you find in the two reviews of The Other Side? What differences do you note? What might account for the differences? (Think about the two journals that published the reviews.)
- How do the accounts provided in these articles published during and shortly after the war conform to the treatment of the war in current textbooks?
The Mexican-American War ended in February 1848, with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In the treaty, Mexico ceded approximately 500,000 square miles of its territory in what is now California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. In return, the United States agreed to pay Mexico $15 million. Just a year later, gold was discovered in California, prompting a huge migration of people westward.
The collection includes a series of articles on the Gold Rush printed in The Century; use the series title Gold Hunters of California in a keyword search to locate the numerous articles in the series. Despite the title, many articles in the series dealt with events before the discovery of gold. Some provide personal accounts of expeditions across the continent to California, such as Virginia Reed Murphy's "Across the Plains in the Donner Party," while others describe life in California before the Gold Rush. Of course, many recount events that occurred after the discovery of gold.
Read one account about life in California before the Gold Rush and another about life after the Gold Rush. Write a brief description of the changes that resulted from the influx of immigrants lured west by the promise of wealth.
Civil War and Reconstruction
Soon after the Gold Rush, California's population was large enough to qualify for statehood. As had been the case with other new states' admission to the union, Northerners and Southerners disagreed about whether to admit California as a free or slave state. This division was just one of the many tensions over slavery. In an attempt to resolve these tensions, Congress passed a series of laws known as the Compromise of 1850. One part of this compromise provided that California would be admitted as a free state. Another part was a very strict Fugitive Slave Law.
A July 1850, article printed in The United States Democratic Review one month before the Senate and two months before the House of Representatives passed the act argued in support of the Fugitive Slave Law. Although the act became law in 1850, the debate continued, as evidenced by a May 1851, article in The American Whig Review. Scan the two articles:
- What do the articles suggest about the positions of the two major political parties on this issue?
- Based on these two articles, how do you think the Compromise of 1850 affected the regional tensions over slavery?
The decision of the Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford likewise enflamed passions in the antebellum period. Conduct a keyword search using the term Dred Scott to locate appraisals of the Supreme Court decision written within a few months of the ruling and later appraisals of Chief Justice Taney. The North American Review, October 1857, printed a detailed discussion by Benjamin Howard of the opinions in the Dred Scott case. After a careful examination of the multiple separate opinions in the case, Howard expressed his contempt of the judicial decision:
. . . Verily, it is the opinion of these men, that this free government was established on purpose to extend the blessings of the glorious institution of slavery. The preamble should be altered. . . . The country will feel the consequences of the decision more deeply and more permanently, in the loss of confidence in the sound judicial integrity and strictly legal character of their tribunals, than in anything beside; and this perhaps may well be accounted the greatest political calamity that this country, under our forms of government, could sustain.
The Century, June 1887, in a serial publication of Abraham Lincoln: A History, written by two of his secretaries, J. J. Nicolay and John Hay, also included a lengthy discussion of the case from Lincoln's perspective.
- What arguments did Benjamin Howard use to justify his belief that Chief Justice Taney's decision was improper?
- What did Howard mean by the statement "the preamble should be altered"?
- What were Lincoln's views of the Dred Scott decision? How did the decision affect the Lincoln-Douglas Debates?
- How do historians and political scientists today regard the decisions in Dred Scott v. Sandford?
Many articles in the collection include recollections of the Civil War. A keyword search using the term Civil War or the names of specific events of the war will yield numerous articles of interest. Of considerable importance among these articles is an account of what was known as the Trent Affair. A key player, Gideon Wells, Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy, explained the capture and release of two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell, the event that precipitated the Trent Affair in 1861, in an article published in The Galaxy, May 1873.
A search using the names of important figures in the Civil War will also yield many articles, often with conflicting views on those figures. For example, an Atlantic Monthly article of November 1862 on the Emancipation Proclamation reveals some of the outpouring of support for Lincoln, who had often been criticized for not taking a stand against slavery. In contrast, the April 1865 issue of The Old Guard condemned Lincoln and accused him of usurping his constitutional powers and marching the country "toward national suicide."
. . . Against all timorous counsels he had the courage to seize the moment; and such was his position, and such the felicity attending the action, that he has replaced Government in the good graces of mankind. . . . A day which most of us dared not hope to see, an event worth the dreadful war, worth its cost and uncertainties, seems now to be close before us. October, November, December will have passed over beating hearts and plotting brains: then the hour will strike, and all men of African descent who have faculty enough to find their way to our lines are assured of the protection of American law.
If Abraham Lincoln and Co. could know beyond doubt or question that "abolition of slavery" was impossible, and as absolutely and everlastingly beyond the scope of human power to compass, as to breathe without atmospheric air, or, indeed, to restore life to the dead, they would doubtless halt at once in their awful march towards national suicide, and repent in sackcloth and ashes for the enormous crimes they are blindly committing.
- What did the author mean by the statement, "he has replaced Government in the good graces of mankind"?
- Under the Emancipation Proclamation, who was assured freedom on January 1, 1863?
- What was the tone of the article in opposition to the Emancipation Proclamation?
- To what degree does this article reflect commonly held attitudes of the day?
The collection includes exceptional studies of the Reconstruction era beginning with reconstruction plans during the war and including later accounts written by such prominent American figures as Frederick Douglass and Woodrow Wilson. President Lincoln's message to Congress on peace negotiations, February 10, 1865, included the philosophical basis of Lincoln's plan for Reconstruction:
. . . Dependent provinces, sullenly submitting to a destiny which they loathe, would be a burden to us, rather than an increase of strength or an element of prosperity. War would have won us a peace stripped of all the advantages that make peace a blessing. We should have so much more territory, and so much less substantial greatness. We did not enter upon war to open a new market, or fresh fields for speculators, or an outlet for redundant population, but to save the experiment of democracy from destruction, and put it in a fairer way of success by removing the single disturbing element. Our business now is not to allow ourselves to be turned aside from a purpose which our experience thus far has demonstrated to have been as wise as it was necessary, and to see to it that, whatever be the other conditions of reconstruction, democracy, which is our real strength, receive no detriment.
"Reconstruction Days" in The North American Review, September 1886, provides insights into the conflicts among political and military leaders over Reconstruction polices through a series of official letters. Among the correspondence included in the article are letters from Salmon P. Chase to General William T. Sherman. In one of the printed letters, Chase wrote:
. . . For myself, indeed, I freely say that I see no reason why all citizens may not vote, subject only to such restrictions as are applicable to all, irrespective of color. I feel sure that the justice and good sense of the people will, at least, demand the right of suffrage for all who are educated, and all who have borne arms in the service of the Union. Without this, at least, I see no security against attempted re-enslavement, against the most inhuman and cruel discrimination and treatment of the colored people as a class, or indeed, against the ascendancy of the disloyal element in the insurgent States, as soon as the military pressure shall be removed.
In The Atlantic Monthly, December 1866, Frederick Douglass warns of the reestablishment of slavery in the South and suggests that it could only be deterred by extending suffrage.
Slavery, like all other great systems of wrong, founded in the depths of human selfishness, and existing for ages, has not neglected its conservation. . . . And to-day it is so strong that it could exist, not only without law, but even against law. Customs, manners, morals, religion, are all on its side everywhere in the South; and when you add the ignorance and servility of the ex-slave to the intelligence and accustomed authority of the master, you have the conditions, not only of which slavery will again grow, but under which it is impossible for the Federal government to wholly destroy it, unless the Federal government be armed with despotic power, to blot out State authority, and to station a Federal officer at every cross-road. This, of course, cannot be done, and ought not even if it could. The true way and the easiest way is to make our government entirely consistent with itself, and give to every loyal citizen the elective franchise,—a right and power which will be ever present, and will form a wall of fire for his protection.
- According to both Chase and Douglass, how important was extending the franchise? How did the two appear to differ on who should have the right to vote?
- How consistent were their views with those of the Johnson administration regarding the extension of the franchise?
- What evidence, if any, indicates that Lincoln would have extended the franchise if he had not been assassinated?
- To what extent does the history of the Reconstruction Era support the views expressed by both Chase and Douglass?
The January 1901 issue of The Atlantic Monthly carried an article by Woodrow Wilson, professor of jurisprudence and political economics at Princeton University, reviewing Reconstruction policies. On the suffrage issue, Wilson wrote that President Johnson had made no requirements regarding the extension of the right to vote as a factor for the readmission of states because establishing voting rights had been a traditional matter for the states to decide. Wilson considered Reconstruction as a political revolution. The close of this lengthy article expresses his views about the enactment of the Reconstruction Amendments, directing attention especially to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments
. . . For several years, therefore, Congress was permitted to do by statute what, under the long-practiced conceptions of our federal law, could properly be done only by constitutional amendment. The necessity for that gone by, it was suffered to embody what it had already enacted and put into force as law into the Constitution, not by the free will of the country at large, but by the compulsions of mere force exercised upon a minority whose assent was necessary to the formal completion of its policy.
- Contrast Wilson's view of Reconstruction to that of Chase and Douglass. How do they differ?
- How do contemporary historians and political scientists evaluate Wilson's argument regarding the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments?
- After reading the entire article, how would you evaluate Wilson's objectivity in his appraisal of Reconstruction?
Post-Civil War Politics: Urban Machines and Rural Granges
In the years after the Civil War, much political power became concentrated in the hands of machine politicians and ward bosses, particularly in the nation's growing cities. Read Theodore Roosevelt's article in the November 1886 issue of The Century, "Machine Politics in New York City," exposing political machine bosses and comparing them to merchants and manufacturers who seek profit above all else.
. . . Many a machine politician who is to-day a most unwholesome influence in our politics is in private life quite as respectable as any one else; only he had forgotten that his business affects the state at large, and, regarding it as merely his own private concern, he has carried into it the same selfish spirit that actuates the majority of the mercantile community.
From "Machine Politics in New York City," The Century; A Popular Quarterly, Volume 33, Issue 1, November 1886, page 74
- According to Roosevelt, how did the term machine politics originate? Given Roosevelt's description of how the political machines operated, why was the term descriptive of political organizations in urban areas in the late 1800s?
- Why did Roosevelt think that people neglected their "public duties"? To what extent could the same be said of people today? Explain your answer.
- Describe the social side of politics in the late 1800s. On balance, do you think the extension of politics into social life was beneficial or harmful?
Patronage—the power to give jobs to people the government wished to hire—was one of the tools keeping the urban political machines in power, but patronage also extended to state and federal governments. In 1772, the first proposal for a merit-based approach to public jobs, often called civil service, was made. Conduct a keyword search using the term civil service to identify numerous articles on civil service reform.
In rural areas, interest in politics grew in the post-Civil War period, in part because farmers felt themselves to be victims of economic elites, such as the railroad companies; they believed that the government did too little to protect them against these special interests. Through the Grange movement, farmers organized into community groups, called granges, which worked for such political reforms as regulation of railroads and grain elevators, government loans to farmers, and rural mail delivery. Read the article "The ‘Granges' Excitement" from the August 1873 Manufacturer and Builder.
- What was the author's general view of farmers? How do you think the views of people today compare?
- Why were the railroad companies so important to the farmers? How did the railroad companies use their power against the farmers? Why were the railroads important to the nation's economy generally?
- Why do you think the author was concerned about the entry of farmers and representatives of Granges into politics? Do you think these concerns were justified?
Invention and Industrialization
The late 1800s were a period marked by industrialization and invention in both the United States and Europe. In 1869, the French, under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps, had completed the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Punchinello lampooned de Lesseps and canal building in its May 21, 1870, issue. The article examined the building of the "Cape Cod Canal," which would produce yearly tolls of $80 to $90:
. . . The Canal will be nearly four miles in length, and will be made of a uniform width of four feet, with a depth of two. This gigantic undertaking will of course cost an immense amount of time and money, but under the able supervision of Elkanaii Hopkins, the gifted engineer who constructed the board-walk in front of Deacon Brewster's house, at Standish Four Corners, there can be no doubt of its success. Advantage will be taken of the duck-pond of Captain Jehoiakim Brown, which is situated in the course of the proposed canal. By leading the Canal directly through this pond, at least a quarter of a mile of excavation will be avoided. M. De Lesseps is known to have decided upon making a similar use of the Bitter Lakes in the construction of his Suez ditch, after having seen Elkanaii Hopkins' plans for our great Cape Cod Canal.
From "The Great Canal Enterprise," Punchinello, Volume 1, Issue 8, May 21, 1870, page 115
For more serious articles on the building of an inter-oceanic canal, conduct a keyword search using such search terms as de Lesseps, Nicaragua Canal, Panama Canal, or names of treaties associated with diplomatic negotiations regarding a canal (e.g., Clayton-Bulwer and Hay-Pauncefote).
One of the most prolific inventors of the period was Thomas Edison, who received his first patent in 1869. In 1874, Western Union paid enough for his quadruplex telegraph to allow him to start his Menlo Park, New Jersey, research laboratory. Numerous articles in the collection (accessible using the search term Thomas Edison) discuss several of Edison's inventions. In addition, Scribners Monthly published a profile of Edison in November 1878. Read the profile, in which author William H. Bishop wrote that the inventive impulse has "a moral side, a stirring, optimistic inspiration. . . . We feel that there may, after all, be a relief for all human ills in the great storehouse of nature. . . . There is an especial appropriateness, perhaps, in its occurring in a time of more than usual discontent."
- To you, what is most notable about Edison and his work?
- How do you respond to Bishop's assessment of invention? Look through several issues of Manufacturer and Builder or Scientific American, both of which contained many articles about new technologies. What evidence can you find that others shared Bishop's view of invention?
- Do you think this attitude toward invention was peculiar to the period of intense technological innovation that occurred in the late 1800s? Or do you think it is more persistent? Explain your answer.
Women's suffrage was a major reform issue during the latter part of the nineteenth century. While the journal Punchinello published articles and illustrations ridiculing the movement, other periodicals seriously addressed the arguments for and against granting women the right to vote. Rev. William Croswell Doane, Bishop of Albany, responded to the petitions of women to the New York constitutional convention by denying that most women were interested in the vote and advising political representatives not to give into the pleas of "suffragettes:"
. . . Many a man says: "Oh! Let the experiment be tried; it cannot succeed; it will do no harm to pay women the courtesy of this complimentary vote, and then defeat it at the polls." But this is an experiment too much like playing with fire to be safe.
From "Why Women Do Not Want the Ballot," The North American Review, Volume 161, Issue 466, September 1895, page 259
On the other hand, an article in Putnam's drew an analogy to the well-run family:
. . . Families governed by fathers alone, or mothers alone, are less likely to be well governed than those where their joint authority controls. . . Just so a nation needs a governing power which shall represent the thought and feeling of both men and women . . .
From "Letters on Woman Suffrage II," Putnam's Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science and Art, Volume 12, Issue 12, December 1868, page 703
Read the two articles cited above or two other articles presenting opposing viewpoints on women's suffrage. What are the strongest arguments on each side? How do the arguments reflect the social and cultural norms of the late 1800s?
Constructing an Illustrated Timeline
A timeline shows events in the order they happened and can be a useful tool for examining relationships between events. When examining the development of material culture, an illustrated timeline can be especially helpful. Construct an illustrated timeline using one of the following:
- A timeline of fashion from 1860-1864 using Harper's New Monthly Magazine.
- A timeline of improvements in household technologies from 1870-1890 using Manufacturer and Builder.
Examine your finished timeline. What evidence do you see of continuity (things that stayed the same)? What might account for this continuity? What evidence do you see of change? What might account for this change? What events happening during the period you illustrated might have influenced the development of fashion or household technology? Can you see any evidence of that influence in your timeline?
Historical Comprehension: Identifying the Central Question of a Historical Narrative
Historians recount events from the past, but that is not all they do. They interpret the evidence available about the past in an effort to gain understanding and develop meaning. This interpretation distinguishes historical writing from writing a recollection of events experienced. Historians use questions to guide their research and analysis. Thus, the reader of a historical narrative should be able to identify the question or questions that the narrative addresses.
Consider the work of Frederick Jackson Turner, a renowned historian of the American West. The questions he asked and ways he interpreted the evidence shaped how historians looked at the history of the American West for seventy years (although many current historians dispute his interpretations). Read Turner's article "The Problem of the West," published in The Atlantic Monthly in September 1896. What questions did Turner address in this article? What historical evidence did he use to support the answer he developed? Find examples in the article that show interpretation of evidence to develop meaning. How does this article illustrate the work of a historian?
Historical Comprehension: Using Historic Maps
Historic maps are a unique primary source; they can provide information about geography, history, and politics, as well as the state of people's knowledge about the world. Two maps of the same area drawn at different points in history can show continuity and change over time.
Examine the two maps of Indian Territory. Outline the area in each map on a map of the United States. Then answer the following questions:
- When were the two maps drawn?
- What similarities do you note between the two maps?
- What differences do you see between the two maps? What might account for these differences?
- How might bias manifest itself in a map? What would you need to know to assess whether these maps were biased?
Historical Analysis and Interpretation: Assessing a Source's Credibility
One aspect of assessing a source's credibility is identifying the author and considering his or her bias. Read the account of the Sioux War of 1862 from the February 1863 issue of Continental Monthly.
- Who wrote this account? What in the author's "resume" suggests that he might have had a bias regarding the Sioux War?
- In your view, was the author biased? What passages from the article support your conclusion?
- How can you verify the accuracy of this account of the Sioux War?
Historical Analysis and Interpretation: Personalities in History
The collection includes articles by many prominent persons from such fields as politics (Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. Grant, Frederick Douglass), the military (George Armstrong Custer, William Tecumseh Sherman), landscape architecture (Frederick Law Olmsted), and conservation (John Muir). Choose one of these notable Americans or another prominent person you find represented in the collection. Read one or more of the articles written by the person you have selected. What you can you learn about the person's ideas, values, and personality from reading the article? How does reading the person's own words give you insights into their character that you might not get in reading a third party's description of your subject? Make a list of the most important characteristics of your subject as revealed by the writing.
Historical Research: The Temperance Movement
The temperance movement—the effort to outlaw alcohol—was a major social issue in the nineteenth century. One article in the collection begins with the following claims:
There is no question, whether of morals or economics, now agitating the public mind, of more importance than the treatment of intemperance. The statistics of some of our prisons show that seven-eighths of their inmates reached their wretched condition through drunkenness. The withdrawal of such a multitude from active industry, the pauperism directly entailed upon thousands, the insecurity of property, and the heavy tax upon the community for their support and for the support of the machinery that seizes and disposes of them, give us the economic side of the giant evil; while the moral side, infinitely more sad and appalling, is represented in the rending asunder of families, the multiplication of criminals, and the disintegration and degradation of society.
What questions about the temperance movement does this passage suggest? Frame two research questions about the temperance movement. Use temperance as a search word to access numerous articles on the temperance movement written between the 1830s and 1880s. To what extent can you answer your research questions using sources in the collection?
Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making: The Problem of Lynching
When federal regulation of Southern states ended and federal troops were withdrawn at the end of Reconstruction, the situation for African Americans in the South deteriorated. Jim Crow laws were passed requiring segregation in transportation and other public facilities, laws were passed that effectively disenfranchised African Americans, and black people were terrorized through various forms of violence, including lynching. Read Frederick Douglass's article, "Lynch Law in the South," in The North American Review, July 1892. (To learn more about the scope of the lynching problem, you may want to consult the Timeline of African American History that accompanies the African American Perspectives collection in American Memory.)
- What explanation did Douglass give for the increase in lynching?
- Whom did Douglass hold responsible for lynching?
- What remedies did Douglass recommend?
- What course of action would you have recommended to combat lynching in the late 1800s?
- Conduct research to find out what actions were taken to deal with the problem of lynching. When and how was the problem of lynching solved?
Arts & Humanities
Literature: The Serialized Novel
Charles Dickens was one of Britain's most highly regarded authors of the nineteenth century. His work focused on the terrible living conditions of the poor, particularly poor children, and attacked the class system in Great Britain. Many of his most famous works were first published in serial format—that is, they were published in magazines in installments over weeks or months. Dickens even published two weeklies himself, and a number of his novels appeared in these publications.
Serializing novels helped both magazines and novel-reading gain popularity. More magazines sold because people wanted to find out what happened in the story they had started reading the previous week or month. In addition, because magazines were more affordable than hardbound books, they brought reading to the middle and working classes.
Charles Dickens's novel Little Dorrit was serialized in both England and the United States. In the United States, it began a nineteen-month run in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in January 1856.
- Based on the title Little Dorrit, the illustration at the beginning of Chapter 1, and your knowledge of Charles Dickens's usual subject matter, what would you guess that Little Dorrit is about?
- Read the first installment of Little Dorrit. What techniques did Dickens use to build interest in the story? Which characters do you think will be central to the story? Explain your answer.
- Why might serializing novels encourage authors to create long books? Think about the author's motivation, as well as that of the magazine publisher. How long is Little Dorrit? (Hint: Conduct a keyword search using the term Little Dorrit.)
- Scan several installments of Little Dorrit. How effective are the illustrations? Why might illustrations have been important in serialized novels in the nineteenth century?
- Find other works by and about Charles Dickens in the collection. What can you infer about Americans' views of Dickens and his work?
Look for serialized works by other nineteenth-century authors. One possibility is Bret Harte, whose Gabriel Conroy ran as a serial in Scribner's Monthly; the first of ten installments appeared in the November 1875 issue. Among the other authors whose works are serialized in journals in the collection are Frances Hodgson Burnett and George Eliot. Try to find an installment that used the "cliffhanger" device, a suspense-laden ending designed to bring readers back for the next installment. Where do you see the cliffhanger device used in contemporary literature or entertainment? How effective is this device?
A lyric poem expresses the emotions or feelings of a speaker, who may or may not be the poet. Lyric poems are generally short and can be written in many forms; an ode or sonnet can, for example, be a lyric poem. Lyric poems usually are rhymed and have a regular meter or rhythm. Nature, love, and religion are common themes in lyric poetry.
Some of the finest British and American lyric poets published their works in the magazines included in The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals collection. Read at least three of the poems below, or find and read other poems written by three of these American authors or such English authors as Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Alfred Tennyson, and Francis Bourdillon.
- "Ave," by Oliver Wendell Holmes, published in The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 54, Issue 324, October 1884
- "The Homestead," by John Greenleaf Whittier, published in The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 57, Issue 340, February 1886
- "Death's Valley," by Walt Whitman, published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 84, Issue 503, April 1892
- "Parting," by Emily Dickinson, published in Scribner's Magazine, Volume 19, Issue 6, June, 1896
- "The Mocking Bird," by Sidney Lanier, published in The Galaxy, Volume 24, Issue 2, Aug 1877
- "Eulalie – A Song," by Edgar Allen Poe, published in The American Whig Review, Volume 2, Issue 1, July 1845
- "A Caged Bird," by Sarah Orne Jewett, published in The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 59, Issue 356, June 1887
For each poem you read, write a paragraph answering the following questions.
- Is this a lyric poem? Explain your answer.
- If it is a lyric poem, what emotion does it express? How does the poet use language to convey that emotion?
- What is the theme of the poem?
- What rhyming scheme (e.g., abab, abba, ababc) does the poem use? What is the poem's meter? Read the poem aloud and tap out the rhythm on your desk or table.
- If the poem is not a lyric poem, how would you describe the poem? For example, is it a narrative, dramatic, celebratory, or satiric poem?
When you have finished your analysis of the three poems, write a paragraph describing similarities and differences among the three poems you read. Which is your favorite? Why?
Literary criticism involves interpreting the meaning of a written work and evaluating its quality. The ways in which literary works are interpreted and the standards against which their quality is judged vary over time and from person to person.
The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals collection is filled with articles and reviews of contemporary authors. Literary criticism was a featured section in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, The North American Review, and Putnam's Monthly Magazine. Analyze several reviews from these magazines. What common standards that the critics used to evaluate the quality of the works they were reviewing can you infer from these reviews?
Read conflicting reviews of Charles Dickens's Notes on America in The North American Review and New Englander and Yale Review. What accounts for the difference in the two critics' opinions? Do they use different standards to evaluate quality? Do they interpret the meaning of Dickens's work differently?
Search for conflicting reviews of recently published books in current newspapers and magazines. What accounts for differences in current critics' views of the same books? Are they using different standards to evaluate quality? Do they interpret the meaning of the work differently?
Scribner's regularly featured a "Point of View" column. The September 1892 column looked at the question of whether a work's popularity indicates anything about its literary worth. How relevant do you think this question is today? Explain.
Many of the periodicals included in the collection regularly featured writing by humorists. Humorists use a variety of techniques to amuse or entertain their readers. Among these are satire, exaggeration, word play, clashing contexts (the fish out of water), and funny sounds.
Mark Twain (the pen name Samuel Clemens used) was commissioned to write a series for Galaxy magazine. The first appeared in the May 1870 issue. In his inimitable style, Twain explained the choice of the title, "Memoranda," and what readers could expect to find in this "department:"
I have chosen the general title Memoranda for this department because it is plain and simple, and makes no fraudulent promises. I can print under it statistics, hotel arrivals, or anything that comes handy without violating faith with the reader.
Puns cannot be allowed a place in this department. Inoffensive ignorance, benignant stupidity, and unostentatious imbecility will always be welcomed and cheerfully accorded a corner, and even the feeblest humor will be admitted, when we can do no better; but no circumstances, however dismal, will ever be considered a sufficient excuse for the admission of that last and saddest evidence of intellectual poverty, the Pun. M.T.
Read several of Twain's columns.
- What techniques does Twain use to amuse and entertain his readers?
- Why do you think Twain calls puns the "saddest evidence of intellectual poverty"? Do you agree? Explain your answer.
- Are Twain's columns still funny today? Why or why not?
- In his last column, Twain writes that "to be a monthly humorist in a cheerless time" was a dreary occupation. What led Twain to make this statement? Do you think that writing humor when things were not going well in your personal life would be difficult?
How is the humor in Twain's fiction similar to the humor in his "Memoranda" columns?
Humor: The Lampoon
The lampoon is a form of humor that uses ridicule to attack a person, group, or institution. Nothing was free from lampooning in the magazine Punchinello. In the April 23, 1870, issue the magazine published this lampoon in verse:
Strained Verses Dedicated to Unstrained Water
By A. Filterer
Bring a glass of sparkling water,
Fill the goblet to the brim,
Let the microscopic critters
Take in it a harmless swim.
Here are meat and drink united,
Life, indeed, in this we see;
Who'd exchange so rich a fluid
For the baser eau de vie?
Give us, then, no ale or porter,
Logwood wine, nor other drugs,
But a glass of sparkling water
Filled with sportive little bugs.
From "A Temperance Song," Punchinello, Volume 1, Issue 4, April 23, 1870
- What individual, group, or institution does this verse lampoon? How does it ridicule that person, group, or institution?
- Do you think this verse was effective in drawing attention to a social issue of the day? Why or why not?
- What advantages and disadvantages might the lampoon have as a way to comment on important issues?
- Why do you think lampooning was a popular feature in some nineteenth-century periodicals? Is lampooning still popular today? Give examples to support your view.
- How are the lampoon and satire similar and different?
An aphorism is a succinct and clever statement that presents a point of view or a general truth. In a column entitled "Bric-A-Brac," The Century magazine regularly featured aphorisms under the title "Uncle Esek's Wisdom." Here are two examples from May 1888:
Vanity is a disease, and there is no cure for it this side of the grave, and even there it will often break out anew on the tombstone.
Freedom is the law of God, and yet if man could have his way, one half of creation would be abject slaves to the other half.
From "Uncle Esek's Wisdom," The Century, Volume 36, Issue 1, May 1888
Read examples from "Uncle Esek's Wisdom" in various issues of The Century.
- What values are reflected in Uncle Esek's column?
- Pick an aphorism that you especially like. What the point of view or truth does the aphorism express?
- What do you like about the way the aphorism is phrased?
- Why do you think aphorisms were popular in the nineteenth century? Are they popular today? Cite examples to support your answer.
- How can you make a point through short witty writing? Use "Uncle Esek's Wisdom" as a guide and write several aphorisms of your own.
Persuasive writing attempts to convince the reader to believe what the writer believes or to take an action urged by the writer. Among the techniques used by persuasive writers are employing strong language, supporting their positions with data, linking their positions with other things that the reader values (such as freedom or safety), appealing to the reader's self-interest, referring to respected sources, and refuting the views of their opponents.
The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals collection is rife with persuasive writing. For example, read the letter to the editor entitled "A Chinese View of the Statue of Liberty," written by Saum Song Bo and reprinted in The American Missionary, October 1885.
. . . I consider it as an insult to us Chinese to call on us to contribute toward building in this land a pedestal for a statue of Liberty. That statue represents Liberty holding a torch which lights the passage of those of all nations who come into this country. But are the Chinese allowed to come? As for the Chinese who are here, are they allowed to enjoy liberty as men of all other nationalities enjoy it? Are they allowed to go about everywhere free from the insults, abuse, assaults, wrongs and injuries from which men of other nationalities are free? . . .
Whether this statute against the Chinese or the statue to Liberty will be the more lasting monument to tell future ages of the liberty and greatness of this country, will be known only to future generations.
Liberty, we Chinese do love and adore thee; but let not those who deny thee to us, make of thee a graven image and invite us to bow down to it.
From "A Chinese View of the Statue of Liberty," The American Missionary, Volume 39, Issue 10, October 1885
- Why does Saum Song Bo object to donating money to build the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty? What point was he making about U.S. law?
- What techniques of persuasive writing did he use in the letter?
- How persuasive do you find his letter?
Search the collection for articles on a nineteenth-century reform movement in which you are interested. Look for persuasive pieces in support of the cause. Analyze the persuasive techniques used by the authors. Then write an article expressing your sentiments on the issue. Express agreement or disagreement with the consulted articles and explain the position you have taken.
A biographical sketch is a brief account of a person's life, not as detailed or lengthy as a biography. A biographical sketch may highlight a few aspects of a person's life that are especially telling. Like a good biography, a good biographical sketch makes the subject come to life, allowing the reader to see the subject as a three-dimensional character.
Periodicals often feature biographical sketches of celebrated figures. Read the sketch of William Lloyd Garrison written shortly after his death.
- Who wrote this biographical sketch? What can you find out about this person? Is identifying the author important in reading biographies or biographical sketches? Explain your answer.
- How does the sketch bring Garrison to life? As you read the sketch, does Garrison emerge as a three-dimensional person?
- What does this biographical sketch reveal about American society in the nineteenth century?
Write a biographical sketch of someone you know well. What characteristics would you emphasize? How would you bring your acquaintance to life for the reader? Now think about a famous individual in the nineteenth century. Search the collection and other sources to find information about this person. How could you apply the strategies you used in writing about your acquaintance in writing about someone you do not know personally? Write a biographical sketch of the famous individual. When you have finished, assess how well you have conveyed the person as a three-dimensional person.
Expository writing is writing to explain, inform, or describe. The writer "exposes" information to the reader. Because the writer is trying to convey knowledge to the reader, strong organization is especially important in expository writing. There are many ways to organize information in expository writing; some of the most common are:
- Sequence: The author lists items in numerical, chronological, or alphabetical order. An example of this kind of organization can be seen in how-to books, which tell the reader how to do something, going through the process step by step.
- Comparison: The author describes how two or more items are alike and different. This form of organization might be used in an article describing a new invention and comparing it to older inventions.
- Cause and effect: The author lists causes and then explains their effects. One example of this kind of organization might be seen in a history textbook, in which the author describes an event (cause) and then describes what happened as a result (effects).
- Problem-solution: The author lays out a problem and then describes possible solutions. An author might use this kind of organization in a self-help book, in which the author describes a common problem people face and then suggests ways of solving the problem.
Sometimes, an article or book might combine several of these forms of organization. For example, a book might use problem-solution organization to introduce the problem and possible solutions and then use sequential organization to describe how to implement the solutions.
Many of the periodicals in the collection feature expository writing. For example, Scientific American includes many articles describing new inventions or explaining scientific principles. Garden and Forest includes articles about how to grow various kinds of plants, as well as results of research on hybridization and other plant-related topics.
Find an example of expository writing in Scientific American, Garden and Forest, or another magazine in the collection.
- What is the purpose of this piece of expository writing? What audience is the author addressing?
- How is the article organized? Does it match one of the ways of organizing expository writing outlined above? If you have trouble figuring out how the article is organized, write down the main idea of each paragraph, and then study the pattern of information.
- How easy is it to understand the main point of the article? Point out words, phrases, or sentences that make the article easy or hard to understand.
Botanical illustration—realistic drawing of a particular type of plant—is a special art form. Its primary purpose is to depict accurately and in detail a plant's characteristics so plants of that variety can be identified. The need for scientific accuracy does not mean that botanical illustrations cannot also be beautiful works of art.
Garden and Forest includes numerous examples of botanical illustration. Because of printing technology of the time, these illustrations are in black-and-white so they lack the identifying element of color. Still, they convey a great deal of detail about the plants depicted.
Study the example of a botanical illustration below or browse Garden and Forest for another illustration that interests you.
- What parts of the plant are detailed in the drawing?
- Pick one part of the plant and write a description based on the drawing. Be as specific as you can be in your description.
- Try to find out about the color of the plant by reading the text accompanying the illustration or conducting additional research. Add color terms to your description.
- Do you think this illustration is a work of art? Is it beautiful? Explain your answers.