Facial goniometer, mid-19th century. Collin, Paris [OB2015.009]

Facial Goniometer, mid-19th century. Collin, Paris [OB2015.009]

We recently added an interesting item to our Objects Collection, an instrument called a facial goniometer. This came to the Archives from our colleagues at the Beneski Museum of Natural History. The object offers a bit of insight into the local popularity of anthropometery in the 19th century – that is, the practice of compiling a wide variety of measurements of the human body, most often in the support of various scientific or pseudoscientific theories of anthropology.

A goniometer is any device that measures angles. A facial goniometer is specifically concerned with calculating the angle of the face from the jaw to the forehead. This instrument was introduced in the mid-19th century by anthropometrists. This particular goniometer bears the maker’s mark “Collin, Paris.” Adolphe Collin was a well-known surgical instrument maker in Paris from the 1860s through the 1930s.

Facial Goniometer. Illustration from Samuel George Morton, Crania Americana (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, 1839), p. 252.

Facial Goniometer. Illustration from Samuel George Morton, Crania Americana (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, 1839), 252.

George Morton, in his Crania Americana (1839), provides a detailed description of how a facial goniometer is meant to be applied to measure the facial angle of the human skull. First, three basal pieces (A) are affixed snugly around the sides and front of the specimen, while a thin vertical piece in the middle (K and L) sort of straddles the nasal bone. Then the vertical limb D is allowed to fall back to touch limb K, and a degree measurement is made on the angular scale.

Morton, Crania Americana, 250.

Illustration from Morton, Crania Americana, p. 250.

The illustration above from Morton’s Crania Americana, shows differences in the facial angles of two cranial specimens. The first specimen (the skull of a “Cowalitsk,” i.e. Cowlitz, a Native American tribe of the Pacific Northwest), has an angle measuring 66 degrees; in the specimen below it, a Peruvian Indian, the line measures 76 degrees.
The purpose of our goniometer at Amherst College is uncertain. The most likely hypothesis is that is was acquired and used by Dr. Edward Hitchcock (AC 1849), college physician and professor of physical education and hygiene. “Old Doc” Hitchcock was keenly interested in anthropometry; we know that he led a rigorous program of physical measurements of several generations of Amherst College men, and published extensively on the subject. It is possible that Hitchcock’s personal papers provide an answer to this question.

Touchstone1949 feels your pain,

Lord Jeff 19351923 is right there with you,

Touchstone 1937And 1937 knows just how good it feels!

Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2015 from everyone in Archives and Special Collections!

I have been away from Frost Library for the past month on a short (three month) research leave. My research project is to explore the printing history of one of the texts we acquired as part of the Younghee Kim-Wait (Class of 1982)/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection: A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, An Indian by Samson Occom.

Samson Occom. A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul. New-London: T. Green, 1772.

Samson Occom. A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul. New-London: T. Green, 1772.

This copy of “The Fourth Edition” arrived at Amherst as part of the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection. It is generally regarded as the first book published by a Native American author as his own work. At the end of 2014, we received an earlier edition from alumnus Peter Webb (Class of 1974), which I wrote about here. That blog post from January also includes some information about the other editions of Occom’s Sermon held in the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College. We have two New-London editions, two copies of the 1788 London, England edition, the 1805 Springfield, MA edition, and the 1827 Welsh edition. My interest was piqued, and I began to dig in to the scholarship on Occom to see just how many editions of this text are known to exist.

In 2006, Oxford University Press published The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Native Americaedited by Joanna Brooks. In her biographical sketch of Occom that opens the volume she writes: “A Sermon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, An Indian was first published on October 31, 1772. It subsequently went through nineteen editions, ranking Occom as the sixth leading author in the American colonies during the 1770s” (23). This information only deepened my interest and I continued to dig. Other sources repeated the “nineteen editions” statement, and I recently turned up the source of that number: Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England by W. DeLoss Love, a biography originally published in 1899.

In his book, Love notes the popularity of the Sermon and lists nineteen different editions in a footnote on pages 174-175. He also says “There may have been others which we have not met with or seen noted by bibliographers” (174). It soon became clear to me that I had discovered a gap in Occom scholarship that neatly fit my professional training and interests. Love’s own lack of bibliographical knowledge is revealed by his description of ALL printings of the Sermon as octavo, when the majority are clearly quartos. Although there has been some excellent recent scholarship on Occom from a book history perspective, there was a lack of old-school bibliographical data — basic information on the number of editions and the when, where, and why of their publication.

I began my search with two online resources, one free to all, the other a subscription database available through Frost Library. The English Short Title Catalog is freely available via the British Library and is one of the best sources for bibliographical information on books, pamphlets, broadsides, and other printed material produced prior to 1801 in British Isles, Colonial America, United States of America (1776-1800), Canada, or territories governed by Britain, in all languages. (You can read more about its history and scope here.)  The other handy resource, though not available for free, is The Early American Imprints Series, parts I and II, which is one of many databases Amherst College pays to access via NewsBank/Readex. Though diligent searching of these databases, I assembled a list of twenty-two separate editions of Occom’s Sermon.

But database searching was just the first step in my ongoing quest; I am determined to personally inspect as many copies of each edition as I possibly can. It’s important to understand what the term “edition” means, both its technical definition as well as the larger implications. For the technical definition, we turn to Principles of Bibliographical Description by Fredson Bowers:

An EDITION is the whole number of copies of a book printed at any time or times from substantially the same setting of type-pages. (39)

To stick with our two New-London editions for now, what this means is that T. Green (or someone in his shop) picked out each tiny piece of metal type, set it up on the press, printed however many copies they needed, then put all those pieces of type away so they could be used to print something else. Which means that the first New-London edition and the fourth New-London edition, while reproducing the same text, will have some differences.

As luck would have it, I had to make a trip to Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, so I arranged my travel to leave plenty of time for a visit to the Library Company of Philadelphia, where I had identified seven editions of the Sermon. Based on the basic information in their catalog, they appeared to have two copies of the 1772 New Haven edition, so I asked to see both.

New Haven editions. Images courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

New Haven editions. Images courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

It was apparent the moment I saw the second copy that there were two separate settings of type here. Page-by-page comparison of the contents of each copy made it clear that these books were produced from entirely separate settings of type. Already my twenty-two editions was bumped up to twenty-three.

But what does that mean? What insight can we gain into Occom’s life and work by nit-picking over the exact number of editions of this work? Achieving a more accurate count is just the first phase of this project, but I am already starting to make some interesting connections and raise new questions. At the most basic level, each edition is an indicator of consumer demand. No colonial printer would take on the time, labor, and materials costs of typesetting, printing, and binding unless they thought someone would purchase their product. Knowing that there were two New Haven editions instead of just one tells us that there was ongoing demand for this work in and around New Haven after the first edition sold out. Knowing that a total of three separate editions were printed just down the road in New-London in 1772-73 suggests an even greater degree of popular demand.

It will take me a long time to complete my physical inspection of the copies available in the collections of the Northeast — I spent a fruitful day at the American Antiquarian Society last week, and next week I will visit New York Public Library and the New-York Historical Society. I have also expanded my search to include other printed material related to the execution of Moses Paul, such as broadsides, newspaper articles, and another pamphlet — none of which were authored by Samson Occom. What has begun to emerge is a sense of the execution of Moses Paul as a media event that involved multiple participants, rather than the story of a single sermon by a single author.

Elmer, Arthur and Walter Nelson lived in the small town of Goshen, New Hampshire, in the late 19th century. They used incredible imagination to make the most of their rural home by creating a remarkably detailed imaginary world right in their own backyard. They left behind wonderful drawings, imagined periodicals, maps and stories chronicling their own adventures and the adventures of their characters. So if you are ready to get outside for your own adventure, even if you go no farther than your own backyard, the Nelson brothers could serve as able guides. They will have you planting seeds, using new tools, and pulling boats and bicycles from the garage in no time at all. Amherst College recently acquired the Nelson Brothers Collection and it is now available for viewing online, so take a look and get inspired for some springtime adventure of your own.


The collection shows a remarkable ability the boys had to imagine life beyond their backyard and to make the most of  their surroundings as a springboard to adventure.  The physical layout of their imaginary world was based on the Nelson family land. Islands in a backyard stream became whole continents in the boys’ imaginations. Each boy conquered a continent and developed histories, people and heroes. The stories convey a rich appreciation for the outdoors, a desire for adventure beyond the life of the farm,and a childhood vision of the larger world.Nelson Brothers Novelties

The Nelson brothers were often extremely detailed in their creations, demonstrating a sustained dedication to their imaginary world and to the broad range of topics that captured their interest. Take, for example, a fictional Nelson brothers seed catalog. The entries are detailed, informative and clearly based on experience, possibly mimicking seed catalogs seen in real life. Thoughtful details provide the reader with a clear vision of what to expect from a particular seed. Fictional Nelson brothers varieties showcase their creativity.

An Adventure on Red RoverIf you are in the mood for more excitement than gardening is likely to bring, then you might try one of the adventure stories. An Adventure on Red Rover, for example, tells the story two boys who are held captive by three large birds in a cave on a mining island. After five long days they are rescued by two friends and manage to escape what looks like a rather unpleasant experience.

In form, creativity, execution and storytelling, this collection offers viewers a glimpse into the very special lives of three adventurous young men. These digitized items and more from the Nelson Family Juvenilia can be found in the Amherst College Digital Collections, and of course the originals are located in the Archives & Special Collections.


On May 5, 1970, students and faculty of Amherst College joined more than 1,250 other colleges and universities in a nationwide student strike.

00000005The May 5 strike followed on the heels of a May Day demonstration at Yale protesting the trial of the New Haven Black Panthers and the surveillance of the Black Panthers by the FBI.  As the protest grew into a national movement, the motivation for the strike expanded to include President Nixon’s recent expansion of the Vietnam War and the death of four students at a demonstration at Kent State.

DOC013-1The Amherst Student, May 4, 1970 states the three strike demands as follows:

  1. That the United States government end its systematic oppression of political dissidents and release all political prisoners, such as Bobby Seale and other members of the Black Panther Party.
  2. That the United States government cease its expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos; that it unilaterally and immediately withdraw all forces from Southeast Asia.
  3. That the universities end their complicity with the United States war machine by immediate end to defense research, ROTC, counterinsurgency research and other such programs.














The editions of the Amherst Student leading up to the strike include editorials on reasons Amherst College should participate in the national strike, letters to the editor encouraging students to resist the draft, and articles calling for Amherst faculty to suspend classes for the length of the strike.


DOC013-5The May 7, 1970 Amherst Student includes the faculty and student resolutions, including the announcement that the faculty of Amherst College had voted to suspend class for the remainder of the spring semester, stating “The Faculty of the College formally declares its support for the national movement to end the war in Indochina, to end the vilification of youth by public authorities, and to insure justice and full constitutional freedoms for Americans of all races”.

In the weeks following the suspension of classes, students organized daily talks, teach-ins, rallies, and draft counseling.  Our Moratoria Papers collection contains the Student Assembly Bulletin, a schedule of on-campus events published daily with announcements about progression of the national strike.  The Moratoria Papers also include screen-printed posters and single page sheets of information for strikers, including facts about the Vietnam War, types of tear gas used by police, medical aid advice, and a flyer titled “Pocket Lawyer” informing students of their legal rights.

00000002 00000001More information on Amherst College’s participation in the national strike of May 1970 can be found in the Moratoria Collection, General Files (Political Activity and Activism), Photographs Collection, and other sources in the Archives and Special Collections.

On April 24 Armenians commemorate the genocide of 1915. The event is marked every year, but the centenary in 2015 has particular resonance and will be widely noted.

Even so, what happened in 1915 and the years that followed was not the first time of troubles for Armenians in Turkey. The nineteenth century had seen many massacres and had ended with several years of intense conflict now known as the “Hamidian Massacres” (named for Sultan Abdul Hamid II and the troops, mostly Kurdish, he used against the Armenians).

1898-Dwight-Harrison-Griswold-OlioSince several Amherst College missionaries were in the region for decades, the Archives and Special Collections contains many eyewitness accounts of what happened during the last years of the century. Most of the missionary accounts are in fairly obvious places, in what we think of as “missionary collections.” But there was one folder in another collection that lay quietly for many years, a folder in the Harrison Griswold Dwight Papers.

Harry Dwight (1875-1959; AC 1898) was born in Turkey to a family of missionaries but was not a missionary himself. His life was a more literary one, and his papers are filled with interesting correspondence and other writings from his career. Sometime in 1941 Harry wrote his cousin Mary W. Riggs (1873-1943) to ask for a packet of letters that had belonged to his father, Henry Otis Dwight (1843-1917), an important missionary based in Constantinople who married two of the Bliss sisters, thus linking him with our Bliss-Ward family of missionaries.

Mary_Riggs-Miss-Herald-v98Mary sent the letters to Harry Dwight with a letter saying essentially, here, take them, I can’t stand to be reminded of what happened in those awful days. Her letter was short, typed, and persuasive, but most of the letters she sent Harry were in cursive, and in faded ink at that. So for several reasons (location of letters in an unexpected collection, difficult handwriting, insufficient description), and despite Mary’s urgency, the letters seem to have remained unread and untranscribed.

Riggs-Mary-env-p1 Riggs-Mary-p2

Given the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, it seemed that the letters might prove of interest or use to people interested in Armenian and Turkish history, and it would remind us too that the Armenians were being massacred in the region well before 1915. What follows below are excerpts (long enough as it is) from the transcriptions, with pdfs to the full transcriptions and a separate pdf of the originals for anyone who wants to read the letters in full and see what the manuscripts look like. A little of the punctuation has been changed, and it would be hard to claim complete accuracy in some of the names of places and people, but the transcriptions in the pdfs are otherwise unaltered and unabridged.

Henry Otis Dwight, ca. 1875

Henry Otis Dwight, ca. 1880

It’s important to note a few things about Henry Otis Dwight, who either wrote or received the letters. Turkey was home to him – he knew how to “gad about” (as he says) and how to obtain and report information. As the letters show, he was a serious man and, I think, someone who always had in mind “the big picture.” In Dwight’s case, the big picture involved protecting his “flock” (the Armenians) and the missionaries stationed precariously across a vast empire, and he feared for the safety of both groups during conflicts. In all that transpired during the years the letters cover, Dwight’s view of the situation – and the criticisms he offered – were directly connected with the impact on his larger mission. He was evenhanded: if the reader feels insulted on one occasion, he will be soothed on another. Dwight had harsh words for Turks, Kurds, and Armenians (as well as the reporter for the New York Herald), and he was self-critical too, but he was also very willing to praise when praise was due. Although he knew high-ranking leaders on all sides, he doesn’t come across as especially political, except to use the tools of politics to help his cause when he could (and often he couldn’t). He was both eyewitness and gatherer of information from other eyewitnesses, and in these letters he reveals all he knows.


The Bliss Bible House in Constantinople, H.O.Dwight's base of operations

The Bliss Bible House in Constantinople, H.O.Dwight’s base of operations

Letter of September 30, 1895:


I went over to Pera about 11, and in coming back could see that something was astir of an unusual nature. The police swarmed in the streets and on the bridge and eyed me in a very embarrassing manner. Just then a fire broke out in Beshik-tach, and it was impossible to tell whether the excitement of the people was on account of the fire or not. While I was on the bridge the Grand Vezir, Said Pasha, came along on his way to the Porte. He had evidently waited at his house until the demonstration should have time to be broken up. Aside from the multitude of police and the unusual crowd at the head of the bridge, I could not see that any great thing was taking place. After I reached the Bible House, I was told that the demonstration had occurred, and had been attacked at Nouri Osmaniye by the troops, when about twenty Armenians had been sabred by the cavalry. Shortly after, a man came in who said that he had seen two fights between Armenians and the police at the Sublime Porte. The first was at the upper door, where the ministers enter. He saw one man carried off as if dead. Later the second fight occurred at the lower door of the Porte, and there he saw two or three fall. He thought it dangerous to linger in that region and left. After the Grand Vezir reached the Porte the police began to make arrests of Armenians. They seemed to search for arms and to seize those who had anything that could be called a weapon, if only a large pocket-knife. I went out from the Bible House rather late, to go to the steamer, and saw nothing but a rather anxious look on the faces of the people. The police were everywhere but I saw no arrests made although I went the longest way to the bridge in order to observe the signs of the atmosphere. The Turks were whispering together and the Armenians were conspicuous by their absence. Many stories were afloat about the result of the fights. The Armenians are said to have killed a Turkish major who fired upon them. Tuesday, Oct. 1. The Turks at the steamer landing at Hissar were very much occupied with secret whispering, and I thought eyed me askance as I went to the steamer. There was nothing in the paper about the affair of yesterday except a bland sort of declaration that the Armenian hamals and firemen had gathered together at two or three places in the city and had been dispersed by the police, and that under the shadow of the sultan quiet was perfect in the city. There were no Armenians on the steamer and the Armenian shops in the city were mostly shut. A general hush ruled the streets. Everyone spoke in low tones and the coffee houses were deserted. The impression was of a sultry day absolutely still before a thunderstorm. I encountered a number of Softas on the streets who looked very savage and who I observed had revolvers under their long gowns. Altogether the impression of my morning jaunt in the city was not reassuring. It was evident that the Turks are angered by the affair of yesterday and are on the lookout for more trouble, or to make it. The police are patrolling the streets but only by twos, except once in a long while a mounted patrol passes of more men.

Scutari neighborhood of the Dwight and Bliss families

Scutari neighborhood of the Dwight and Bliss families (image from the Mark Hopkins Ward Papers).

…A number of our Bible House people came to me, thinking that I could do something, to beg that I would get protection for them. They were in utter terror of their lives. They say that the Softas are going to make a general massacre, and that at the same time that the police are arresting every Armenian who has anything like a weapon they are allowing the Turkish mob to buy revolvers unmolested. I found from other sources that this was true as to the purchase of revolvers. Then came word that two of the Bible House men, one a printer and the other a hamal, had been arrested and very badly beaten. Help was wanted to secure their release, for it is rumored that they are killing the prisoners in cold blood at the Ministry of Police. A few minutes later word came that Garabed Senakirinian, one of the leading Protestants of Gedik Pasha, was arrested last night and no one knows whether he is alive or dead. He was at the new Gedik Pasha chapel when some Softas came in and ordered the people to stop working in the chapel. “We are not going to allow you to have a chapel here,” they said. Garabed Eeffendi went out and spoke to the women of the congregation who have been doing watchman’s duty there while the men were at work, telling them to go inside because the Softas looked so fierce. The Softas at once went and complained to the police that he had told the women to stone them, which was false, and the police arrested him. Happily, a Turk standing by had seen the whole performance and told the police that the Softas had lied and got him released. Shortly afterward on some threat from the Softas, the police rearrested him and sent him to prison.


All these things come to me, and everyone looks to me to right all wrongs, as if I were their father or their advocate with the powers that be. They were very bitterly disappointed when I told them that I should not go to the British Embassy to present their case because it is already known, and that I did not believe that the British fleet would necessarily be summoned at once to restore order. The feeling that the appeals of these people produces is one of terrible anxiety, for the stories are heart-rending and the possibility that I might with a clearer inspiration find some way to help them is very wearing upon the nerves. It is very much as if we were in the midst of a military campaign and oppressed with the weight that belongs to the period just before the battle begins, when no one knows just what he will have to do in the next minute. It is a little curious that I have not been disturbed by a sense of fear for ourselves.

Several of H.O. Dwight's family members with with him in Constantinople well into the 1890s: Isabella Bliss, widow of Edwin Elisha Bliss (AC 1837) with granddaughters Isabel and Helen, ca. 1895.

Several of H.O. Dwight’s family members were with him in Constantinople well into the mid-1890s: Isabella Bliss, widow of Edwin Elisha Bliss (AC 1837) with granddaughters Isabel and Helen, ca. 1895.

…Last evening a man came to the Bible House in great terror, from Donjian’s shop, to say that the police had just made a raid upon the shop as a place where arms are being sold to the Armenians. Donjian is a jeweler and curio merchant, a leading member of the Y.M.C.A. and son in law to Pastor Avedis Constantian. All the antique weapons were gathered up by the police as evidence of treason and carried off with Donjian himself to the Minstry of Police. What to do for this poor fellow was the problem and we could do nothing. We concluded that at the Ministry of Police there would be someone wise enough to see that swords from the time of the Crusades and flint-lock pistols of two or three centuries ago are not arms in the sense of the law. This morning I found that he had been released and went around to his shop on my way to the Bible House to congratulate him on his escape. He was badly frightened and nervous but thankful to get off with the loss of his goods, which had been kept by the police, to the value of £20.

…Later in the day I went over to Gedik Pasha, ostensibly to call on Mrs. Newell on the occasion of her arrival from America, but really to get a clear idea of the general situation and of theirs in particular. Just before I left the Bible House, there was a rather sharp shock of an earthquake. As soon as Mrs. Newell saw me she said, “It takes an earthquake to bring you here.” I then remembered that since the earthquakes of July 1894, when I went over to see how the ladies had passed the danger, I had been only once in their house. The three ladies were in good spirits and full of pluck. They had not seen any disposition to attack their house and felt that there would be no such attack. They had seen the Softas roaming in parties of ten or more through their street, armed with revolvers, daggers, and clubs of a uniform pattern. They had heard the horrid sound of the blows of the clubs striking on the heads of the victims in the street, which they said sounded like pistol shots, and they had comforted and helped the poor women left alone in their houses by the arrest of their men. But no harm had come near them and they were not inclined to wish any help.

…. Numbers of Armenians have asked us when the fleet will be here, and I have been obliged to tell them that I am inclined to think that the rising of the Hunchagists [Armenian revolutionaries] has made its coming now impossible unless the government ceases to show the purpose to protect the people generally from the mob. The appeals of these people for advice, the terrible nature of their position, and the utter uselessness of their hoping help from me, make a combination of influences that crush me under the sense of responsibility and impotence. I feel like crying aloud, “Oh, Lord, my burden is greater than I can bear.”

Letter of October 7, 1895:


Thursday, Oct. 10. The other day Dr. Matteosian asked me what I would advise him to do about his family who are in Biryukdere. Should they stay where they are, or should they return to their Pera home? I told him that for the moment Pera is less safe than the Bosphorus because of the tendency of the Armenians at the church of the Holy Trinity to make trouble. I told him the only way was to do as I do every day – feel the pulse of the city and so judge of dangers. He said the difficulty was to get hold of the pulse. This morning he met me on the steamer and asked me how the pulse is this morning. I told him it was less violent, but that I had not yet been to the city to find out. Just then I met Mr. Dimitrof, the Bulgarian agent here, and asked him about the situation. Dr. Matteosian listened with all his ears and understood something of how I work to get the situation every day.

Certain men I know to be well informed and to be willing to tell me what they know. One of these is Mr. Dimitroff; another is the agent of the Reuter News Agency, who gives me news and I give him items that he cannot otherwise get. Then I go among the people of all classes and hear what they have to say; their experience with the police, and with the common Turks or Armenians, and their preposterous ideas on all subjects. From this it is easy to get a general notion of how the mind of the city is acting and if there is anything that seems to have special danger in it. I take pains to learn if it is known at the Embassies. What Mr. Dimitroff told me was that yesterday afternoon Said Pasha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, called on the Austrian Ambassador, who is Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, and asked him to get the ambassador to negotiate with the Armenians about leaving the churches and going to their homes, authorizing the Ambassador to promise that none of them should be arrested by the Turks if they leave the churches. This involves a tacit admission by the Turks that the Armenians have been driven into their present position by abuse, and that therefore they are not to be punished for refusing to submit at the order of the Government. Upon this, the ambassador held a meeting at the French Embassy and decided to undertake the negotiation. This morning early the dragomen of the six Powers were sent to the city to go to the churches and advise the people to go home, promising that they will not be molested by the police. I have not been able to learn what the result has been, but I am afraid that the effort has failed. The Hunchagists are determined to keep up the demonstration until the Turks yield consent to the reformers. Today the Hunchagists went around and informed Armenians who opened their shops that they have been fined by the revolutionary committee for doing so. Several men paid considerable amounts to save their necks from the Hunchagists. All the shopkeepers received orders to close their shops on pain of death from these same revolutionists. They commonly obey meekly for they are terrified at the fear of secret assassination.

Letters from (apparently) Armenians, probably pastors or other employees of the missions:


From Arabkir
December 28, 1895

It was a great comfort that some friends escaped the fatal massacre (Nov. 6) but the five Nalbandian brothers were taken by guile to the government house. They were bound together and shot and many others in the same manner. These have been killed and that is past but many others remain in prison hungry, naked and miserable and they have no means of comfort whatever. Call, oh call for assistance. There are women who were accustomed to dress well and adorn their persons with costly ornaments now naked and miserable hunt[ing] through the ruined buildings to collect the charred wood to sell to cover their nakedness. The churches and schools have become the refuge of many refugees who wander about from morning till evening begging and they return in the evening empty-handed, hungry, weary, cold, and almost dead and they sleep on the stones. Dear friend my eyes fill, my hand refuses to move and how can I write more?

From Keghi
December 29, 1895

I have begun to distribute the £50 which you sent. But the number of the plundered is more than 10,000 of whom 5000 are in the extremest destitution. To whom will I give this £50?

From Erzingan
December 21, 1895

I received your letter with the 15£ draft but it was impossible to cash it and so I return it to you. The only way is to send money by post. As this is the case you better send directly to Kemakh anything you decide to send there.

As to your question: As far as I have been able to find out there are 15,000 persons who are in need of bread and who cry out “bread, bread.” Some have food for a month, some for two weeks. As time passes, the destitute will greatly increase. At present we are in great fear and terror. Oh, we have become wearied with this uncertain life. Every day the fear of death is upon us. We call out, “My God, my God, has though forgotten us?” The pain of this terror is very great. To live upon the earth has become a weariness. What shall the end be? If you have a word of encouragement, write us quickly.

No. 17 [Station report: H.O. Dwight’s summary of information he has received from various stations]:



Map of The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

Constantinople, Feb. 15, 1896

Dear Friends,

Marsovan Station, the Western Mission, and in fact the whole mission force in Turkey is grievously smitten in the death from small pox of Miss King of Marsovan on the 1st of Feb. She was a devoted Christian, skilled to work and win souls, and the Providence which calls her away brings her associates quite as much amazement as it does pain and grief.

Ramazan [Ramadan] gives occasion for some anxiety as to the preservation of the peace. There is real danger of disturbance here also which is too serious to be ignored. But it should be borne in mind by all that the Government is now evidently doing its best to prevent any further misdeeds of the character that we all know to the extent of losing our confidence in the good intentions of those we have trusted hitherto. The Government will not now connive at any outbreaks. At BITLIS the situation is not agreeable. Calumnies against Mr. Knapp have reached a point now that leads Armenians in the villages to believe him the cause of all the troubles which have overwhelmed them. The Porte wishes to try him there on definite charges. He will probably come on here under British protection for conference with Mr. Terrell, who refuses, naturally, to admit any right to try him. At AINTAB (Jan. 30) threats of massacre are continued. The wife of the pastor at Birijik and the two girl school teachers were taken by Gov’t order under escort to Aintab and delivered safely. They saw awful things. Mr. Sanders reached OURFA safely, Miss Shattuck has had Pneumonia but its better. She writes (Jan. 29) that she feels she must stay with the stricken people there, at least [for]] a time. The slaughter at Ourfa was greater than first reported. The Protestants of the Birsjik and Roumkale region have become Muslims along with the others. At Aintab there are about 3500 destitute receiving aid. At MARASH (Jan. 28) there are over 5000 receiving aid and an expectation of 20,000 more as soon as the settlement at Zeitoun question [?] opens up that region to access. At HAJIN (Jan. 29) 1500 people are receiving aid, about half of them from outside the town. SIVAS (Feb. 5) cries for more money, having learned more fully the destitution at Gurun and other places. At CESAREA (Jan. 27) Messrs. Fowle and Wingate have visited ten villages in the Gemerek region where 1000 houses will have eaten up their last grain by the end of this month. About 75 bales of clothing sent from here have reached Cesarea, and the most part have gone on to Sivas and Harpoot. At ERZROUM Mr. Chambers is crushed under the relief work, and Mr. Mac Naughton of Smyrna goes on today to reinforce Erzroum. Dr. Andrus of MARDIN telegraphs of 10,000 destitute in the Kurdish mountains, needing £2000. Mr. Peet has telegraphed promising the money. HARPOOT (Jan. 30) has about 100,000 destitute in 200 places dependent on it. Mr. Gates says he does not get time to eat, but does not mind that, if only he can be sure that he will not be told there is no more money. Up to that date Mr. Peet has received Zt. [zolota] 14,300 for relief from abroad. Besides this, £10,000 has passed through his hands from native sources.

Letter of August 26, 1896:


An Armenian shop, probably in Harpoot ca. 1910 (image from the W.E.D.Ward Papers)

An Armenian shop, probably in Harpoot ca. 1910 (image from the W.E.D.Ward Papers)

One of our Armenian neighbors at Roumeli Hissar was in the street back of the custom house in Stamboul when the Kurds were rushing out in pursuit of the fleeing Armenians. He sprang into the shop of a Turk who hid him. Soon after a Jew also took refuge in the shop and the Turk hid him, but the mob hunted him out. The Jew begged for mercy, explaining that he was an innocent Jew, but the ruffians said that Jew or Christian he was a Giaour, and killed him. They did not find the Armenian, who came home to Hissar nearly dead with fright.

…Thursday, Aug. 27.
It is the day for my making up the local news for the Avedaper [an Armenian newspaper] today, and it seemed necessary to go to the Bible House, although I was quite sure that none of the translators or printers would be there. I have had a curious feeling all day exactly like the feeling at the beginning of every battle during the war. It is a profound desire to be somewhere else than in the disagreeable midst of disturbance. I am a coward by nature, I suppose, and am only able to be anything else by the grace of God.

…I went to meet Misses Webb and Montgomery at the train and found that the word had reached the family in spite of my negligence. So they were all there at the station before me and there was a joyful scene when the train came in for the ladies had been told at Philippopolis that 7,000 people had been killed in Cons’ple. All the trouble seems to be over for the moment and we can now count up the losses, first sending a telegram to Boston for the reassurance of our friends. The affair as a whole is the crowning infamy of the infamous reign of Abdul Hamid. For 36 hours the lowest rabble have been allowed to wreak their hate on the Armenians in all parts of the city without hindrance. Of course the folly of the revolutionists was the excuse. But the men who made the outbreak were in general allowed to escape, and the cowardly assassination of near 5,000 unarmed and defenseless people who feared the revolutionists more than the Turks do was a crime which throws into the shade entirely any folly or crime of the anarchist Armenians whom the Turkish troops could have disposed of in an hour without shedding a drop of innocent blood.

…Today I have seen family after family walking the streets weeping, barefoot, bareheaded men, women and children alike dressed only in their night garments with some dressing gown or old shawl thrown over them, these being all that is left to them of their property, and they left to seek some shelter where they can hide their shame of abject poverty and seek a beggar’s crust. The men who did these things were not men but devils. They stripped the houses and in every case destroyed with axes pianos, tables, bookcases, chairs and other property that they could not carry away. They were not content to kill with clubs, they cut to pieces with knives. I have come across more than one large stone with a bloody point that told the story of its use to crush some wretch’s skull. There was no pity, no conscience, no thought of anything but glee in the festival of gratified hate and bloodthirsty passion for gore.

…I have nothing more to say of these horrors. There are no words left in which to describe them. I feel like a sneak for being here, protected by my flag, while these poor wretches have been butchered for looking longingly at the freedom which those have who have flags of their own.

…In town I found all quiet but a terrible fear among all the people. I forgot to say that in the morning a young woman came up to me who declared that she knew the plans of the revolutionists and that a new outbreak was to take place about the middle of the afternoon, which would exceed anything yet seen in violence. She therefore begged to be allowed to move into the college premises. I gave the usual answer, that people may not come merely for fear but that if there is a real massacre commenced in Scutari they will all be received at the college. “Yes,” she said, “after we are all killed you will open the gates for us.”

…I made this journal in three copies in order to send to all the different centres of our family. But just before I went to Scutari Sunday, Mr. Terrell told me that I must destroy any papers which I did not care to have the Turks see, for a search of the houses might be made. So I tore up the two other copies and by mistake tore up clearest one. Please let this go the rounds and reach Grandma and Uncle William and Cousin Charlie as well. Let it be understood that no part of it must be given to the newspapers on any consideration whatever. We are all well and hopeful that the Hand which has been our guard hitherto will still keep us safe. But I am very glad that Isabel and Helen have not had the horrors of these days to go through.

Additional letters and pdf of originals:






This is part of an ongoing series of entries being written about the Samuel French archives at Amherst College


M. Abbott Van Nostrand served as the head of theatrical publishing company Samuel French, Inc. for an incredible thirty-eight years, from 1952 until his retirement in 1990. Early on, he realized that French’s history and output could be immensely valuable to scholars, performers, and theatrical enthusiasts.

Van Nostrand approached Amherst College (his alma mater) in 1964, offering a gift of Samuel French records and publications to the Amherst College Library. Over the next fifty years, the library accepted more than four hundred and fifty linear feet of unprocessed archival material including thousands of plays and publications, photographs, costume design illustrations, acting editions, musical scores, theatrical ephemera, and documentation of the Samuel French’s business transactions dating back to the mid 1800’s. (Take a moment to watch Mr. Van Nostrand talk about his experiences working at Samuel French in these oral history videos from 1994!)

you're the salt in my stew

Sheet music for “You’re the Cream In My Coffee” [Samuel French Company Theater Collection, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library]

As I work on processing this collection, I will be posting updates about my findings here on this site of course, but I will also be serving a term as featured columnist for the official Samuel French blog.  To read the rest of this article and learn more about more about the work I’m doing, the types of materials included in the French archive, and interesting tidbits about archival processing (Example: where do all these boxes live? Spoiler–it’s in a decommissioned Cold War-era bunker!), head over to French’s “Breaking Character” site. And while you’re there, be sure to make a bookmark so you can follow my whole series of archive columns as new entries are posted during the next year.


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