Blog: The Americanist

Articles, musings, observations and commentary


Why Collect Americana? The Untold American Experience

We buy and sell rare books and manuscripts we believe are worth being collected, studied or enjoyed. These artifacts could be a printed on silk memento of a school in Texas...

AppliKKKation: A 1920s History of the KKK in America

Before the Internet, the question might cross one’s mind: “How does one become a member of the Ku Klux Klan?” Is it by invitation? Do you apply? Are you just chosen and told you are now...

When Love Came to Town – Alexander Hamilton is Blackmailed

Maria Reynolds explained to the married 36-year-old Alexander Hamilton her unfortunate predicament. Her husband, James Reynolds, had abandoned her in Philadelphia with her children. She was desperate for aid. Would Alexander give her money so...

A Dummy’s View of the 1876 Centennial Celebration

America’s Centennial! The 1876 Centennial Celebration was the United States of America giving itself one big party. A number of American publisher’s, especially in Philadelphia decided to make some profits from the whole feel-goodness-ity of it all.

You’re looking...

An Expansive 1868 Pocket Bill Organizer

In 1868 America you had to pay your bills in America just like you do now. If you were the tidy type, you might have this collapsible pocket bill organizer on your desk.

This unusual survival —an...

An American Civil War Broadside

The American Civil War dominates nineteenth century American history – North and South. You see this still today especially in the ongoing, popular interest in military tactics and campaigns, bloody battles, and heroic generals.

A collector of...

Historical Ephemera: American History on Paper

In addition to rare books and manuscripts, our firm buys and sells historical ephemera of American origin or context, created in the 18th, 19th, or early 20th century. In our world, when we talk about “ephemera” we mean any item printed for a short-lived purpose or...

Building the Statue of Liberty: Liberty Enlightens the World

In the early decades of the 19th century, as America’s colonial and revolutionary heroes were passing away, Americans began to write histories of the young Republic. Joining these words were...

Handwritten Records: 18th & 19th Century Manuscript Journals

When considering historical American manuscripts, an important subdivision is the category for 18th century and 19th century manuscript account books: daybooks, ledgers, and journals for record-keeping.

These manuscripts were typically the province of...

Scrapbook Albums from American History: Printed & Manuscript Memories

There is enjoyment when encountering a big, thick American scrapbook album from the 19th or early 20th centuries, bulging with ephemera and autograph or manuscript material.

As you open it up, glued in musical concert programs flap open. You see detailed...

American Broadsides: History on a Sheet of Paper

American broadsides were prolific in the 18th century and 19th century. Printed from single sheets of paper, of various sizes, “broadsides” are what we call today a “poster”. Intense, visually interesting, or designed with clever graphics, broadsides were an important public means of...

Rare Books, American History Bound & Wrapped

The earliest printing in each colony or territory has been carefully noted by scholars.

Printing in the American Colonies began slowly, but by the end of the 18th century was widespread. Early American books and pamphlets...

A Rare 21st Century Americana Incunablum

Recently an important collector of 21st century rare Americana contacted our office. This was a book collector desperate to procure a printed rarity she described as having remarkable significance.

The book was unknown to us...

8 Handwritten Diaries: Self Works of a Young Man

It feels odd to read someone else’s diary. The prying. The TMI – too much information – of it all. The frisson of transgression is lessened, however, through the...

A Tammany Hall Tiger: Thomas Nast and Temperance

When I first saw this striking cartoon image of a tiger, I immediately thought of “Boss Tweed” and New York City’s infamous Tammany Hall political machine.

The prowling...

Cuba in 1898: We’ve got ’em on the RUN

Patriotic envelopes or postal covers and stationery were wildly popular during the American Civil War. They are avidly collected today.

The covers were printed in a variety of colors with images such as runaway...

In the Frame, Collecting Old Photographs in Context

Photographs and prints are often seen out of any meaningful context. Many early printed maps and botanical or natural history plates, for example, were published within large atlases, books, or...

An 18th Century Almanac Eclipse for the Year 1789

In the major cities with vibrant printing cultures – New York, Philadelphia, Boston and so forth – almanacs were plentiful and varied.

Because they were functional references, the 18th century almanac typically did...

Anton Probst – Portrait of a Killer

A Bewildered Drifter. A 19th-century German-American immigrant, Anton Probst drifted from job to job in Philadelphia and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Probst had tried military life; he drifted — or rather deserted — from that life, too.

No one would have heard of...

A Christmas Chromolithograph Broadside

In this 19th century American broadside, Louis Prang’s Christmas greeting cards literally take wing. Each card transforms into messenger doves, each to deliver holiday cheer to loved ones and friends.

Louis Prang was a master of the chromolithograph and used this...

Banking with the Big Boys? American Women Bankers in the 1920s

Below, in this original photograph, it is a sunny day and 20th Century America is just underway. Women are beginning to emerge from being seen as exclusively belonging to the domestic sphere...

The 1839 to 1843 Diary & Commonplace Book of Agnes Y. McAllister

Agnes Y[oung]. McAllister (1817–1879) of Philadelphia lived at home with her parents, having never married. The family were financially comfortable and settled.

As may be expected of a woman of a certain class and...

A Handwritten Diary from Antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction Era South Carolina

Privation and loss; death and separation. Julia Logan’s diary, intermittently kept, chronicles a pervading prayerful grief for the dead, wounded, or otherwise separated members of the Logan family, prominent South Carolina Confederate...

Battle of Mobile Bay: Esbon C. Lambert’s Civil War Diary

We all have laurels on our brows about a foot deep,” proclaimed United States Navy Landsman Esbon C. Lambert shortly after the fateful Battle of Mobile Bay. Here...

The Long Arm of Benjamin Franklin

Books & Ladders. An invention for taking down books from hard to reach shelves. In January, 1786, Benjamin Franklin explains his invention:

Old men find it inconvenient to mount a ladder or steps for that purpose, their heads being sometimes...

American History in Rare Manuscripts

To illuminate the untold story of American history, we study rare manuscripts and letters; the handwritten history of America. When we read letters and diaries from the 18th century and 19th century we encounter...

Antique Diaries and Handwritten Journals Online

The handwriting of antique diaries, at first, can seem impossible to read. Don’t despair

Are you interested in old antique diaries or handwritten journals written by Americans from the eighteenth century or the nineteenth century? Reading and deciphering 18th century antique diaries can be more of a challenge to transcribe than antique diaries from mid-19th century America. For...

The Naughty Eyes of Yan-Kie-Fie

Dr. Hustler was a bit of a wanderer. He strayed into the Mikado’s rose garden uninvited (by way of Egypt and the Kingdom of...